Let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot going on in Hopkinton around exit one off of Interstate 95. That’s kind of the whole point of Hopkinton. It’s a quiet, rural area where people live because they don’t want to be surrounded by the suburbs, and especially not the big city of Providence. But even in rural spots, people want a place to go out to eat that doesn’t require a 20-minute drive “all the way” to Westerly, and the Pavilion Steak House & Banquets – half a mile from I-95 – has built up its way to being the dining spot for Hopkinton.
As usual with places in rural areas, Pavilion has a number of things going for it besides the restaurant. When you pull into the parking lot you’ll notice a mini-golf course as well as a driving range. There are signs for ice cream and golf lessons, and for half the year on Friday nights, they hold a classic car show and barbecue on the grounds. Speaking of those grounds,there’s a large tent alongside the outdoor patio for the banquets part of the Pavilion name. But we were there to eat at the restaurant, so we headed inside.
Inside is a big, beautiful space. It’s wide-open with lots of windows looking out over the range and a cathedral ceiling that almost gives it a nouveau Alpine feeling. The first thing you can’t help but notice as you en- ter is the gigantic bar with two largescreen televisions and about ten or more beers on tap – many of them local brews from Grey Sail, Foolproof and Cottrell Brewing Company. There was also a wide array of wines and cocktails to enjoy as well.
The next thing that caught my eye as we were seated was a centrally located soup and salad bar. I couldn’t remember the last time I was in a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All the dishes at Pavilion,including sandwiches, came with the salad bar, so between the six of us we had a chance to sample just about all of its items. While the salad bar was loaded with typical items, they were fresh and well maintained. The clam chowder was not too thick and heavy, with big cuts of clam, and the endless bread was great for the kids.
Even though we had all the soup and salad we could go for, we wanted to try one of the appetizers, so we ordered the Potato Skins with Pulled Pork ($8) – they also offer the options of Bacon & Cheddar or Pastrami Reuben. Clearly different than your typical potato skins, the pulled pork was tasty though the combo with some barbecue sauce and cheese was a little on the sweet side for my taste.
On to dinner, which consisted of a range of dishes from Pavilion’s very extensive menu. The dinner menu is actually broken out into two menus: starters and entrées, which are served from lunch to close, and the steak house menu, which is available from 5pm to close. Ostensibly the steak house menu is a la carte – pick a protein and a topping or sauce – but every dish from either half of the menu comes with a choice of potato as well.
My wife went with the South WestBacon Burger ($12), which was an eight-ounce burger with pepper-jack cheese, grilled red onion, housecured bacon and chipotle pepper mayo. It was a huge pile of a burger. The sauce was nicely spicy, but not too hot, and the bacon was good. There are about seven burger choices on the menu and you could of course mix-and-match your own toppings, so it’d be an understatement to say Pavilion could have you covered on burger options.
From the steakhouse menu I went with the scrod, and my friends ordered a ten-ounce sirloin and the sea scallops. As with the burger, there are a number of different ways to order any of the cuts of beef or seafood. I went with baked and Cajun spiced for the Scrod ($16) and it was very good, nicely cooked so that the fish was flaky but not dry at all. My friend kept his Sirloin Steak simple with a Portabella Demi-glace ($17) and the Sea Scallops were ordered with Pavilion’s Seafood Stuffing ($22) essentially making the dish a baked, stuffed scallop instead of shrimp, which was surprisingly delicious. Also very good were the potato sides. We got all three: mashed, baked and French fries, and theywere fresh and well-prepared.
As you can imagine, all of this added up to way too much food to even consider looking at the dessert menu. Pavilion is very generous and well-priced too, especially if you consider you could get a burger or sandwich for around $10-$12, and that includes soup and salad bar as well. It’s definitely an option to consider when you’re near the RI-CT border – perhaps a better choice than the over-priced dining at the casinos just over the line. Plus it’d be a good way to leave some of your money in Rhode Island.