In January, the Andrea's executive chef was among those busy packing lamps and furniture into a truck. The decision had been made: the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy was too severe to save the restaurant/hotel that had survived the Hurricane of '38.
Five months later, the chef is back in the kitchen.
Outside of New Jersey, it would be hard to find a place more impacted by Sandy than Misquamicut.
Waves and winds pounded the businesses and homes, leaving parking lots, roads .... well, everything covered by sand. Septic systems were exposed, power lines knocked down.
The Andrea, Maria's Seaside Café and Paddy's - family businesses that have been here for generations - were so battered it seemed impossible that they would reopen this summer.
But the community, led by the efforts of the Greater Westerly Chamber, responded with the Bring Back the Beach campaign - a string of concerts, bowl-a-thons, bake sales, and a big bash at the Ocean House that raised $400,000.
As we drove down Atlantic Avenue last week, a few signs of Sandy lingered. A couple of houses were still under repair, and Maria's was boarded up, unable to reopen for the summer season. The dunes lining the beach seemed higher, and the lack of dune grass was noticeable.
But an infrequent guest would probably think this was summer as usual.
The Colucci family has done everything possible to make that the case at the Andrea. The hotel is gone, and it will be another summer before guests check in. But the restaurant is back, albeit under a heavy-duty, open-sided tent. An outdoor patio offers more seating, and one of the last vestiges of the original Andrea: a fireplace and chimney.
The view is the same, though, and that's a wonderful thing.
We were at the Andrea on a Wednesday, which is buck-a-shuck night: $1 for clams or oysters on the half shell. But when we arrived at 6 p.m., they were out of clams and an hour later out of oysters, too. Obviously, that's not good planning.
We ordered a dozen oysters, which were fresh and tasty, although they could have been a tad colder. They were from Maine, our waitress told us, although on other nights they had oysters from nearby Ninigret Pond.
We also started with deep fried asparagus spears served with asiago dipping sauce ($10), clam fritters served with tartar sauce ($7) and coconut mussels ($14). The asparagus was a hit, and the fritters were nicely browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. But the coconut, garlic and ginger broth with the mussels left us wishing we had white wine and garlic to drag the ciabatta through.
For entrees, we selected lobster salad on a bed of seasonal greens ($19), fish stack ($24), New York sirloin ($26) and flank steak soft-shell tacos ($14).
The lobster salad was a generous heap on top of the greens, carrots and zucchini. The crab cakes on top of haddock on top of veggies was drizzled with a balsamic glaze and worthy of any fine restaurant. The sirloin was a quality cut cooked as ordered. The steak came with rice, and the only thing I can figure is that someone accidentally knocked a container of sage into the pot.
I ordered from the taco menu, which also includes ahi tuna, blackened shrimp, buffalo chicken and lobster salad. The steak shared room in the taco with shaved cabbage, tomatoes and salsa verde for a tasty dinner.
Overall, the entrees were excellent.
I was intrigued by the build-it-yourself smores on the dessert menu. Chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers came on a plate with a cup of sterno. This, no doubt, would be a huge hit if you took the kids out to eat. Actually, it was a big hit with us, too.
We realized at this point that, busy with conversation and eating, we hadn't fully enjoyed the view, so we moved out to the patio. A short time later, it started to sprinkle, but no one, including us, moved inside. Heck, the fireplace was lit, and it's not every day you get to enjoy such a world-class view. Left, right, straight ahead, all you could see was blue ocean. Misquamicut is back and very much worth a visit.