Over the years, restaurants have come and restaurants have gone at the remote 1200 Ocean Road in Narragansett: Wiley's, the Drunken Clam, the Ugly Old Toad, 1200 Ocean Grill, and so on. Summertime tourists cruising the shore and straining necks at nearby Point Judith Lighthouse wander in, but come winter come doldrums, and the long, lonely drive requires an especially worthwhile place at the end.
The latest arrival has come to claim the ever-slipping mantle of final and permanent occupant. Narragansett Grill has upscale looks and downscale prices. There are paintings rather than posters on the walls, mostly coastal scenes. It's a bright, cheerful place.
An encouraging start was the more than minimal bread basket with a goody-packed cranberry slice that Johnnie glommed onto. There also was dense Italian bread that I appreciated, especially with the requested red-pepper-flaked olive oil that was promptly brought.
Narragansett Grill | 401.789.6171 | 1200 Ocean Rd, Narragansett | Mon-Sat, 5-10 pm; Sun, 4-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
I ordered soup to start and she a salad. A soup of the day ($3/$5) is the only one offered, and since on this day it was cannellini beans, one of my favorites, I ordered a bowl instead of a cup. Bits of pancetta, strips of fresh basil leaves, a thick, fortifying broth. I couldn't ask for more, though more did arrive in the form of cheese grated by our server.
Johnnie considered the fried calamari ($12), prepared traditionally but charitably available either with or without tentacles, before she settled on a salad. A half-dozen are listed, including one billed unpretentiously as Just a Big Salad ($8). The one with the most appealing ingredients was the portobello and artichoke ($12). It came in an enormous bowl with plenty for the both of us: choke hearts, strips of the grilled mushroom, and mixed greens, heavy on the frisee. As good as all that was, the hit for me was the dressing, a thin yakitori sauce that looked like straight soy sauce but which sake and honey made quite delicious.
The other appetizer suggestions ($6-$12) are mercifully free of the same-old. Forget chicken wings, how about oven-roasted pork "wild wings," actually mini-chops. The shrimp skewers are wrapped with prosciutto and vegetables. There are even cheese-bread batons stuffed with mozzarella and served with both marinara and Alfredo sauces for dipping.
Like the above, the menu is sprinkled with items apparently there for personal reasons. For example, there are only two sandwiches and a burger, and besides the grilled chicken one is the Abby's grilled cheese special, with slices of a Tuscan round. Anyone else's comfort food nostalgia triggered?
There are also pastas and risottos, seafood and meat choices, as well as a pink aglio e olio and risotto carbonara, a veal chop, and baby back ribs.
But we were there on a Wednesday, when there is a list of a half-dozen "hometown" entrées for $12, from fish and chips to half a roasted chicken. What a restaurant can do on the cheap is usually a good indication of what they can do elsewhere on the menu, so we both ordered from there.