It was one of those gloriously warm Columbus Day weekends, and we could have sat on one of Shelter Harbor Inn's outdoor decks, but we chose the next best thing: the "Sun Porch," surrounded on three sides by windows, an open-beamed, white-walled, blue-accented room that feels a bit like a seaside summer cottage.
There's a large, U-shaped bar on one side of the room, prints of sailboats on the non-windowed wall, along with a date of 1925, when the porch was added onto the original 19th-century farmhouse and during the era when the inn was the focal point of a music colony (nearby roads are Bach, Rossini, and Handel). Other incarnations include a riding academy and a nursing home. In 1976, Jim Dey bought the property and has been slowly renovating it to host more overnight and dinner guests (there's a large, sunlit dining room as well as a low-ceilinged, historic one).
We've loved Shelter Harbor since our early days in South County, close to the time when Dey began, and this occasion was Westerly's Restaurant Week (good bets for bargains, no matter which part of Rhode Island organizes one). During that week, there was a three-course lunch menu for $15 and a three-course dinner menu for $25. We went for lunch and I had three wonderful courses, though Bill ordered from the regular menu, so readers won't be disappointed in seeking out the dishes we describe.
Shelter Harbor Inn | 401.322.8883 |10 Wagner Rd, Westerly | Breakfast Daily, 7:30-11:30 am; Lunch, 11:30 am-4 pm; Dinner, 4-10 pm; Sunday Brunch, 11:30 am-2:30 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Access
I chose the smoked salmon pizzetta as my appetizer, though our hearts were won over even before our starters, with a basket of house-made cranberry-sunflower seed bread. The generous slice of salmon was on a thin triangle of pita bread that had been spread with an herby crème fraiche and topped with sliced red onion and capers. Simple but very appealing.
Bill chose a bowl of lobster bisque ($6) — their butternut soup is also justly renowned. With plenty of sherry in its creamy base and chunks of lobster in every bite, this bisque was a hit.
Bill's entrée was a long-time favorite of his (and not that widely available at local restaurants): finnan haddie ($16) — smoked haddock baked in cream with duchess potatoes piped around it and bits of apple-smoked bacon sprinkled on top. He was grinning the minute his eyes found this dish on the menu, and his enjoyment didn't stop as he forked up the smoky fish and creamy potatoes.
I was savoring my entrée as well: eggplant caponata over linguine, the latter cooked in a vegetable garlic broth and the former topped with goat cheese. Caponata is a Sicilian dish, with dominant components of green olives, capers, and a bit of tomato, along with the eggplant. Some caponata incarnations don't strike the right balance, or they try to add in other ingredients, but this had the sharp taste I've loved since Bill first introduced me to it.