Boston Restaurant Blog -- August, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I try to get to Newport, RI about three or four times a year, including New Year's Eve, which seems to becoming a bit of a tradition now. And along the way, I have gotten to some very nice restaurants, including Sardella's and Mamma Luisa, as well as some fun watering holes (O'Brien's, Fastnet Pub, Pour Judgment Bar and Grill, the lounge at the Hotel Viking). A few days ago, I tried a dining spot I had never been to before--a place on Thames Street called the Gas Lamp Grille--and while the food won't make me forget about some of the dishes at Sardella's, it was a pleasant spot that definitely had a few things going for it.
Located in the heart of Newport's bustling downtown area, the Gas Lamp Grille is one of countless eateries on or near Thames Street. It is a small place that is a bit unassuming from the outside (especially compared to some of the more popular dining establishments and bars in the area), but it is quite a charming spot inside, with its huge gas lamps lined up in the middle of the place, an old wooden floor that has lots of scruff marks, and a low ceiling with hanging lights and exposed pipes. A tidy bar is found to the left, while the dining area is mostly to the right, with some window tables allowing for some great people-watching. Cuisine at the Gas Lamp Grille seems to lean a bit toward Italian, though its menu could also be classified as classic American with a nod toward seafood.
We happened to go to the Gas Lamp Grille around the time that Hurricane Irene was just starting to make its presence felt in Southern New England, so some restaurants were closed while others were jam-packed and still others were nearly empty. When we arrived at the Gas Lamp Grille, it was probably closer to empty, though it did fill up as the night went on. We were seated at one of the window seats (a nice little breeze was coming from the open window, as the winds from Irene weren't quite ramping up at that point) and were greeted by our server, who was extremely friendly and probably smiled more than any server I can remember in recent memory. She brought us a round of drinks, including a deliciously spicy Innis & Gunn Rum Cask beer and an equally good Unibroue La Fin Du Monde Belgian-style brew that had a fruity and sweet taste, then she came back to take our order. The appetizers soon came, with the excellent thin-broth clam chowder having a lot of kick from the spices added, while the Caesar salad's dressing didn't have much in the way of taste. Halfway through the salad, we were asked by the server if we were ready for our meals, to which we responded no, not yet, and the minute the salad was finished, our meals came. The sausage and broccolinni ravioli plate was the star here, as the filling had a delightful mix of spicy and bitter flavors coming from the veggies and meat, while the white wine sauce was enhanced by crushed red pepper, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and parsley. The lobster pizza was not quite as impressive, as it was overloaded with cheese and had only a bit of lobster sherry sauce between the cheese and the crust. The crust itself was unusual in that it was flaky and not greasy at all (though not really like a flatbread, either), and as for the lobster meat on top, well, there was plenty of it, but there were also several pieces of rock-hard cartilage that made me worry about chipping a tooth. About three-quarters of the way through the ravioli, our server asked if we were done with that plate, and again, she was told no, not yet. Finally, we finished our meals and decided to skip dessert, partly because it seemed a good time to leave Newport before the weather really started to go downhill.
It is tough deciding what kind of rating to give the Gas Lamp Grille; while the atmosphere was quaint and appealing and the folks who worked there were friendly, the food seemed a little inconsistent and there were certainly some issues concerning service. Prices were pretty good, however, especially considering how expensive meals can be in downtown Newport, and the clientele at the restaurant seemed to be mostly a mellower, older crowd, which is a nice alternative to some of the high-energy spots nearby. I guess in the end, it is hard to see myself coming back here anytime soon, mainly because there are so many good options within walking distance, including Sardella's, which is a bit of a walk from this part of Thames Street, but very much worth it.
If you are looking for the address for the Gas Lamp Grille, here it is: Gas Lamp Grille, 206 Thames Street, Newport, RI, 02840. Phone: (401) 845-9300.
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