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As I drive down Route 1 in Westerly, I've noticed the many cars in the lot of The Haversham restaurant, leaving me wondering what this version is doing differently than its failing predecessors. The sign by the road often touts cheap wings while you watch the game or, if it's the weekend, a prime rib special. And, like Mary's and My Mary's before it, Haversham has established a reputation as a special events spot.
So we stopped in on a recent Thursday night, although we weren't there to catch the Sox game or to attend a wedding. Two of us arrived before the third person in our party so we took seats at the bar. The bar itself is small but the room large, and you can easily see one of the nine TVs from the more than a dozen high-top tables. The bar screams sports pub, with beer and sports signs on the walls and the bartender and waitress wearing football jerseys (one Patriots, one Giant, smartly playing it down the middle).
We ordered mugs of Grey Sail Flagship Ale and Blue Moon and a plate of chicken nachos ($9.99). The beer selection was solid - other choices included Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Shipyard Pumpkin, Loose Cannon IPA and Narragansett Lager.
The plate of nachos was covered with a scoop each of sour cream, guacamole and cilantro-rich salsa and, of course, melted cheese. No complaints as we enjoyed our beers and nachos and tried to decide which TV to look at.
For dinner we moved into the adjacent dining room, which holds a half-dozen round tables. The mood is much different here - just one TV and it was off; a stone fireplace that in colder weather will make this a cozy spot; and a nice view of the property's gorgeous gardens.
The menu is good-sized but a bit predictable: roasted chicken, fish and chips, chicken parm, for instance. The specials were much more creative, including coconut shrimp and a flat iron steak topped with bleu cheese.
The late arrival, who had missed out on the nachos, ordered the soup of the day: butternut squash bisque ($3.99), which could've been creamier.
For dinner, we selected macaroni and cheese ($9.99), baby back ribs ($18.99) and New York strip steak ($24.99).
My wife, Betty, added chicken ($2.99) to her mac and cheese and was thrilled with the dish of large elbow macaroni in a creamy mix of bleu cheese, cheddar, parmesan, romano and pepperjack that was not stringy, and topped with browned bread crumbs. Mac and cheese is one of those comfort foods that is trending, but many places don't do it as well the Haversham. (You can also get lobster mac & cheese.)
My steak was flavorful and tender and grilled as ordered. All the entrees came with a choice of two sides and, for me, a twice baked stuffed potato instead of french fries is a no brainer. It wasn't the best I've ever had - not as good as the Steak Loft's, for one - but it was enjoyable.
The menu said the ribs were slow cooked, and that seemed to be the case, as the meat was tender and falling off the bone. And it was obvious the kitchen had made the barbecue sauce, a sweet and tangy mix that was head and shoulders above what usually comes out of a bottle. The ribs come with fries and cole slaw, although substitutions are welcome.
(We didn't try any seafood, but among the more interesting options are grilled swordfish, clams over linguine, and an appetizer of clams in a white wine, butter and garlic sauce served with peppers, onions and chorizo.)
At this point, we were full and asking for take-home containers, but the dessert menu was calling us, so we ordered a large slice of double chocolate fudge cake ($4.99) to go. Other choices were cheesecake, cinnamon dippers and a brownie sundae, all for the same price. We divided the cake later and, when finished, my wife proclaimed: "Damn, that was good."
The service all night was spot on, from the bartender to our waitress to the host, who greeted us when we arrived, checked on our table during dinner and wished us a good night when we left. Small things make big impressions.
The Haversham has established itself as a great place to watch the game - cold beer, lots of TVs, and all-you-can-eat wings for $9.95 during games. But the dining room, especially with the doors closed, offers a quieter option for families and those not interested in who's playing.
336 Post Road (Route 1), Westerly
Cuisine: Sandwich menu includes wraps, cheesesteak, chicken, pulled pork and lobster rolls. Entrees run the gamut of steaks, chicken, ribs, seafood and pasta.
Atmosphere: Sports pub feel with lots of TVs in the bar; dining room is smaller and quieter.
Service: Incredibly pleasant staff sets the mood.
Prices: Sandwiches are generally under $10. Chicken and beef entrees run from $24.99 to $13.99; fish and chips and baked haddock are $11.99; pasta dishes are in the $14-$15 range.
Hours: Opens daily at 11 a.m.
Credit cards: Yes
Reservations: On weeknights but not on weekends.
Handicapped access: Yes