The Bridge takes fresh seafood up a level

While the Bridge was closed for about a month this winter for renovations, you're not likely to notice the changes.

The bar was redone and lowered, but most of the upgrades were in the area of the kitchen. New and improved digs for a crew that has put out some excellent food since it opened four summers ago can only be good news for those who love local ingredients served in creative ways.

Our most recent visit was on a glorious Saturday. We arrived at 5:30 to avoid the crowds and were happy to be offered a table on the deck.

There's not an uncomfortable spot in the Bridge. The dining area is a warm mix of wood floors and brick walls. The bar offers a spectacular view of the Pawcatuck River, which flows under the restaurant, and downtown Westerly/Pawcatuck. The bartenders are friendly and talented.

But the deck is hard to beat, whether you're sitting in the part covered by an awning or the section that's not. With the river flowing by and a view of Donahue Park across the border, it's a spot where you'll feel the stress melt away.

Because of the weather, my wife craved a frozen drink, but our server said while they could make a frozen marguerita they couldn't whip up a pina colada or strawberry daiquri. She opted instead for a not-frozen drink only to be informed that they were out of Midori.

Not a great start, but we moved on to order some calamari ($10) and a cup of creamy corn chowder ($5).

The calamari was served Point Judith-style with spicy pepper rings, garlic butter and marinara. The squid was lightly breaded and lightly fried. Our daughter, Mary, who had just finished freshman year of college and was still in a grading mood, gave the app an A-plus, and we agreed.

While the calamari came out quickly, the kitchen forgot about my chowder. When it arrived, it was creamy, not thick, but loaded with big chunks of potato, as well as corn, onions and peppers. Good, but not the best I've had.

For dinner, we ordered a chicken naanwich ($11), skirt steak ($19) and redfish ($21).

Of all the times I've enjoyed naan, I've never thought of building a sandwich on it. That's pure genius. Mary ordered the sandwich without the tomato, but instead it came without the avocado. For the second time, our server apologized.

The danger with skirt steak is that it's easy to over cook, and unfortunately that's what happened so, many of the pieces were a tad dry. It came with a Chimichurri sauce of parsley, garlic and olive oil, which was pesto-like and didn't do much for the steak.

The blackboard often features fish delivered that day and my wife, Betty, opted for the redfish. Redfish can be several species, but I'm pretty sure this was red drum, which can be found on menus in New Orleans. The fish, which was served with tail attached, was white and flaky, not oily at all, and rubbed with Cajun spices. Dirty rice and fried okra completed what was a spectacular entree.

The Bridge does well by landlubbers - I've enjoyed the meatloaf ($15), chicken pot pie ($17) and, in the past, the steak - but where this restaurant shines is in its creative use of fresh seafood, some of it, like the redfish, species that you don't often see on other menus.

We didn't partake of the raw bar on this trip, but there was the usual excellent selection of oysters to choose from, including three from Rhode Island: Dutch Island and Wild Goose from Narragansett Bay and Ninigret from Charlestown Pond.

It's unusual when a dessert list doesn't excite us but that was the case here. Betty and Mary split the flourless chocolate cake ($4), which was between a brownie and a cake but not as good as either.


The Bridge

37 Main St., Westerly

Cuisine: They tout their seafood and vegan offerings with good reason. Excellent raw bar, too.

Atmosphere: The bar and the deck are fun spots, while the dining rooms are comfortable.

Service: A hard-working crew misfired a few times on our visit as they move into the busy summer season.

Prices: Meatloaf, chicken pot pie, fried chicken, fish tacos and fish and chips are in the $15-$17 range; crab cakes, New York sirloin, flounder, baked stuff shrimp are $20 and higher.

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Reservations: Recommended on weekends.

Credit cards: All majors

Handicapped access: Yes

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