For the last 95 years, Narragansett’s Aunt Carrie’s seasonal opening has been as sure a sign of spring as crocuses peeking through the soil. On April 10, it opens its doors to its most diehard local fans, and the first of thousands of baskets of seafood hits the oil.
So what’s new this year? Well, thankfully for locals, when it comes to the food, not much. I spoke with Elsie Foy, whose late husband’s grandmother was “the” Aunt Carrie. Elsie says that while tourists test out the specials menu in the summer, on opening weekend, the hardcore crowd don’t need menus at all, with many ordering the same thing, every time. It’s fried clams, fish and chips and lobster rolls galore, and as always, opening weekend means free clam cakes with any order.
One change that I’m confident everyone will be able to accommodate is that for the first time Aunt Carrie’s is offering some suds for your steamers, with both draught beer and wine by the bottle. They’ll be having some good local options with Grey Sail as well as ‘Gansett, and are looking to have wine from Newport and Sakonnet Vineyards.
Elsie chuckled at the “Mai Tais in Miami” idea some have of a seasonal business. The reality is a little more gritty. “We start gearing up in late February,” and with 120 kids needed to staff the place, “it’s a lot of telephone calls.” With an old property being part of the character that defines Aunt Carrie’s, it seems every winter there is something to be done, and this year it was an overhaul of all the electrical. They’d have had plenty of time for that, if our long-lived snow banks hadn’t made a five-foot glaciated barricade at the entrance to the property, blocking the National Grid truck.
There are more cycles than the seasons at work at Aunt Carrie’s. This is a restaurant that has been passed down in one family for almost a century now, and Elsie met her husband there. Elsie referred to herself as the “overseer” at Aunt Carrie’s, but says she’s “trying to let go” and pass on things to her daughter and son-in-law. The former is already head baker, and the latter is the manager, so the overseer’s grip has already perhaps reluctantly loosened just a bit, ensuring that the place is in safe hands for years to come. 1240 Ocean Road, Narragansett. 783-7930.
Sonoma Bistro and Wine Bar
Having lived in California for several years, I can tell you that a pub in Sonoma is about as out of place as a gracefully aging blonde. It’s perhaps wise then that, when taking over three years ago, the owners of Sonoma Bistro and WineBar dropped “Pub” from the name. Over their years in charge, it’s not just the name that’s changed though, with more contemporary American menu offerings, artful plating, and above all, an exhaustive wine list. No prizes for guessing which region’s reds and whites are most represented. There’s live music from 8:30 to 11:30 every Friday and Saturday night. 7366 Post Road, North Kingstown. 295-0800.
Tong-D Brings Thai to South County Commons
Tong-D, the well-established Thai restaurant in Barrington, has made the long hop over the bay to South Kingstown, planting a second restaurant at South County Commons. Opened in February, Tong-D in South Kingstown does lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, featuring a prix fixe lunch with miso salad, and choice of appetizer and entree for around $12. In addition to a menu whose core is still traditional Thai, with everything you’d expect, there are some interlopers from Japanese, Chinese and Korean food, like Beef Yaki Soba and Shrimp Shumai. 50 South County Common Way, South Kingstown. 783- 4445.
Narragansett Cafe Italian for Two
The Narragansett Cafe, aka The Ganny to intrepid Jamestownies, is bringing back Italian night on Wednesdays. It’s a dinner for two for $24.95, and includes a salad, entree, Provencal bread and a bottle of Sangiovese. 25 Narragansett Avenue, Jamestown. 423-2150.
Eat, Drink and Fest
Providence’s Eat Drink RI Festival is back again: four days filled with more sampling than EDM, starting April 30. The festival features Rhode Island’s best chefs and farmers teaming up to celebrate Rhode Island’s vibrant food scene, and is supporting some great causes like AIDS Project RI, Rhode Island Community Food Bank and The Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School. To view the full event schedule, which includes multi-course matriarchal mastery, food trucks on ice, cooking demos, a grand tasting and much more, check out their website.
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