We love eating out, but with cocktail prices on the rise, there’s a wallet-friendly appeal to BYOB. These four South County restaurants offer good food at reasonable prices, and allow you to bring your own bottle to dinner. So gather a group of your buddies, your sweetheart or your family, pick up a bottle of wine or a six-pack, and enjoy a night on the town!
554 Kingstown Road | Wakefield | 792-8940 | bluebirdcaferi.com
Dinner is served: Friday nights only
Best Eats: The verdurous rancheros and pollo rancheros are very popular, says chef/owner Bart Shumaker, who says Friday night specials are posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page (Bluebird Cafe) each week; recent offerings included jambalaya, New Orleans style fried catfish fillets, and sautéed shrimp, crawfish and tassa pasta. With breakfast offered all day, families have the best of both worlds: Kids can choose eggs and pancakes for dinner, and parents may opt for the more upscale specials, says Shumaker, a 1976 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
The Larger Menu: Cajun, Creole, Mexican, Southwestern and Caribbean influences abound. The restaurant, which prides itself on using the freshest ingredients, offers a dozen sandwich options – from BLTs and burgers to grilled fish sandwiches and pulled pork quesadillas.
Who’s Eating Here: Regulars are loyal and often know one other, Shumaker says, so it’s like a social club; people will often move from table to table talking with each other. The restaurant attracts a lot of summer tourists. Many vacationing families return year after year.
Ambience: Channeling its New Orleans’ roots, the diner is decorated with New Orleans memorabilia, and a picture of Professor Longhair, a New Orleans jazz singer and piano player, adorns the men’s room. During Mardis Gras, the Bluebird Café follows traditions: free beads for customers, plastic “to go cups” for beverages, free samples of King Cake and decorations in purple, green and gold.
The Back Story: Shumaker lived in New Orleans for 20 years and opened his first Bluebird Café there in 1987. Missing his family in Rhode Island, he returned home and opened up the Wakefield restaurant.
Closest liquor stores: Wakefield Liquors, 667 Kingstown Road, Wakefield | Geaber’s Liquors, 231 Old Tower Hill Road, Wakefield
$$: Dinner for two is $18-22; no corkage fee.
Meldgie’s Rivers Edge Café
406 B Main Street | Wakefield | 789-5960
Dinner is served: Friday nights only
Best Eats: Seafood reigns supreme on the Friday night dinner menu, with such offerings as fish and chips, Narragansett Bay fried scallops, baked stuffed shrimp and a spicy Fra diablo seafood casserole. “We change the homestyle special,” says owner Mark Eldridge, “so there’s something new to look forward to every Friday night.” Specials are listed on the restaurant’s Facebook page, (Meldgie’s Rivers Edge Cafe).
Larger Menu: Specials range from stuffed pork loin, prime rib and charbroiled steak to fried chicken, fried whole-belly clams and swordfish. Eldridge likes having a “smorgasbord of flavors … a combo of seafood, either baked or fried.” All dinners include a choice of pasta or potato and a vegetable. “I think they get a definite value,” says Eldridge, who worked in finance before venturing into the restaurant business. “We can offer a better price and a better standard of meal at the same time.”
Who’s Eating Here: Eldridge says local residents, generally those 55 or older, are his typical dinner customers. His second location, Meldgie’s Diner, 120 Knowlesway Ext., Point Judith, draws a mix of locals and tourists, and offers BYOB dinners Fridays and Saturdays from mid- to late-June through Labor Day; a third Meldgie’s Diner in Bonnet Shores serves breakfast and lunch only.
Ambience: Casual and friendly. The restaurants offer multiple seating options with a horseshoe-shaped counter, booths and tables.
The Back Story: Mark Eldridge was dubbed “Meldgie” in eighth grade by “one of my creative friends,” he says. “It stuck with me. I grew up in this area and a lot of people know me pretty well. People know who’s involved in the restaurant.”
