[Sidebar] November 4 - 11, 1999
[Food Reviews]
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Coast Guard House

A relaxing brunch with a magnificent view

by Johnette Rodriguez

40 Ocean Road., Narragansett, 789-0700 or 884-8938
Open Mon-Fri for lunch, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
(also Sat when there are no weddings)
Dinner Mon-Thurs, 5-9 p.m., Fri-Sat, 5-11 p.m., Sun, 4-9 p.m.
Sun brunch buffet, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

When you live in a resort town, you quickly figure out which places are best to frequent in the off-season. Narragansett's Coast Guard House, with one of the most up-close-and-personal water views in the state (more about this later), is just such a place. Beach-bronzed revelers crowd its upper deck all summer long; lines wind down the block for the Sunday morning brunch; and on weeknights, tourists seek out the justly famed lobster dinners.

But come fall and winter, the Sunday clientele shifts to the local university contingent -- clusters of grad students, undergrads with visiting parents, or young professors with their families -- and to those of us in the know about a seaside restaurant's off-season charm. The ocean is, after all, always there, with breakers crashing on the rocks just a few feet below the large picture windows.

A few times during its several decades as a restaurant -- in a previous incarnation, it really was a Coast Guard live-saving station -- those waves have breached the windows, most recently on August 19, 1991, when Hurricane Bob surged in to fill the restaurant eight-feet deep. A brass plaque marks that height in the spacious and elegant L-shaped dining room.

The buffet-style brunch ($14.95) was laid out in the lounge, near the large horseshoe bar, beneath dozens of photos of turn-of-the-century Narragansett. Six stations organized the generous spread into salads, pastas, pastries and juice, desserts, breakfast items and dinner/lunch items. In addition, a complimentary Bloody Mary or mimosa may be ordered from the wait staff, as well as eggs Benedict, French toast or omelets from the kitchen (included in the brunch price).

The Coast Guard House buffet was by no means a tired one, with items showing the effects of over-exposure to chafing dishes or certain favorites needing to be replenished. The staff were on top of any and all replacements and were, on the whole, quite helpful. However, we were not the only perplexed party to wait 10 to 15 minutes at the door for the hostess to show up and take us to a table.

Three pan-tossed pasta dishes are featured at the pasta station: cheese tortellini with prosciutto and peas in an alfredo sauce; rotini in a pesto with grilled chicken chunks; and ziti in a pink vodka sauce with pepperoni. I would have appreciated a non-meat variation, but the sauces attested favorably to the restaurant's reputation for Italian cuisine.

The breakfast station featured sausage, home fries, corned beef hash, cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce and scrambled eggs Florentine. The blintzes and scrambleds were quite tasty; my companion found the sausage and hash equally so. He also sampled a ham and mushroom omelet quite to his liking.

Dinner items included seafood Newburg over rice, with shrimp and pollack/crab strips as seafood; beef Stroganoff over noodles; baked chicken and baked acorn squash. The long salad table featured melon wedges, smoked bluefish (but where were any crackers or bread?), marinated mushrooms and large bowls of rice salad, pasta salad, broccoli salad and mixed greens.

And everyone's favorite: the desserts. Along with assorted mousses, jello and steamed apples, there were freshly-made Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and freshly-flamed crepes, with choices of triple sec or hazelnut liqueur, sauteed apples or mandarin orange sections. The waffles were my choice for seconds.

The Coast Guard House brunch is a relaxing prelude to an afternoon stroll on Narragansett Beach or the ideal capper for a morning walk. Either way, your eyes will be soothed with rolling waves and white foam, and your palate will be satisfied with many fine brunch dishes.

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