Some restaurants fly just a little under the radar. The Beehive Café in Bristol is one of those places. To me it just doesn’t get the buzz – if you’ll forgive the pun – that it deserves. The kitchen, run by owner Jennifer Cavallaro and Chef Eli Dunn, works hard to use local, high quality ingredients and turns out very good, flavorful dishes with those products.
I’ve had the chance to sample their food at several events around Rhode Island and always enjoyed it, so it was a pleasure to take in a relaxing meal at the charming little spot on Franklin Street between Thames and Hope Streets, and I do mean little. The first floor of The Beehive Café is a space for coffee, tea and pastries. There’s a table there and some seating outside on the patio. Perfect for most of the year in Bristol, and even if the weather’s a little cool, it’s a pretty area to sit outside.
Upstairs, the tastefully sparse dining room seats about 24 people and in warmer weather there’s a small outdoor deck that looked like it could seat another four or six. Looking out the wall of windows facing west you can make out Bristol Harbor and Independence Park. We missed the sunset on the evening my wife and I went for dinner, but I would bet it’s a beautiful spot to see the day turn to night.
Since we were there for dinner we only lingered for a moment over the pastry display case downstairs. Perhaps we lingered for a couple of moments. There were some tasty looking treats and the coffee selection looked nice as well. The breakfast and lunch menus also looked very good and they are served daily from 7am-3:30pm. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 5-9pm, you can get dinner.
We were there on a Friday and started with drinks as The Beehive Café has a very tempting beer and wine selection. I’m always glad to see something other than the same old beers and wines that thousands of restaurants have. It isn’t a very extensive list, but thankfully there aren’t any run-of-the-mill libations here. I got a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, brewed not far away in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and my wife had a good glass of Argentinean Malbec.
Then we set upon examining the menu, which is really loaded with choices for such a small place. There are a selection of nibbles, half a dozen soups and salads, over a dozen sandwiches, a wide range of entrees and then the option of either building your own pizza or building your own baked mac and cheese. Oh, and I almost forgot the eight or nine side dishes. On top of the regular menu there were also some specials for the evening. It’s a very wide-ranging menu with plenty of choices ranging from vegetarian to burgers and everything in between. There seemed to be some Mediterranean influences to some dishes, but you could also find nachos, meatloaf or a grilled cheese if you wanted American comfort.
We started with a plate of Cornbread ($5), the Grilled Narragansett Feta ($10) and a cup of Beef Chili ($6). The Chili was great, loaded with beef and beans and topped with good cheese and scallions. It was also a perfect pairing with the Cornbread, which I liked very much. There were four big wedges of cornbread in the serving and it came with some good butter. I’m a little picky about cornbread and this was very good, not too sweet – it’s not supposed to be a cake – and not at all dry. On the other end of the bread spectrum was the Lebanese flatbread that came with the large square of warm, grilled Narragansett Feta cheese, which was topped with marinated red peppers, capers, basil and extra virgin olive oil. That was just plain delicious: the red peppers and basil gave a nice slightly sweet counterpoint to the saltiness of the feta and capers, and the bread was perfect for serving it all up.
For dinner I had the Smoked Salmon BLT ($11) while my wife ordered the Pesto Grilled Chicken ($14). We also got sides of the Fried Chickpeas and a Sea Salt Baked Potato with Vermont Cheddar. They were casual, comforting and excellent dishes, good portions without being too huge, but still filling. The Smoked Salmon BLT comes on flaxseed bread toasted with smoked salmon, smoked bacon, red onion, tomato, baby arugula and Boursin. Maybe there was a touch too much cheese, but then really, is there such a thing? I scraped a little off and ate it on the side. The Fried Chickpeas weren’t as crispy as I was expecting, but there was a lot of flavor in those little bites. The Pesto Chicken dish was made up of Baffoni’s farm chicken breast, mashed butternut squash, Atwells Gold cheese, pesto and toasted pine nuts and was a strong combination of all those great components without being too overloaded.
You may have noticed, if you kept track of those dish prices, that The Beehive Café is also nicely affordable. Overall it was a relaxing and enjoyable dinner at the type of neighborhood place that makes it very easy to be a regular place for any meal, and with such an extensive menu you should never get bored.