Review: Yesterday's

Nostalgic setting, contemporary delights
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  March 2, 2011

Funny thing, nostalgia. When it's about an era you haven't personally experienced, the reminders can be all over the place. Yesterday's bills itself as an alehouse, so visual cues try to trigger images of clanking, frothing mugs.

The main reminder is, of course, numerous beers on tap. Currently there are 33 drafts available, from classic Belgian Stella Artois to Gloucester's Fisherman's Brew. Come summer they'll probably have Magic Hat's beet-red Wacko, for those up for a change from the omnipresent #9.

The restaurant is located on Washington Square, where Spielberg filmed a street scene in Amistad with convincing historicity, aided by dirt-covered asphalt. The place's yesteryear theme is emphasized by mural-size mirrors etched with frosted designs, and pictures of quaintly garbed groups and vaguely familiar historical figures. To soften the men's club atmosphere, there's plenty of greenery hanging around.

Yesterday's | 401.847.0125 | 28 Washington Sq, Newport | Sun-Thurs, 11:30 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30 am-10 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible

Providing a touch of class by association, to the right as you enter is Yesterday's' upscale sister restaurant, the Place. Also provisioned by chef Alex Daglis, here diners can enjoy saki-glazed salmon and lobster with plum wine and ginger, as well as a wine bar with 20 or so selections by the glass.

I came to Yesterday's for lunch rather than dinner (when the price range earns two $$); entrées currently include bayou catfish with crawfish sauce and Bourbon Street sirloin on its Mardi Gras seasonal menu. Continuing the theme, lunch specials offered some of these items in smaller portions and prices.

You can start with a spicy chili ($5.95) topped with Monterey Jack, New England clam chowder, or French onion soup au gratin. The chicken curry soup of the day ($2.95-$3.95) sounded interesting, so I tried it. Unusually chock-full of meat, its base was curry-green but not correspondingly spiced, not much more so than pea soup.

Appreciated for the generous poultry quotient and much more was the Asian chicken salad ($10.95), with loads of pineapple chunks as well as mandarin oranges, plus sliced almonds, black sesame seeds, and crispy wonton strips, all tossed in a tamari vinaigrette rich with toasted sesame oil. Yes. And the best goodies-to-greenery ratio I've come across in a while.

The side salad was also above average, having plenty of roasted red peppers, served with the braised short rib sandwich ($10.95) on the regular year-round menu. The beef was simmered in an interesting sauce — again tamari and sesame oil, but this time also with ginger, garlic, and — nice touch — orange zest. The caramelized onions and melted cheddar didn't hurt the combination, either. It comes on thick grilled white bread they call Texas toast. Definitely recommendable.

Across the table from me was an oyster po' boy ($9.95). The presentation was as meticulously designed as a Bacchus Krewe float, with a squiggle of spicy aioli on the top half of the open-face ciabbata. But there were only five fried oysters atop the bed of coleslaw. Tasty, it was reported, but sparse.

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