[Sidebar] September 16 - 23, 1999
[Food Reviews]
| by cuisine | by location | by restaurant | hot links | previous reviews | reviews |

The Reef Cafe and Bar

The pleasures of a hidden oasis

by Dawn Keable

217 Goddard Row, Newport, 841-8791
Open daily 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Fri and Sat until 9 p.m.)
Major credit cards
No handicapped access

Okay, so maybe the heat really had driven us crazy. Dinner in Newport, on the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend? Without reservations? My husband, Andre, and I really weren't considering logistics, just looking for a spot to escape our sweltering abode before we melted into puddles. But, ah, this is the stuff that urban legends are made of: Once in Newport, not only did we find free parking and refreshing air-conditioning, but were served a good meal, and all in a little over half an hour. No, the entire experience wasn't a heatstroke-induced hallucination. We were just lucky enough to stumble upon the Reef Cafe & Bar.

Tucked off Thames Street in the Brick Marketplace, The Reef Cafe is a bit off the beaten path and not easily discovered unless you're browsing the nearby shops. That's where the free parking comes in. The marketplace lot offers an hour of free parking with validation. Our time was well under that, with enough left over to do a bit of window shopping ourselves.

We decided to forego the patio seating and take full advantage of the air-conditioning inside the restaurant. Naturally, the interior of the Reef is decorated with a aquatic theme. The light blue sponge-painted walls and hand-painted tabletops of brightly-colored tropical fish add to a laid-back feel. This informal atmosphere continued with the menu of salads and sandwiches, many with a seafood twist.

Our first priority was to order beverages, to re-hydrate, of course. Andre went a glass of boring regular iced tea ($1.75), as they were out of his first choice of raspberry-flavored. I initially ordered a glass of tap water, but quickly switched to bottled water ($2) when my taste buds abruptly reminded me of the unpleasant flavor of Newport's agua.

Our entire meal, appetizer and all, arrived at the table at the same time, about five minutes after we ordered it. We didn't waste any time in sampling the Maryland blue crab cakes ($8.95). Served on a bed of red leaf lettuce, the crab meat was finely ground and shaped into a pair of small, moist patties. Delectable alone, they were accompanied by a side of tomato and corn salsa to add the tiniest of kicks.

Andre munched on a Little Rhody sandwich ($9.95). This health conscious wrap was stuffed with mango-shrimp-rice salad, snowpeas, romaine lettuce and tomato slices, rolled together in a spinach tortilla. The sandwich was cool and filling, but disappointed with an overall lack of seasoning. A good-sized portion of traditional red bliss potato salad offered some compensation.

For an entree, I chose the reef chicken salad ($9.25). Mixed with honey mustard, almond slivers and juicy apricots, the chicken salad, featuring chunks of white meat, was refreshing and sweet. Served on a generous bed of ultra-fresh mixed greens, the dish was garnished with red and green pepper slices, and tossed with a tangy mango-poppy vinaigrette dressing for an additional burst of summertime flavor.

Happily stuffed, we ordered three desserts to go, with the best intentions of taking one to a buddy of my spouse. Lucky for us, his friend wasn't home, so we had to share everything between ourselves. First, we attacked the chocolate caramel cake ($3.95). Topped with chocolate frosting and shavings, the dark chocolate cake with alternating layers of caramel was rich and deliciously simple.

Next up was a piece of Snickers mousse cake ($3.95). With chocolate cake on the bottom, peanut butter mousse in the middle and milk chocolate, and peanuts and caramel on top, the luscious creation gained our approval as even more satisfying than its namesake candy bar.

As a grand finale (no, we weren't sick yet), we split a slice of very berry cheesecake ($3.95). There was no doubt that this creamy, fruity confection, topped with whipped cream on a graham cracker crust, was made with the most authentic ingredients. We had the raspberry seeds in our teeth as evidence. But at least we had something tangible to prove that our entire experience wasn't a mirage.

| home page | what's new | search | about the phoenix | feedback |
Copyright © 1999 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.