[Sidebar] January 21 - 28, 1999
[Food Reviews]
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Chopmist Charlie's

Bargain specials off the beaten path

by Bill Rodriguez

6900 Post Road, North Kingstown, 885-0575
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.,
Fri & Sat, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

You're traveling along the upper reaches of North Kingstown, hunting for cheap eats. Maybe you're up for seafood, keeping your eyes peeled like an old salt in a skiff. Well, if it's Wednesday or Thursday, you're in luck. You can pull into Chopmist Charlie's and take advantage of their $19.95 two-fer specials, complete with a half-carafe of the house red or white.

We went with friends who had been there before and had liked the experience. They hadn't eaten from the bargain menu, which Jamestown's Chopmist Charlie's doesn't have, so they were as curious as we were about how that would be. At the door was a rough-hewn carving of a grizzled sea captain in yellow sou'wester and a couple of big skiffs.

Inside, the nautical motif didn't let up for an inch -- dark wood (faux wainscoting) and brass rails wrapped in thick hemp rope, schooners and seascapes on the walls, and a colorful collection of game fish lures. The place was quiet when we were there, mid-evening, but our guides said it had been packed and raucous the Saturday night they'd visited. It's the kind of restaurant that would attract families, with eight items on the $2.50-$4.75 children's menu.

As far as the regular menu goes, the prices are as low as you'd expect, ranging from $6.50 sandwich plates to $16 filet mignon dinners. Even the lobster Alfredo is only $16, while the 18 or so appetizers just about exhaust the list of reasonably priced usual suspects, from stuffies (two for $3.75) to Buffalo wings ($5.50).

At $12 a pound, the spicy, beer-steamed peel 'n' eat shrimp is a good deal. But you may want to stay away from "Charlie's awesome" garlic bread ($1.75). On the night we went, the bread was cold and dried-out, and the garlic apparently was the flavor-dead sort that comes in jars.

However, both the thick and creamy clam chowder and the two-bean soup, containing minced sausage (both $3/$4), are winners. And the house salad, which comes with the two-fer meals, has several kinds of lettuce and even a bit of radicchio and frisée.

The $19.95 specials are quite a bargain, like getting the soup and a $7 serving of wine gratis. And if you both happen to order the 10-ounce prime rib, normally $10.95, the freebies would double to 15 bucks.

On our recent visit, we tried the other three choices available that evening, and only one disappointed. The scrod with lobster sauce was cooked nicely, with the creamy topping not too heavy. My linguini with clam sauce (I chose red rather than white) was delicious as well, the al dente pasta drowning in a simple tomato sauce rich with minced shellfish. But, unfortunately, the chicken with Swiss cheese left Marie wanting more than the single stuffed breast.

In this age of gluttony, when dinners might as well come with a doggie bag under every napkin, it's understandable that a place would keep the servings small on bargain meals. But while two out of our three choices were plentiful, the desserts, which were extra, were another story.

One of us ordered pecan pie ($3.50), the other, bread pudding ($3). And both were frowned over and declared sub-standard by the wives at the table, who made both items at home. We two guys shrugged after our taste samples and then squinted at the morsels our partners had ordered -- the pie only half the size of a normal wedge and the pudding a mere half-cup. Size, we found ourselves insisting, does matter.

If it does to you, too, check out the NK Chopmist Charlie's anyway, Wednesday or Thursday. Hey, with what you save on the prime rib, you can order two desserts.

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