Dining Review

A Bite of the Big Easy in Westerly

The Sea Goose Grill & Raw Bar spices up New England cuisine with southern flavors

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I'm going to get right into it – you should go to The Sea Goose Grill & Raw Bar in Westerly. If you're a fan of great Rhode Island seafood and southern spiciness from Louisiana, The Sea Goose is a perfect combination of both. I found myself grinning with joy as each new dish and drink came to our table. The Sea Goose is the sister restaurant to Westerly staple The Cooked Goose and I've known Chef Andrew Nathan, co-owner of both restaurants with Jennifer Gibson, for several years. Nathan and I have swapped stories in the past about the food in New Orleans, a place very near and dear to my heart (and mouth). I knew from glancing at The Sea Goose menu online that there was some NOLA inspiration, but I wasn't prepared for just how much I would enjoy it.

The Sea Goose sits in an unassuming shopping plaza on Route 1 in Westerly, not far from the beaches of Misquamicut and not far from “downtown” Westerly. It's not exactly in the middle of things, but it's a central location that's easy to find. Once inside, though, you'll forget you're in a shopping area. The bar is the central focus of the space, but there's plenty of table seating and even an enclosed deck area. The walls are lined with some beautiful artwork of marine life and also photography of the local fishing industry. The staff greeting us couldn't have been friendlier to me and my family, a trait that continued with our server throughout our meal. I also ended up having a nice chat with bartender Lou Robertino and Chef Aulay Carlson as we left the restaurant.

We got a lot of food at The Sea Goose, and I still felt like there was so much more we could have ordered. It's not a huge menu, but between the raw bar, appetizers, entrées, sandwiches, sides and specials, there's a lot to choose from. We started with, what else, drinks, a category where The Sea Goose also has a very wide selection. There's a good wine list with many choices by the glass, including a wide range of sparkling and white wines to enjoy with the raw bar items. The Sea Goose has a great beer list, which included several local brews. What really caught my eye, and the eye of my wife, was a list of about 20 cocktails and martinis. So that's where we began.

My wife ordered the Watch Hill White Sangria ($8), which was a light, refreshing combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco, jasmine liqueur, syrup and fruit. After a while that became some pretty potent fruit. I, of course, had to try the NOLA Bloody Mary ($8). This was a big test for me, because I've found there are very few Bloody Mary's that even hold a small candle to those served in New Orleans. The last time I had a stellar Bloody Mary outside of New Orleans was in Austin. Part of that is, of course, the mix itself, which isn't too hard to get right. But a good portion of why those southern Bloody's are so, well, bloody good, is the garnish. I'm not a big fan of fruits and vegetables in my cocktails, but a great Bloody Mary is more than just a drink, it's an assemblage of pickled and cured items often needed to help out your pickled and cured body. I'm happy to say The Sea Goose's homage to NOLA did not disappoint with pickled green beans, olives and caper berries, along with a crab boil rim to boot. We were off to a solid start.

After some raw bar delights of local oysters – and I shouldn't have to tell you how perfect our local oysters are – we dove into Creamy Local Quahog Chowder ($5), Asian Fried Calamari ($10) and back to the south with Warm Spicy Pimento Cheese & Bacon Dip ($9) and PEI Mussels NOLA ($12). My wife and I meant to share these four dishes, but seriously, if we weren't happily married we would have been fighting over who got what. Thankfully there was more than enough food to go around, though I think I only got three tastes of that Cheese & Bacon Dip, and I may have consumed 95% of the Andouille and mussels. Sausage and shellfish are always a good combination and this was no exception. Andouille sausage has a slight similarity to chourico, so it's a smart choice with shellfish. Toss in a ton of garlic and it is an excellent way to serve up mussels. The quahog chowder was great, very creamy but not heavy with a lot of chopped clams.

The Asian Fried Calamari is an “old” dish, something Nathan served years ago when he was chef at a long gone Westerly staple. Guests demanded he bring it back at The Sea Goose and I can see why. Forgive the local hyperbole, but the dish is awesome. It almost made me wonder why people love the standard “RI-style” so much. This was perfectly fried squid rings and tentacles, fried rice noodles, peanuts, scallions, chiles all tossed in a Thai sweet chili sauce, with a hot wasabi sauce on the side. I highly recommend ordering it above all other appetizers, though there is that Pimento Cheese & Bacon Dip. What can you say about a big bowl of melted cheese and bacon? It's crazy, decadent deliciousness. The dip comes with toast points and some pickled vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, onions and cucumbers, and there are plenty of those items so you can clean out the bowl.

To wrap up we ordered an Oyster Poor Boy ($14) and an Andouille & Creole Mustard Poor Boy ($12). Both came with French fries, particularly good French fries at that, and both were dressed, which means with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The Andouille dish skipped the mayo for the mustard, and what excellent mustard it was. Creole mustard isn't too powerful, but not so wimpy that you can't taste it, especially paired with a sausage as flavorful as Andouille. My wife polished off that sandwich since I ate so much Andouille with the mussels, but of course I had to try a couple of bites. As for the Oyster Poor Boy, there's an art to frying an oyster so that it's perfectly crispy outside while creamy (and mouth-scorchingly hot) inside. Needless to say, the Sea Goose scored again. Both of these sandwiches were also abundantly over-loaded on some good bread.

At this point we were completely sated and while there's a very enticing dessert menu at The Sea Goose, including a chocolate special our server was absolutely in love with, we had to pass. I did polish off a Hot, Dirty, Bloody Martini ($10) before we headed out, figuring a cocktail of Stoli Hot, olive juice, bloody mix and a Ninigret Cup Oyster was just the thing to send me on my way with my belly half in NOLA and half in Little Rhody – and completely eager to return to The Sea Goose soon.