[Sidebar] May 4 - 11, 2000
[Food Reviews]
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Good vibes and good food

by Bill Rodriguez

176 Bellevue Ave., Newport, 849-6731
Open daily, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
No credit cards
No handicapped access

There's a stretch of Bellevue Avenue in Newport where large dark green awnings arch over the windows of the shops, matching the canopied entryway of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which anchors this line-up. Tucked into a slim, diner-shaped space at the beginning of this array is Annie's, a breakfast and lunch spot that carries the green theme inside to an elegant and relaxing effect.

This inviting eatery uses the lush hue in the faux-marble tops of the tables and countertop, in the seats of the banquettes and in the upper half of the walls. It's picked up in the numerous large hanging baskets of live plants and in the burgundy and green fabric on the upper cushions of the booths. The oversized turn-of-the-20th-century family portraits on one wall enhance the welcome at Annie's, even as they add another bit of historic Newport flavor.

At first glance, the menu's connection to the classiness of the decor might be the "cook's choice" quiche, made with fresh cream, eggs, cheeses, vegetables or meats and served with a fruit cup or a cup of soup ($5.75). Nestled in a corner of the lunch menu, that quiche beckons. But so does "Annie's Madness," a B&T on sourdough with a light cheese sauce ($4.50) or the Monte Cristo with ham, turkey and Swiss ($6.25).

But we've come for the breakfast, so we shift to the other side of the menu. We scan the baker's dozen of "basic fare" items: eggs with bacon, ham, sausage or sirloin (!); French toast or pancakes, plain, with blueberries or with meat; huevos rancheros or eggs Benedict. We review the 15 omelettes, with interesting variations such as chourico with tomatoes and peppers, beef with black olives and three cheeses (how much more cholesterol can you get?), chili and cheddar and various veggie combos.

I go for the veggie omelette called "farmer's" ($6.75), and I'm not disappointed. In addition to the promised spinach, broccoli and mushrooms, it has onions, peppers, tomatoes and three kinds of cheese: Swiss, American and mozzarella. The omelette is done just right, with tender veggies, not overpowering amounts of cheese, fluffy egg batter. Very filling and very yummy.

My omelette is accompanied by steak-fry-cut home fries, crisp on the outside, plenty of potato on the inside, with a hint of garlic on the surface. My breakfast also comes with a toast basket, which is two thick-cut slices of delicious Portuguese sweetbread and a small square of coffee cake from Katrina's Bakery around the corner (owned by Tina Kelly, ex-wife of Richard, the owner of Annie's -- keeping it all in the family).

Bill orders from the list of six specials, which include banana pancakes and Bellevue Benedict, a decadent variation on foccacia with the requisite eggs, plus beef tenderloin and Bernaise sauce. Bill chooses the "crow's nest," which is a Benedict with Annie's own corned beef hash between the eggs and the English muffins. The sauce is not as lemony as some, but it does have a nice tang, and Bill loves the hash.

He also loves the two carafes of coffee that are left on our table, one decaf and one full-strength, so that he can mix and pour at leisure. And I'm pleased with the selection of herbal teas.

I get a blueberry muffin to go, since they are made at Annie's and I'm a muffin fanatic, but this one doesn't measure up. More to my liking would have been the fresh fruit cup, served in an old-fashioned sundae cup ($1.90), a nice addition to diner fare.

Annie's seats about 40, and I've often seen lines out the door during the summer. Even on a recent rainy Easter Sunday, it offered haven to a group of Salve Regina students, a Navy family of five, another family of six, and an excited New York couple that had just gotten engaged in front of the Marble House. So, the next time the relatives want to visit the Newport mansions, be sure to include a stop at Annie's -- it'll stoke you full of good food and good vibes.

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