During the cold winter months, comfort food is what we crave – and Back 40, which opened last fall, offers some of the best in Southern Rhode Island.
Back 40 was opened by Rhode Island celebrity Olivia Culpo, a former Miss Universe and Miss USA born and raised in Cranston who teamed up with her restaurateur father, Peter Culpo, cousin Josh Culpo, and business partner Justin Dalton-Ameen. The name Back 40 refers to the last 40 acres of farmland, often considered the wildest and least tamed. Close to many farms, the restaurant pays homage to them with a rural, farmhouse ambiance, including open seating, a spacious bar area with high-top tables, and a comfortable lounging area around the fireplace. There are several big screen TVs as well to catch local sports teams in action.
On a busy Saturday night, I settled into a high top in the bar area with my cousin and friend, and we ordered a round of drinks. It was difficult to pick: the delicious-sounding, hand-crafted cocktails were all made with top shelf liquor and the beer list was just as impressive, with many local options. I started with a Game of Thrones–inspired cocktail, Winter Is Coming ($12): a tasty blend of Tanqueray, cranberry-citrus simple syrup, honey-ginger liqueur, Prosecco, and a sprig of rosemary for good measure. My cousin decided on the Honey Ginger Snap ($11) made with Ketel One, honey-ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and ginger beer. She enjoyed it. We also enjoyed several beers – Whalers Brewing Rise ($7), Boulevard Tank 7 ($6.50), and a Lord Hobo Glorious.
Back 40’s menu features a variety of small plates. First we split the Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($6) – very flavorful with a nice, smoky char. They were served with thick-cut pieces of bacon, red peppers, and a not-too-sweet honey glaze. Next, we had the French Onion Deviled Eggs ($4), and the crispy onions on top made the dish. My cousin also sampled the Butternut Squash Bisque ($7), which was very thick and hearty. It leaned to the savory side and was large enough to qualify as a small meal.
When it came time to order our main courses, both my friend and my cousin ordered the Back Mac ($10); my friend added pulled pork to her order of mac and cheese for an additional $5. The large, dinner-sized plates were heaped with cheesy bowtie pasta, and the homemade cheese sauce was outstanding. The dishes were sprinkled with Ritz cracker crumbs to give them a crunch. I’m a sucker for Fried Chicken ($16), so if it’s on the menu, I have to order it. Back 40’s version was not what I expected, but really good: four thin, boneless breast pieces fried to perfection, with a side dish of rich chicken gravy. There was a lot of meat, but I managed to eat it all. A garlicky and excellent serving of red bliss mashed potatoes and dressed arugula salad came with the dish.
Every good restaurant manages to serve one dish that everyone wants to order. On the Back 40 menu, you must order the Allie’s Donut Bread Pudding ($7): Allie’s donuts with a homemade vanilla custard base and topped with caramel-whiskey sauce and vanilla ice cream. The result is dessert nirvana. As we each took a bite of pudding, pure joy washed over our faces. I will go back to Back 40 just for this dessert.
With delicious comfort food, made from scratch and affordably priced, a creative cocktail selection and awesome beer list, plus friendly, welcoming, and helpful staff, there are plenty of reasons to visit Back 40. And the Allie’s Donut Bread Pudding is motivation enough.
20 South County Trail, North Kingstown