Although I was upset to see the Stone Bridge Restaurant close, I knew the space would not be vacant for long. The prime spot on Main Road in Tiverton offers beautiful views of the Sakonnet River and the northern coast of Aquidneck Island. While not truly waterfront like some dining neighbors to the north and south, I always thought the view was more interesting for its liveliness – whether it was beachgoers across the street at Grinnell’s or even the Sunday drivers rubber-necking on Main Road, there was always something to keep you interested until the next boat went by.
The new occupant is The Red Dory, skippered by chef and owner Steve Johnson. A 25-year veteran of the Boston restaurant scene, Johnson most recently operated the award-winning Rendezvous in Cambridge’s Central Square. His long-time connection to Westport and the Tiverton/Little Compton area has now brought his culinary attention full-time to the Bay.
The theme is casual fine dining with a Mediterranean flair that leans toward seafood. The restaurant has been transformed into an open, colorful and contemporary space with a large bar – all of which improve on shortcomings from the prior layout. A deck for outdoor dining was not yet open, but should be by the time you read this.
Our group arrived early on a Sunday evening and the place was abuzz – a bit surprising for being so early in the season. We were starving and immediately buried our noses in the appetizer menu when our waitress surprised us with the special Sunday tapas menu – a dozen or so small plates in the $6-8 range perfect for sharing and experimentation. Choices ranged from the simple (Spicy Fried Chick Peas with kale and preserved lemon) to the more exotic (Grilled Chicken Livers with collard greens and smoked bacon vinaigrette), with a good mix of vegetarian options. We went with Cauliflower Gratin with Swiss cheese and breadcrumbs ($6). The dish was tasty and not nearly as heavy as the description suggests, a sign of the Mediterranean influence that would pervade throughout our meal.
We also tried a trio of appetizers from the regular menu. The Middle Eastern Meze Plate ($12) was a fresh sampling of eggplant and pepper relishes, goat’s milk feta cheese, olives and almonds. Although we could live without the hummus that’s so often included in these kinds of plates, we could not live without the bread and had to ask our waitress for a basket. The tender Grilled Spanish Octopus ($13) with Romesco sauce (a Catalonian nut and red pepper sauce) was easily the favorite of those who tried it, but warning – this dish looks the part. The octopus tentacles are served whole, so be wary of squeamish tablemates. Finally, the sautéed Salmon Cakes ($13) with sweet pea purée, mint and Berber spices were chock-full of fish, a great execution on an item that can often be overly fried.
For entrées, I ordered the Pork and Veal Meatballs ($18) with crispy orecchiette, oyster mushrooms and piave cheese. The sauce is actually a broth, which puts this dish in a memorably good place – heavier than a hearty soup but lighter than most pastas. The Bucatini ($12) with cauliflower, garlic, anchovy, capers and toasted pine nuts was also on the lighter side.
Steak and seafood completed the round. The Grilled Peppered Sirloin Steak ($28) with French fries and roasted garlic butter was well-seasoned and cooked perfectly. Everyone at the table quickly devoured the lone serving. The Skillet-roasted Skate Wing ($19) with baby artichokes, capers and Meyer lemon brown butter was also a hit, though surprisingly it was one of only two fish options for entrées.
It’s a wonder we had room for dessert, but we found the room for two to share. The Maple Sugar Crème Brulee ($7) was a solid offering, but was surpassed by the Jedi-mind-tricking Chocolate Terrine ($8) with espresso crème anglaise and hazelnut pralines. The chocolate terrine looks like a slice of pâté or foie gras, making your mind and taste buds expect savory until they actually geto sweet chocolate.
The restaurant is a welcome addition to Tiverton, and its convenient highway access makes it an easy trip from almost anywhere in the surrounding communities. In your summer travels, make sure to dock for a meal at The Red Dory.
The Red Dory
1848 Main Road, Tiverton