84 Tavern on Canal is the whole package

Oreo French toast (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)
Oreo French toast (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)

Christopher Champagne, executive chef and owner of 84 Tavern on Canal in downtown Westerly, is certainly a man who knows his way around a kitchen and has learned more than a thing or two about ingredient pairing.

Whether it's brunch, lunch or dinner, the menu at his Canal Street establishment is a wide, but not gratuitously so, panoply of surprise and delight:

Eggs in Purgatory with ground soupy sausage, spicy marinara, roasted peppers, and grilled focaccia ($10); Breakfast Tot Poutine with eggs, bacon, cheddar, and Hollandaise sauce ($10); a toasted crab melt with Swiss cheese, on an "inside-out" buttered Challah roll ($16); and the 84 Burger served with cheddar cheese, sweet pickle chips, and bacon-onion marmalade ($13), to name a very few items. 

To maximize options, it's worth going to 84 Tavern at lunchtime on a Sunday, when you can order off both the Sunday brunch and regular lunch menu. For sure, there aren't many other opportunities you'll have in life to sample Oreo stuffed French toast ($8) and a corned beef Reuben ($12) in the same sitting.

I started off my most recent meal at 84 Tavern in a crabby mood, in one sense of the word, and so I went with the recommendable crab cakes appetizer ($14), and crab stuffed mushrooms starter ($9).

The crab cakes came two to a plate, with a small serving of mixed greens, a wedge of lemon, and a mildly spicy Cajun remoulade sauce. The patties were wide and plump, with an optimal blend of shredded meat and bread crumbs, and pan fried with a nice crisp on both sides. The remoulade sauce had a nice kick that hit a moment after the first bite, which helped this dish stand out from your average crab cakes.

The stuffed mushrooms were tasty and well-executed, but perhaps more standard and less noteworthy. The plate came with eight small cremini mushrooms, stuffed with small mounds of a crabmeat and Ritz cracker stuffing. A sprinkling of what appeared to be Parmesan cheese added an extra touch and flavor.

From the boundary-pushing, and wide-ranging brunch menu, I tried the Oreo stuffed French toast, which, as best I could tell, did not contain actual Oreos but was instead more inpired by the construction of the classic cookie.

The egg coating of the thickly cut bread was mixed with a dark powdered chocolate, giving a crispy coco exterior and soft, bready interior. Between two slices of toast was a sweet whipped cream filling. This was an indulgent and unique treat, but one certainly not for the faint of heart. I'd say it could best be described as dessert for breakfast.

For a considerably more savory experience, I tried the Federal Hill omelet ($9), which came with spinach, roasted garlic tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and pesto on top. At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, I would characterize this omelet as "profound" and "devastating," made only the more enjoyable by the crispy fried home fries and buttered toast.

There are several meatless options for vegetarians, but one that stands out is the fried cauliflower wrap ($10). I'd never had cauliflower prepared in such a way, but I was more than impressed by its earthy crispiness, somewhat reminiscent of falafel. The wrap was also stuffed with generous portions of arugula, tomato, red onions, delicious sweet pickles, and a Ranch style dressing.

The dining area at 84 Tavern on Canal is a wide open space and designed in a clean, minimalist style. Simple walls painted in cool grays and a dark maroon complement the wood tables, unobtrusive hanging lights, and a large, handwritten chalkboard calendar of local events.

A vibrant bar section, well patronized for a Sunday morning at 11, is situated just at the entrance of the restaurant. And, by the looks of the bard and the tables around me, the brunch cocktails appeared as unique and popular as the many menu items:

The Lazy Afternoon with orange vodka, prosecco, St. German, cranberry juice and pomegranate juice ($9); the Trade Winds, consisting of prosecco, peach Schanpps, and pineapple juice; the Avalanche, iced coffee, vodka, coffee liquor, and Irish cream ($8); and the Rhody Wake Up with Van Gogh double espresso and coffee milk ($8), to highlight a few.

Service on my few visits so far has been friendly, prompt and consistent. The staff members have been more than willing to answer my questions and laugh along at my corny jokes, which goes a long way and contributes to a total experience with virtually no flaws and plenty to be impressed by.

 

Federal Hill omelet. (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)
Federal Hill omelet. (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)
Crab cakes. (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)
Crab cakes. (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)

84 Tavern on Canal

15 Canal St.

Westerly, R.I.

(401) 596-7871

www.84Tavern.com

Food type: Eclectic American cuisine

Service: Friendly and accomodating

Price: Moderate

Hours: Sunday brunch: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; lunch: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover

Handicapped access: Yes

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