[Sidebar] October 1 - 8, 1998
[Food Reviews]
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Fred's Old Place

An out-of-the-way spot with some great deals

by Johnette Rodriguez

677 Thames St., Newport, 847-7949
Open Mon-Sun, 5-10 p.m., Sat and Sun, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
MasterCard and Visa
Sidewalk access

Newport off-season is a different animal -- you actually can drive down Lower Thames, find a parking space and get a table in a restaurant. And you can discover an out-of-the-way spot that offers some great deals. At Fred's Old Place Thursdays through Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m., you can choose from a list of six or seven dinners for $9.95 each. Or, Mondays through Wednesdays from 5 to 10 p.m., you can choose from that same list and get dinner for two for $19.95.

On a recent visit, we chose from a list (which may vary slightly from week to week) of sirloin, scallops, Oriental spaghetti with chicken, broiled sole, barbecued pork chops, sea bass Provencale or chicken Marsala. Opting for the latter two, we got fresh-baked rolls, salad, a vegetable and a choice of a baked potato, wild rice or pasta with our meals.

Bill, my regular dining companion, reveled in the combination of pasta and chicken Marsala. And even though the pasta was linguine, it was as al dente and as garlicky as he likes it. The chicken was very tender in its slightly sweet wine sauce; the mushrooms on top, still firm and tasty.

My sea bass steak had been embellished with fresh tomato chunks, diced red onion and a bit of bread crumbs and cooked just until its juices began to flow. With a thick-fleshed fish such as this, it's overkill to bake or broil it until the middle part flakes, and this bass was done just right, as was the baked potato and the green and wax bean combo that accompanied the fish.

From the many seafood starters, we'd selected fried calamari topped with tomatoes and pepperoncini rings ($6.95). The squid were small and tender, served with a cocktail sauce. The tomatoes had been quickly warmed with the pepper rings before topping the calamari and were therefore a surprise vinegary burst in themselves. It was all quite delicious!

We can assume that the other appetizers were as well, since we watched two guys bring in a six-pack and eat their way through shrimp cocktail (huge ones), two bowls of steamed littlenecks and an order of barbecued shrimp wrapped in bacon before their entrées even arrived!

Fred's (named for the owner of the International Cafe that used to occupy this Thames Street space) also offers a half-dozen red meat entrées, including filet mignon with Bernaise sauce, baby back ribs cooked in beer and an eight-ounce burger made of lean chopped sirloin. (They plan to offer more sandwiches and salads on the menu in the near future.)

Rosie Smith was cooking on the day we visited, and she came out of the kitchen to describe the homemade desserts she had helped create with her sister, Lisa, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Mike Simmons, and Hamish Gunn. The offerings included layered peanut butter-fudge brownie, bread pudding with bourbon sauce, and the dessert we chose -- apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. Granny Smith apples had gone into the making of this little creation, along with plenty of nutmeg and lemon juice. It was a great reminder of fall's official return.

So, too, were the chrysanthemums in the restaurant's windowboxes, which we could almost smell on the damp night air. In a Continental trend that is very appealing, the windows at Fred's slide open to the street, letting in the cross-currents of a breezy September eve.

The colors inside Fred's are two shades of plum on the walls and dark green tablecloths on the dozen-plus tables. Original art work adds additional color, and the overall effect is very soothing. Fred's is a friendly, homey place, and I'd trust their hollandaise and home fries in the mornings as well, since they managed to accomplish several tricky cooking feats with our meals. Do call ahead about their breakfast schedule, as it may change according to demand as the fall progresses. Or catch one of their dynamite dinner deals!

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