I should admit up front that this review of The Sunnyside, Chef Joe Simone’s breakfast and lunch restaurant on the waterfront in Warren, is going to come across almost like a love letter. When reviewing some restaurants, it can sometimes be hard to find something good to say. But a place like The Sunnyside makes this monthly task an easy job. I went to The Sunnyside twice in the last few weeks. That was always my plan because I felt as if I should check out both breakfast and lunch service. But halfway through my breakfast, I wasn’t planning on returning for lunch only for the review; I wanted to come back because The Sunnyside was proving to be a perfect little slice of heaven.
Let’s start with the physical space, because The Sunnyside is a place with a lot of personality and a great location. The restaurant is in a little spot off Water Street in Warren. The signage leads you into a parking area by the docks. It’s once you walk through a natural tree arch – kind of like entering a secret garden – that you come to the restaurant area. Walk into the building and you’ll find a beautiful interior, very white and clean. There’s a bar to the right, but the star of the main dining area is the long open kitchen where Simone and his crew are in non-stop motion. There’s also a great outdoor dining area, right on the Barrington River with a view of the marina. It’s just perfect on a cool, summer morning, and nicely heated during the colder months.
I’ll start with breakfast, which began with a perfect little biscuit bite. It was served as an amuse bouche would be served before dinner, and it was a gem of a bite. The biscuit was dusted with turbinado sugar and served with two house-made jams that were loaded with fruit. Like any well-conceived amuse should do, this biscuit set the tone and flavor for the meal that was coming my way.
First up was something deceptively simple, but perfectly executed – the Wood Grilled Grapefruit with local honey ($3.50). The char brought out so much grapefruit flavor, and the heat amped up its juicy tartness, which is where the honey came in as a great pairing. I drizzled on just a little at first, but quickly decided that pouring on the whole honey offering was the right way to appease the citrus gods. As is typical with spooning out half a grapefruit, there was some squirting; rather than attempt to delicately carve away at the delicious pink pulp, I tucked my napkin into my shirt and went all in. I still think I didn’t try hard enough and sadly left some honey-laden, warm fruit behind.
Next, I had to have a side of Hoppin’ John’s Crockpot Grits ($5). I learned most of my cooking in the South, and I’ve been making grits several times a month for over 10 years; you might safely assume I’m a bit picky about my grits. When I see grits on a menu in the North, I feel like I should try it out of polite curiosity (I feel the same polite curiosity when I see biscuits and gravy on a Northerner’s menu). I realize that I expect the usual disappointment, but had a strong feeling that The Sunnyside might not let me down. My feeling was right and I happily cleaned my bowl.
To round out my breakfast I had the special – Portuguese French Toast ($13). I’m not quite sure how to describe it, as it wasn’t exactly like French Toast but wow, would I order that again. It was loaded with fresh berries and rhubarb and seemed kind of like a bread pudding, almost dessert-like. I covered the dish in maple syrup and devoured it.
Onto lunch at The Sunnyside. This time I brought along some additional tasters: my wife and daughters. Dining with two little girls is not always the smoothest situation, but the waterfront setting was wonderfully distracting and The Sunnyside’s waitstaff was very helpful. The girls were quickly served their grits and, for the youngest, a hot dog ($3) with a lovely little bowl of fresh fruit. It was nice to be at a restaurant where you could feel confident that the hot dog was as natural as a hot dog could be.
My wife started with the Goat Cheese Crostino ($7.50), which was served over greens. I don’t have to go into detail about how delicious grilled bread with goat cheese melted over it is, do I? Needless to say, I only got a small bite, which was fine with me because I did not want to share my Lobster Corn Chowder ($5), the soup of the day. Like the grapefruit for breakfast, it was a straightforward dish, loaded with the essential flavor of lobster in the broth. For entrees we got the Sunnyside Burger ($14) and the Flank Steak ($16), both perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked.
When people find out what I do their first question to me is always, “What’s the best restaurant in Rhode Island?” My answer is I can’t pick one, but I have a top 10 list, depending on what you’re looking for. The Sunnyside has a very firm place on that list.