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Ever play that game where you fantasize about opening your own restaurant and decide what your niche would be? Like "only orange-colored food will be served!" Or "everything can only be eaten with a spoon!" Or "every dish must include bacon or chocolate!"
Well, there's a place in Westerly that has captured what should become a new model in restaurants - Oak St. B&B: burgers and breakfast. What more do you need?
OK, they're not actually as extremist as they sound, since they do have a few more things on the menu, but the B&B that has nothing to do with beds has a clear focus and more than just great ideas. It has great food.
The B&B has made a cozy home for itself at the corner of Westerly's Oak and Tower streets for about a year. It's bright, welcoming and nicely decorated with a smattering of tables and stools at a counter, where you place your own order. The menu is on an overhead board, with specials that change regularly.
Let's start with the burgers. Do not let the ubiquity of the "gourmet burger" trend dissuade you. These burgers are not so much "fancy" as they are creative, with flavors that, sometimes surprisingly, work. They're all served on a soft, sweet roll with grilled onions.
A recent special of the day was the Big Kahuna ($8.95), a name dropped in Quentin Tarantino movies like "Pulp Fiction" ("Big Kahuna burger! That's that Hawaiian joint."). I don't know if Tarantino had this type of burger in mind, but Oak St.'s Big Kahuna was topped with cream cheese, grilled pineapple, and sweet and sour sauce. The sweet pineapple balanced well with the savory burger, and the cream cheese oozing out gave it added richness. If this is not a testament to my enjoyment of the burger, I don't know what is: at one point, I was told, "You have cream cheese in your hair."
The burgers themselves are not huge, and they don't need to be. They're still juicy and slightly pink in the middle, cooked medium. The meat was just as good in the Popper ($7.95), which, like a jalapeno popper, was topped with cream cheese, peppery bacon and jalapenos. The jalapenos were fresh, adding a good amount of heat, though the bacon could have been a little crisper. There are many more burgers to choose from, including the Elvis, with bacon and peanut butter, which we were told "has a loyal following."
The Oak chips are also outstanding. The super-crispy handmade potato chips would be good alone, but Oak St. gives you some topping options (why should fries get all the attention?). The "dressed" chips were treated to rosemary, garlic and truffle oil, a combination of seasonings that were like a light sprinkle of fairy dust. The "s'oaked" chips were drizzled with gravy and cheese, a deliciously deadly mix, but it will leech your chips' crunchiness, and the cheese seemed like nacho cheese.
Of course, this all necessitated a return trip to test the other side of the coin: breakfast, also done well on a busy Sunday morning. The eggs benedicto offered an Italian take on eggs benedict, with a layer of soupy, a tomato basil hollandaise sauce, poached eggs, diced green peppers and cherry tomatoes ($7.95). Each bite had a creamy balance of the spicy sausage, runny egg and sweet tomato over toast.
They had run out of biscuits for the Italian-style biscuits and gravy special, but Italian toast was a good replacement, topped with a fried egg, sausage crumbles and diced peppers in gravy.
The Portuguese bread French toast is thick, eggy and sweet, breaded in cornflakes for a crunchy finish (it can also be stuffed with bacon and cream cheese). Oak St. B&B's website also brags about their "proper" golden hashbrowns, a cake of shredded potatoes cooked until crispy on the outside. A good version of breakfast potatoes, after some added seasoning.
An unexpected bonus, if you're so inclined: Oak St. serves beer, wine, sangria and mimosas, which are served in champagne flutes ($6). On the side, you get the rest of your little airplane bottle of champagne and a cute beaker of orange juice. It was one of the many little details that make Oak St. B&B stand out, along with lemon wedges next to the self-serve water, to-go cups for the coffee, and salt and pepper shakers with grinders in them on the table. The family business has been much praised by Yelp reviewers, and we expect their creativity and care in what they do will help it continue.
Perhaps my favorite idea of theirs: calling for delivery the night before, so you can roll out of bed in the morning and have breakfast waiting at your front door. Why didn't we think of that?
87 Oak St., Westerly
Cuisine: Creatively crafted burgers and breakfast are their specialty, but you can also find salads, sandwiches and more.
Service: You order at the counter, where the staff is friendly and food comes out quickly.
Atmosphere: It's perfectly breakfast-sized, small and intimate, with stools at a counter and a menu on the board.
Hours: Mon. and Wed.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat. 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Prices: Most dishes around $7.95
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Amex
Handicapped access: A few steps in the front entrance.