Let’s put our cards on the table here. Mr. and Mrs. Working Stiff are not “foodies” by any stretch. Anyone who knows us knows that. Our tastes are fairly simple and lean towards “pub food” or possibly “comfort food”. By no stretch of the imagination are we candidates for a “chef’s table” sort of restaurant or for ordering the “Chef’s Surprise”!
That being said, we do like to dine out and do so frequently. We do like a quality, well prepared meal, but just simple stuff for the most part. Also, in part because The Working Stiff himself worked for 21 consecutive seasons (dishwasher, pantry help, busboy, waiter, valet parker, cashier), at a seashore resort fine-dining establishment in Cape May, NJ, we are very respectful of all food-service and bar workers.
So, with all that in mind, on to some notes on Block Island restaurants!
One thing about Block Island restaurants is that you need to be flexible as far as what is going to be open on this or that day if your visit falls on anything other than high season. A common thing that you may encounter for example is that shortly after Labor Day, some places may close down for, say, Monday through Wednesday or Thursday, opening for the next weekend. Columbus Day Weekend seems to be the last she-bang for some shops and restaurants for one reason or other. Keep an open mind and when you arrive on-island, do a tour and make some notes on what is open and when!
Poor People’s Pub – absolutely one of our favorite haunts when we visit and one of the first places that we check up on when we arrive. One of our favorite meals there is wine and pizza and while the pizza is in fact great, it should be noted that they also do some serious cooking there – with a busy specials board full of seafood, grilled dishes, and other basic good home-cooking. A few years ago we went there one night and I had one of their specials, which was a beef stew over rice. It was a skilled and delicious twist on a classic dish and perfect for a September evening.
The Mohegan – right there on Water Street and one of the first places to home in on after stepping off the ferry. A real brew pub with a serious assortment of craft beers, and a varied menu of well-prepared dishes. A warm and inviting place to pop into on a foggy night or just a great place for lunch or dinner after the beach. On this last visit I had a fantastic burger and fries there one day and enjoyed the pot-roast special on a subsequent evening. A long time Working Stiff favorite!
The Oar – At The Boat Basin, which is one of the 3 marinas in Great Salt Pond. Good pub-style casual dining with a fantastic view of the pond and beyond. The varied menu is high quality and ranges from grilled meat dishes to very fresh seafood and includes plenty of “pub food “options, such as chicken fingers and burgers, for a quick bite.
The Beachhead – Another long-time favorite of The Working Stiff and one of that small list of places that we zip by after driving off the ferry to see if they are open or not! I think of The Beachhead as the classic place for a burger and a beer but their menu also features lots of fresh seafood and classic grill items as well. One day when we were there during this recent visit they were featuring a tuna-taco special, and the bartender told us that he had personally caught that tuna the day before! The Beachhead is a very short walk from town and sits right across Corn Neck Road from the ocean, facing due east. It must be one of the best places I know to have a drink and wait out a storm!
Dead Eye Dick’s – Near Payne’s Dock. Finer dining in the New Harbor area. An ambitious menu of well-executed dishes. I have had the Roast Statler chicken at least a few times and it has been excellent. The food and service are good, but frankly, one of the great attractions of Dead Eye Dicks is dining outside on their large deck with a sunset view of Great Salt pond with all the boats coming and going, or just floating there!
Mahogany Shoals – this is the casual bar out on Payne’s Dock which is frequented not just by wealthy yacht owners walking over for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, but also by Working Stiffs like us who like the casual nautical style and informal banter of a friendly local watering hole. Another of our favorite places. We love to grab a drink at the outside bar and claim one of the colorful Adirondack chairs for a while. Fun characters always seem to stop and chat, walking their rich dog maybe or just going for a bag of ice in preparation for happy hour on their 80-footer.
Ernie’s – Right in the center of town just steps away from Rebecca at the Well. Ernie’s is a breakfast joint and maybe lunch also, but certainly closes down for the day by early afternoon. A basic diner atmosphere, seat yourself, and with a back deck overlooking the ferry dock and the rest of the Old Harbor marina. Classic bacon & eggs, blueberry pancakes, etc. A Block Island institution.
Eli’s – This is a tiny and elegant fine dining establishment on Chapel Street, just steps off the main waterfront drag of Water Street. Much repeated traveler’s wisdom tells us to pay attention to where the locals go to eat. If you follow that advice, you will be led to Eli’s in no time flat. When they open their doors (for dinner only), it is not uncommon for there to be a line for seating. It is a small place but very warm and cozy with a beautiful full bar with its own seating for just a few. Some local ladies told me that the building (see gallery) was actually the home of the old original town library, much refurbished to be sure!
The Manisses – The bar and restaurant attached to the inn of the same name is probably the height of fine dining on Block Island. Whatever your tastes may be this is certainly one of the best places to put on a clean shirt and take your date out for a fantastic meal with great service and in gorgeous surroundings. We think of it as a perfect place for a martini, manhattan, or a fine cabernet. A beautiful place just a 2-minute walk from the center of town.
Click on any of the pictures to enjoy a tour of these fine drinking and dining establishments!
The Working Stiff