We rolled up to Al’s Waterfront Restaurant and Lounge on a warm night. It was a weekday, but they still had some live music. A singer and a handful of folks on the deck were doing their level best to do justice to Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight,” as well as hang onto that last summer feeling before it’s, well, out of sight. The deck folks were a couple drinks ahead, due to some ‘appy hour deals. We left them to it, electing the quieter dining room instead.
The restaurant is quite large and boasts some really nice views. We got there just as the sun set over the Seekonk River toward India Point. Watching the light fade was an uncommonly pleasant way to end a workday. Apart from the Washington Bridge and boats bobbing in the dying light, what immediately stood out at Al’s was the genuinely concerned and friendly front of house. While the restaurant is both large and casual, no one on the service side of things was taking anything for granted.
For example, when we initially walked into the restaurant, the hostess was answering a reservation call, but paused to have someone else seat us. Later she went out of her way to head to our table and check in with us, apologizing for being on the phone. She noticed my wife was putting her shawl on, as the edge had come off the day, but the AC was still thrumming, and, unprompted, she volunteered to turn it off. This sort of anticipation of needs isn’t always the case, especially at this reasonable a price, but here it sets a familiar concept apart.
The menu is what you’d expect of a waterfront Rhody joint, especially one that seems to lean towards a party atmosphere over pretense. You’ve got plenty of seafood like scrod, mussels, littlenecks and calamari, as well as bar grub like fried mozzarella, burgers, sandwiches and wings. Finally, there’s a healthy splash of Portuguese dishes, like Alentejana and Paelha.
I must confess that though my wife and I are normally the most enthusiastic of omnivores, lately the choices have been quite narrow. We are expecting, and my wife’s appetite has been all over the place to say the least, only now emerging from her total moratorium on seafood. I celebrated the ending of pesce-prohibition with a cup of New England chowder ($4.25). It was generously creamy, with diced potatoes and clam pieces. My wife’s bowl of Portuguese soup ($5.75) on the other hand had a lot more texture, substance and flavor. It made me wonder if some of the Portuguese mains would be the best way to go here, but if I’ve learned anything from this election cycle it’s to never apologize and never explain, so onward to Fish and Chips ($15).
Al’s seemed to be more of a cocktail or ‘Gansett place, but I found something appropriate about sipping a Sam’s Boston Lager ($4.50) with the Fish and Chips. The filet was large and had the slightly sweet taste of fresh white fish, inside a light, clean-tasting golden batter. It flaked perfectly. Beer batter is great every once in a while, but the traditional approach is the purest when done correctly. I had some corn on the cob as my optional side, but it was an afterthought on my plate, dutifully filling out the numbers as I attended to its fried companions.
My wife, still somewhat on the foodie DL, went for Chicken Parmesan ($16). It was good and it was cheesy. At her request, they subbed out her pasta for broccoli with a smile. The broccoli was cooked properly, still dark green and al dente, served alongside the chicken in two little side bowls. Like the chowder, eating this Chicken Parmesan was like visiting with an old friend rather than the butterflies of some steamy relationship. The butterflied chicken itself though was tender and moist, delivering on the fundamentals without the frills.
To finish, we split a slice of Chocolate Cake. Whipped cream draped over the point of the slice and chocolate was drizzled on top. The cake itself was dense, with a thick layer of chocolate frosting on the interior. This ratio worked just fine for us. The more compelling ratio for me was $54 for a dinner for two, with great service, a wonderful view and some Chicken Parmesan to take home.