Tue, 02 Jun 2009 22:05:45By Michael Janusonis
Providence Journal Arts Writer
Brick Alley’s spicy Portuguese Littlenecks are a customer favorite.
The Providence Journal / Sandor Bodo
NEWPORT — The Newport International Film Festival is in full swing through Sunday and filmmakers and filmgoers alike may be looking for an easy dining spot.
The Brick Alley Pub, with its cheerful yellow-and-white- striped awnings, has been delighting customers for more than 28 years with a menu that ranges from burgers to steaks to seafood and chicken dishes. Once a frequent diner, I hadn’t visited for a couple of years and was startled by prices that now ranged from $24.95 to $29.95 for steaks and $25.95 for fried scallops. Still, many chicken, seafood and pasta items are in the $15.95 to $23.95 range. There are wonderful burgers and filling sandwiches from $7.95 to $10.95.
It’s a cozy place despite encompassing a warren of very different dining rooms — an airy front room, a wrap-around bar where you can drink and dine and hang out with politicians, yachtsmen or sailors on shore leave; a narrow room with booths that’s lined with retro posters and paraphernalia, including a program from the 1913 Navy Day where “Col. Theodore Roosevelt” spoke; a smaller back room, a front room opposite the bar that’s dominated by a huge soup and salad bar and the front end of a 1938 red pickup truck whose back end has been turned into a cooler.
Manager Tom Desmond has been at the Brick Alley Pub since a month after Ralph and Patricia Plumb opened it in December 1980. They immediately won fans, said Desmond, by introducing sky-high nacho platters to the City by the Sea, of which there are now five varieties. That’s why, Desmond added, Ralph’s license plate is NACHOS.
The Brick Alley Pub uses as many local ingredients as possible and, in that vein, I started with a Sakonnet Eye of the Storm wine ($5.25). Brick Alley holds a Wine Spectator Award. After a long day, the Pusser’s Painkiller ($6.75) also caught the eye — a generous pour of Pusser’s British Navy rum, coconut, pineapple and orange juices, topped with cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s strong, refreshing and yet pleasingly slightly sweet.
Because the menu reported that “the 50th anniversary issue of Bon Appetit had named Brick Alley’s Portuguese Littlenecks one of the 13 best recipes in the history of the magazine,” how could one resist? A bowl of 10 fat littlenecks had been steamed with chourico in a heady broth of white wine, garlic, olive oil, lemon and slim onion slices, with bits of green and red peppers and red pepper flakes. A delicious, slightly spicy mix, it was perfect for dunking with the otherwise tasteless slices of a baguette. I’d definitely order it again, though with the soup and salad bar that’s included with dinner entrees ($5 extra with a sandwich or burger), it might be too much food for some. The salad bar has a wide choice of fresh ingredients and the soup that day was a hearty barley-based Italian Wedding with tiny meatballs.
Southwestern Tilapia ($19.95) featured two good-sized fillets, bronzed from being sautéed with Southwestern spices and topped with a tangy chipotle-cilantro sauce that hinted of mustard. The fish sat atop a mound of rice that had been sautéed with black beans and red pepper, giving it a very spicy zing. On the side, creamed spinach added a mellow touch.
A yummy lobster roll ($17.95) had big chunks of claw and tail meat spilling out of a grilled frankfurter roll, but it could have used a lighter hand on the mayonnaise. It came with crunchy cole slaw and a choice of a side dish, in this case thick, meaty and yet crisp French fries that had a solid taste of the potato.
Many of the desserts tempted, but we were happy with the Peanut Butter Volcano ($6.95). Arriving in what looked like a tall, wide martini glass, it was decadence defined. Peanut butter mousse that had been married to a graham cracker crust with chocolate fudge inside was hidden under a mountain of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate syrup and shaved Ghiradelli chocolate. Oh, and a sprig of mint on top, the only low-cal thing about it. Spectacular looking and wonderfully rich, it easily was enough for two to share . . . and rave about.
Brick Alley Pub, 140 Thames St., Newport. (401) 849-6334, brickalley.com. Casual. Wheelchair accessible. Child seats. Limited number of reservations taken each day. MC, V, AE, DC, DIS and domestic traveler’s checks. On-street parking. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner 4 to 10 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., to 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; Sun. brunch 10:30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Appetizers $7.95 to $13.95. Entrees $15.95 to $29.95. Wines $5.25 to $12 by the glass; $18 to $275 for a bottle.BILL OF FARE
Dinner for two at Brick Alley Pub might look something like this:
Eye of the Storm…$5.25
Total food and drink…$70.80