The Pump House

Bargains and coziness galore
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  December 12, 2007

The Pump House | 1464 Kingstown Rd [Rt 108], Wakefield | Mon-Sat, 4-10 pm; Sun, 12-9 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access | 401.789.4944

Perched next to Rocky Brook Pond, the stone-walled Pump House restaurant — a retired pumping station for South Kingstown — has been an attractive eatery for three decades. We used to stop in regularly on our way back from a URI film series and treat ourselves to a late-night pile of their yummy French fries. Maybe it was the chill in the air, but the cozy appeal of its roadside glow one recent evening pulled us in after an absence of many years.
We were seated in a booth near the large fireplace, with its string of oversized model trains amidst seasonal greenery on the mantelpiece. Period odds and ends are high up on shelves: jugs, cast-iron kettles, and a few ye olde Utensils of Mystery. On the walls hang hand-colored century-old photographs of South County sites and sights. On the tables, a telling touch is that while the tasteful placemats are paper, folded atop them are cloth napkins.
Pub food seemed appealing for this visit, so I had a “Wakefield Burger” ($8.95), which is a third of a pound of sirloin, topped with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, and crisp strips of bacon. It was medium-rare, as ordered, and both steak sauce and Dijon mustard were available for additional embellishment. The French fries were better than remembered. Johnnie had a veggie burger ($7.50), which she guessed was a Garden Burger, and was pleased.
Being close to a university and a population with student budgets, this eatery offers numerous bargains. In addition to six sandwiches on the regular menu, from fillet of sole to steak, on Mondays there is a two-for-one $9.95 burger and chicken sandwich special with several varieties of each.
Other regular weekly specials include Friday’s fish and chips ($10.95), when a $3.50 cup of clam chowder is included for free, and Thursday’s pasta night, when daily offerings expand to include such dishes as jerk shrimp sauté and chicken masala, over linguine and penne, respectively. The Tuesday dinner two-fer with a bottle of wine (George Duboeuf) is $24.95, salad bar extra, with entrées including sirloin tips and baked stuffed cod.
Catch that salad bar soon, because the loss leader won’t be available in the near future. Currently, it’s complimentary with entrées and pasta dishes, $6.95 a la carte and $8.95 with soup. As we learned on our return visit, it’s not especially elaborate, but has more than the minimum. The bowls of baby spinach and iceberg couldn’t be fresher. The tomatoes weren’t bland slices or cherry tomatoes, which are awkward to slice in half, but convenient bite-size grape tomatoes. Extras include cottage cheese, marinated beets, and three-bean salad.
For our return dinner, we considered starting with baked stuffed mushrooms ($6.25) since the usually plain item was fancied up with sauce and melted cheese. But instead we went for the signature “Mussels a la Pump House,” which proved uneven. The shellfish were mostly fat and fresh, but some were fat and fishy, as in from an older batch. The broth with white wine, as well as butter and olive oil, was delish, especially when sopped up with the ultra-fresh pumpernickel from the salad bar.
With the exception of one side, the rest of our meal was fine. Being in the mood for carbs, pasta was in order. The scallops carbonara ($18.95) tempted with its peas and pink vodka sauce, but Johnnie chose something similar, so I went for the linguini with clam sauce ($16.95). Good decision.
The pasta was al dente and the chopped clams were bountiful enough for the dish to have been designed by Ben & Jerry. Bits of bacon were an interesting addition. The garlic in the marinara sauce was just enough, and while the promised crushed red pepper was faint, I could add my own with a provided shaker. The next morning, I couldn’t resist having a cold bite of the leftovers.
Across the table, the scallops Nantucket ($19.95) looked good and tasted better. Again there was cheese where not expected, mozzarella even, but it worked with the garlic, butter, and white wine. Breadcrumbs and almond slivers decorated the top, providing texture. Johnnie chose a baked potato instead of rice pilaf and it was fine. The nominally sautéed string beans were soggy, though, apparently from a prior steaming.
We were too full for dessert, but they are cheap ($5.25) and varied (chocolate chip cookie pie, chocolate lava cake, apple crisp, Philly cheesecake, and parfaits). Maybe the next time nostalgia strikes.

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