Closest liquor stores: Sweeney’s Wine & Spirits, 408 Main St., Wakefield | Patsy’s Package Store, 520 High St., Peace Dale
$$: Dinner for two is $25-30; no corkage fee
126 Boon St. | Narragansett | 783-9083 | markosnarragansett.com
Dinner is served: Tuesday through Sunday
Best Eats: The vegetarian appetizer sampler, available for two, three or four people, is quite popular, says Saad “Mark” Awad, chef and owner. “It’s got a little bit of everything, it satisfies almost everybody.” Meat eaters love the lamb kabob and shish kabob (with Angus steak) while vegetarians might choose foule, a dish made with fava beans and/or chickpeas. “I treat myself [to] the falafel sandwich. I crave it,” Awad says. “I have the best falafel … everyone who comes, loves them.”
The Larger Menu: You won’t need a passport to be transported to the Middle East, given the menu’s Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli and Greek dishes. The extensive menu includes starters of lentil or Moroccan couscous soups, Greek or tabouleh salad and stuffed grape leaves, falafel, roasted eggplant dip, spanakopita and Markos mezze plate. Awad makes the hummus in-house – it’s so popular it’s also sold at Belmont Market in Wakefield. Other offerings include traditional chicken, lamb and beef kabobs, shrimp and Caribbean kabobs, more than a half-dozen wraps and chef specials: Turkish jamajeen, a flatbread pizza with ground lamb and spices, moussaka and beef tagine, a North African dish.
Who’s Eating Here: Locals in the wintertime, a tourist mecca in the summer
Ambience: Markos offers a cozy, quiet and intimate atmosphere. With relaxing Arabic music and tables close together, customers at different tables often end up chatting and laughing together, as the evening progresses, Awad says.
The Back Story: Awad worked as a cook in his native Syria. When his plans to move to New York were derailed, he accepted an invitation to move to Rhode Island 13 years ago. “I stayed like everyone else; when you come to Rhode Island, you just stay,” he says. He has owned the restaurant for about eight years.
Closest liquor stores: Pier Liquor Store, 29 Pier Marketplace, Narragansett | O’Neil’s Liquor Store, 366 South Pier Road, Narragansett
$$: Dinner for two is $30-40; corkage fee $3 per glass
The Hungry Haven
5000 South County Trail | Charlestown | 364-3609
Dinner is served: Thursday through Saturday
Best Eats: Prime rib, Point Judith haddock (a filet of haddock stuffed with lobster and Ritz cracker crumbs), fish and chips and fried clams, says Michael Dennen, owner and chef. His personal favorite is the prime rib sandwich smothered with cheese.
The Larger Menu: Not a fish eater? No worries; the extensive menu includes a variety of wraps, corned beef Reubens and Monte Cristos, eight choices of club sandwiches and a selection of burgers, with lots of options to customize them. Full dinner choices include grilled chicken and broccoli Alfredo, a traditional roast beef dinner with gravy, mashed potatoes and a vegetable, and liver and onions. Love fried seafood? Go for the seafood combo, the fried scallop or fried shrimp dinner or, for smaller appetites, the fried scallop roll. Consider ending your meal with a piece of strawberry shortcake, apple crisp or blueberry cobbler or a dish of grapenut pudding.
Who’s Eating Here: Locals, mostly people from Wakefield, Charlestown and Westerly, and returning summer visitors.
Ambience: Friendly and casual. “We treat people like family and [greet] most people by name as they’re coming in the door,” Dennen says. “My wife is the sous chef and she works next to me.”
The Back Story: “I’ve been working in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old,” Dennen says. Betty Paull, who had been a server at the restaurant for 30 years, helped her granddaughter, Liza Spencer, who is Dennen’s wife, and Dennen buy the restaurant about nine years ago. Although Betty died in December 2013, The Hungry Haven remains a family affair: While Dennen and Spencer cook, their children, Steven and Koren, wait on tables.
Closest liquor stores: Charlestown Wine and Spirits, 4625 Old Post Road, Charlestown | Rippy’s Liquor & Marketplace, 4158 South County Trail, Charlestown
$$: Dinner for two is $15-25, corkage fee $1.50 per bottle