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
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