To tell you the truth, there is nothing that makes me happier than a day at the beach. Unfortunately, in the wintertime, it’s hard to bring back that feeling. Many Rhode Islanders head to Florida or the Caribbean for the winter months to get back that feeling, even if only momentarily. For those of us stuck here in our winter coats, Chair 5 in Narragansett is hoping you will join them for a meal, because for them every day is a day at the beach.
The restaurant is located in The Break, which is Narragansett’s newest boutique hotel. The hotel is located a block from the ocean (close to Aunt Carrie’s) and opened in June of 2015. There are 16 luxurious guest rooms stocked with high-end amenities. Each room has a fireplace, a rainfall showerhead, an iPad and even an Apple TV. The hotel and restaurant both embody beach living; the color scheme is bold with lots of bright whites and aquas. Just walking into the lobby, I felt cheered up. For the winter season, the hotel and restaurant both feature gas fireplaces to warm visitors. The restaurant is named for Lifeguard Chair 5, a popular locals’ gathering spot on Narragansett Beach. The downstairs portion of the restaurant is cozy with a bar and a smattering of tables and looks over the hotel’s pool area. During busier times, the restaurant also operates a bar upstairs with a view of the ocean where you can order from the restaurant’s full menu.
Chair 5’s kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Basil Yu. Chef Yu comes to Chair 5 from a prestigious post as the Chef de Cuisine at Newport’s Muse restaurant located in the Vanderbilt Grace. At Muse, he worked for acclaimed chef Jonathan Cartwright. His original stint with Chef Cartwright was at the critically renowned White Barn Inn located in Kennebunk, Maine. The food Chef Yu is turning out at his new post can best be described as beach and American comfort food taken to a higher level. Though this isn’t your typical clam shack cuisine, it is food you will want to try.
To start off a post-holiday lunch, my cousin, my friend and I all grabbed a round of beers. The draft beer list was composed of predominantly local brews which made me happy. The lone odd-ball beer from a distant place was a Kona Longboard ($5), but obviously fit with the beachy atmosphere. Already a big fan of Whaler’s Brewing in Wakefield, I enjoyed their East Coast IPA ($7). My friend chose Foolproof’s La Fermme Urbaine ($6) and my cousin (a Maine Colby College grad) selected a bottle of Allagash White ($6). The cocktail list was filled with wintery libations, many of them featuring Peace Dale’s Sons of Liberty liquors.
The lunch menu is not large, but it offers a nice variety. Although all of the dishes on the menu sound like things you’ve eaten before, Chef Yu makes sure to change everything up just enough to keep it fresh and interesting. We sampled two appetizers and both were excellent. The Fried Brussels Sprouts ($5) were bursting with flavor from the addition of hominy, pepitas, garlic chips and harissa. When people are fighting over who gets the last bite of Brussels sprouts, you know the dish is a winner.
The Tostones ($5) were the best fried plantains I’ve ever had, fried to a crispy perfection and not at all greasy. They were seasoned so well, you really didn’t need the accompanying dipping sauce. Yet, you wouldn’t have wanted to miss the sauce because it was a delicious and savory cilantro chipotle aioli.
This past summer, I tried my best to eat my way through South County’s lobster rolls. On my visit to Chair 5, I knew exactly what I wanted, their version ($18).If you’re expecting a mountain of lobster meat on a hot dog bun, you’re in for a delicious surprise. When I saw it on my plate, I thought it looked gorgeous. When I had my first bite, and I was hooked. This is not your mother’s lobster roll. The sandwich is constructed on a sturdy, buttery, grilled potato bun. The lobster meat was dressed with a tarragon-pistachio pesto, and it was a fantastic combination. There were some grilled lemons on the side, and when I drizzled their juice onto the sandwich, it made it even better. I devoured every bite. On the side, I was served an enormous portion of really good house made salt and vinegar kettle chips.
My friend ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($15) and especially loved the sourdough bread, the flavorful peanut and cabbage slaw and the spicy mayo. The fries served with the sandwich were also excellent – house cut, fried well and seasoned perfectly.
My vegetarian cousin sampled the Roasted Root Vegetables ($9). She was more than pleased by the large plate of vegetables, which were roasted perfectly. To offer a variety of textures, the vegetables were mixed in with wheat berries and black rice. The whole salad was dressed with a rich buttermilk dressing.
Since this was a post-holiday celebration, we indulged in dessert. Keeping with our throwback to summer theme, we split the S’Mores Ice Cream Sandwich ($8). Toasted marshmallow ice cream was sandwiched between graham cracker chocolate chip cookie dough. We had no trouble polishing off this dessert.
As the winter drags on, if you are looking for a way to bring back the feeling of summer, look no further than a meal at Chair 5. The beachy vibes will lift your spirits; the excellent food will thoroughly satisfy you; and you just might be able to make it through until summer really arrives. I’m already planning my next trip back. There’s a Funnel Clamcake ($7) on the menu calling my name.
Chair 5 at The Break
1208 Ocean Road, Narragansett