For the past 43 years in South Kingstown, the Piemonte family has been serving seafood at their landmark restaurant, Cap’n Jack’s. Their location, near East Matunuck Beach, has given them a steady stream of customers clamoring for fish and chips, chowder, clamcakes and fabulous homemade desserts. With the arrival of the Matunuck Oyster Bar across the way, Cap’n Jack’s decided to up the ante. They renovated their banquet room on the left side of the restaurant and turned it into a more upscale dining experience with a raw bar. The Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar opened this spring, and after a day swimming in the surf at East Matunuck Beach, my friends and I stopped in to check it out.
The first thing you notice when you enter the Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar is the spectacular view of the salt marsh. The windows along the back wall provide lots of light, making the space feel spacious and open. The restaurant has plenty of nicely spaced high top tables and lots of seating at the bar. If you choose to sit at the main bar, that provides the best views of the marsh, but seats are also available at the raw bar too if you want to observe them shucking. Also, a number of flat panel televisions were mounted around the restaurant... a great place to watch the Red Sox or Patriots.
The drink menu at the Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar deserves special mention both for the variety and the value. Cocktails (made with top shelf liquor) were in the $6-$8 range, and 23 oz. draft beers were a reasonable $6. Feeling very thirsty after our day at the beach, we ordered a round of the pub’s specialty cocktails. I ordered an American Mule ($5.95): a refreshing combination of Tito’s Vodka, ginger beer and a dash of bitters (instead of the typical squeeze of lime). The drink was served in a copper mug over crushed ice, which kept the drink ice cold–a real treat on a hot day. My friends opted for Spiked Arnold Palmers ($5.75) made with Deep Eddy’s Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade. We all thoroughly enjoyed our cocktails. Our waiter was fantastic, enthusiastic and great about keeping our drinks filled.
We had a hard time deciding what to order because everything sounded good. I started with the Oyster Sampler ($10), which provided six oysters, a Cap’n Jack’s mignonette sauce, cocktail sauce and a wedge of lemon. I sampled East Beach Blondes (local from Ninigret Pond), Wild Goose (local from Narragansett Bay) and Giga-Motos (imported from British Columbia). My friends (even the self-professed landlubber) ordered Stuffies ($2.95), which they praised for the crispy tops, moist interiors and overall clam flavor. Our table was really hungry, so we also split a half dozen clamcakes, which were flavorful and contained the most clams I’ve ever seen in clam cakes.
For our next course, I chose the summertime classic Lobster Roll ($17) served with crispy, well-salted French fries and coleslaw. The landlubber tried the Prosciutto and Arugula Grilled Pizza ($13), and it was really good. I especially liked the slightly charred, crispy crust. She thought it could have used a bit more balsamic drizzle but enjoyed the sparse use of arugula. Sometimes arugula pizzas seem more like a salad than pizza, but not this one. My seafood loving friend ordered the house made Soft Pretzel ($7) topped with crab fondue. The fondue was more cheesy than crabby, which I thought was a good thing.
The desserts at the Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar (and Cap’n Jack’s next door) are handmade daily. As a kid, I remember a day at East Matunuck Beach wasn’t complete until we had stopped in at the Cap’n Jack’s takeout window to bring home a giant éclair or an apple turnover. On this day, my Key Lime Pie ($6) was pretty good, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tart layer of lime. My friends competed for the largest serving of dessert with the Coconut Cake ($9.50) winning the prize. The cake was light, with a good coconut flavor but also hints of lemon. My friend said it was like “heaven in her mouth.” With the bite I sampled, I have to agree. My other friend’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp ($7) was also a large serving and topped with a generous swirl of soft serve vanilla ice cream. It was very good, and she liked the lightness of the soft serve with her heavy fruit crisp.
Fall is a great time to head to East Matunuck Beach because the water is warm enough for swimming, and the tourists have left the state, leaving us to our own magnificent coastline. After a swim or beach walk, stop into the Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar to enjoy a cocktail or a beer, a plat- ter of oysters and the view of the salt marsh. It’s a perfect end to a Rhode Island beach day.
The Salt Marsh Pub & Raw Bar. 706 Succotash Road Matunuck. 789-4556.