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tiverton/little compton ri report


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Restaurants & Bars

tiverton/little compton ri report

hans petersen | Sep 5, 2003 08:50 PM

Stayed near in Tiverton Four Corners with the family for 6 weeks or so this summer - this on the East Bay of Rhode Island, across from Newport. We had sought refuge here after four or five years renting a very modest house in Easthampton. The last straw there was the Citerella opening, basically around the corner - it just wasn't getting away any more (much as I love Citarella).

And this (RI, that is) isn't really prime chowhound territory. There is really not much worth writing home about, which I have to say is part of the appeal. It is getting away. A very successful vacation over all.

That said, for those who happen to be in the neighborhood, here are a few tips (there being as far as I can tell very few other posts about the area).

Far and away the culinary highlight: Grey's Ice Cream in Four Corners. This is terrific ice cream in the old-fashioned style, pre-HagenDaaz and before we knew what gelato was. There is something almost magnetic about this product, and (unlike the heavy-on-the-cream, harder kinds of ice cream) you really can eat it almost every day - which I almost did. The milkshakes at Grey's are great, especially the coffee. Best flavors: Blackberry and Grape Nut. This is no discovery on my part - this place has been around for decades - but it's the only place that would be worth making a detour for.

The Commons Restaurant in Little Compton is a good breakfast spot. The main attraction here: johnnycakes, made with the distinctive cornmeal that I understand used to be produced in the area. They're good, and this restaurant is an honest, unpretentious and inexpensive one, though nothing on the menu is all that great. Next door is Wilbur's General Store, pretty much what you'd expect from a general store.

Leaving aside the Back Eddy in nearby Westport (about which there have been posts, and which offers pretty good high-ish end food, slightly inventive and with a Portuguese angle), that's about it. The Four Corners Grille is serviceable if you're getting in late and don't have anything in the kitchen (the Commons closes at 6). Also in Four Corners, Provender has filling but undistinguished upscale sandwiches. For fry shacks, Evelyn's just south of Stonebridge gets all the raves - I thought the fried fish sandwich there was just good. Better was a place just a little further south, in the "White Wine Plaza", which seemed to be the choice of local (cheaper, too). In Westport, by all means stay away from a place called Fred and Ann's, which looked like it might have that home-cooking appeal but turned out to be an exercise in damage control. This is 50's food without the retro appeal - the real thing, probably right out of a can. Also to stay aaway from in Westport: the Handy Hill Creamery. Terrible fried items, Gifford's ice cream.

The much better choice is to eat at home, if you have one. Walker's farmstand, on the way to Sakonnet Point, had excellent corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and other local produce, at prices that seemed pretty reasonable to a New Yorker. The bakery next door has good bread (though I don't buy bread near the shore - just gets soggy), nice breakfast items (almond croissants that were a bit baklava-ish), and a terrific tomato-corn tart (on sale a little before noon, consistently sold out by three). Great flowers and corn across the street at Young's (honor system).

Fish seemed the way to go, on the grill. I was put on to Nonquit Fish by a local - amazingly fresh fish. This guy is mostly a dealer, wholesale - that is, the boats come in to him, then he sends it right out to others (including NYC restaurants). He puts aside a little for retail, and will sell you whatever else he happens to have before it gets sent along. I bothered him for smaller (2-3 lbs) whole fish, to put on the grill - memorable bluefish, tautog (blackfish), and sea bass, in addition to great swordfish (and very reasonable - swordfish under $10/lb). Once in fact the fish was too fresh - rigor mortis had yet to pass (this is not a good thing - makes the fish chewy - but my fault for not sitting on it another day - shouldn't be a problem if you buy around lunchtime for dinner). Net Result in Little Compton is impeccably fresh, but much more expensive and less interesting.

The other thing to do here if you're around for a while is to check out the Portuguese fare in Fall River, only 20-25 minutes north. We didn't get to any of the restaurants, but made several trips to Chaves market, which has an unusual chorico sausages (with chunks of pork, rather than ground), a good selection of very reasonably priced olive oils, and Portuguese baked goods. We got hooked on Portuguese muffins, a little sweet, less dense than English ones - Tony's Bakery makes the best. So one can eat well on vacation around here, but mostly by helping oneself.

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