If you’re looking for a casual dining atmosphere with a fine dining menu, look no further than DeWolf Tavern in beautiful Bristol, R.I. While filming the Bristol episode of New England Boating TV, I had the pleasure of dining at this wonderful waterfront restaurant as well as meeting and cooking with Owner/Chef Sai Viswanath. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences we had during our visit to Bristol and trust me, we had a lot of amazing experiences in this picturesque boater-friendly town.
Towering Raw Bar Platter with balsamic black peppercorn sorbet.
DeWolf Tavern is located on Thames Street at Thames Street Landing and overlooks Bristol’s lovely harbor and Narragansett Bay. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to savor the breeze, watch boats during the day or enjoy a sunset at night. Inside, it’s a whole different story.
The Tavern itself is steeped in history. The building is a renovated stone warehouse built in the early 1800’s by maritime merchants James and William DeWolf for their shipping business in the “Triangle Trade.” The DeWolf brothers, like many other Bristol businesses at the time, produced rum. Their distillery was housed next door in their sister property, which is now The Bristol Harbor Inn. There is a cozy bar and fireplace inside the Tavern and the seating is plentiful on two separate floors. The interior has dark wood tables, hand-hewed beams and stone walls that are said to be comprised of African granite taken from the ballast of ships sailing in the trade route. Some of the remnants of the rum barrels and other items found during restoration are on display in the lobby. And, fun fact: the hostess told us that the Tavern is haunted!
Parker’s new friend Patricia McCarthy Mahoney enjoys dining at DeWolf Tavern.
If great views and rich history aren’t enough to convince you to make the trip to DeWolf Tavern, the extraordinary menu definitely will. After all, we choose restaurants for many different reasons. A superb location and a good story is always a draw for me to try it once, but it’s the tasty menu that keeps me coming back. And DeWolf Tavern has that in spades.
The Tavern is known for many things including its oysters. Chef Sai believes in the farm-to-table/pond-to-table philosophy of supporting local farmers, fisherman and shell fisherman. Every Monday the restaurant offers oysters from local places like Quonset Point, Matunuck and Poppasquash for $1 each. Every spring, the Tavern hosts a large oyster festival and all of the proceeds benefit the March of Dimes. Given the reputation, I started my dining experience with oysters. I sampled several different oysters along with other raw bar items and they were sweet, fresh and chilled to perfection. One unique thing about the presentation was that Chef Sai serves the oysters with a homemade balsamic and black pepper sorbet. You can order a mignonette or a traditional cocktail sauce on the side if you like, but I thought the sorbet was a delightful addition.
Tandoori Marinated Swordfish.
DeWolf Tavern classifies itself as Contemporary American Cuisine, but I don’t think that fully describes the influence of Chef Sai’s heritage. Chef Sai was born in India and received his culinary training there and travelled the world refining his style before moving to the states. Although The Tavern is not an Indian restaurant per se, this imprint is subtly present in most of his dishes. When I was in the kitchen with the Chef earlier in the day filming our “Dock and Dine” segment, we made Naan bread pizzas together in the 900-degree charcoal tandoor clay oven. You’ll have to watch the episode to see what kind we made but suffice to say, the fusion of this traditional Indian bread and other fresh ingredients was scrumptious.
DeWolf outdoor patio.
After the raw bar, I sampled several nice salads with local greens including the kale and romaine salad. This salad was served with herb vinaigrette, sunflower seeds and homemade cornbread crouton. I also tasted several main dishes including a delectable filet mignon, cooked to temperature and served with an herbed butter and silky mashed potatoes and tandoor roasted native lobster, which I must say was the one of the most tender and delicious lobster dishes I’d ever tasted. And finally, a spectacular tandoor marinated swordfish served with an apple and cranberry curried couscous, red bell pepper and toasted sunflower seed sauce.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get better, I was indulged with a cappuccino and an extensive dessert menu. The Tavern’s talented, in-house pastry chef, Michelle Gagnon, prepares all of the desserts and they don’t disappoint. I tasted several and they were all exceedingly decadent. The one that stood out on this occasion was the s’mores but this was, in no way, your average boy scout version of this campfire treat. A DeWolf Tavern s’more is a milk chocolate mousse topped with a bruleed marshmallow and crumbled homemade graham crackers served on a slate with a smoked chocolate ganache that leads to the chocolate chip marshmallow ice cream. No, I’m not kidding. This s’more looked and tasted incredible and was the ideal ending to my dining experience.
If you love fabulous food and attentive service, you’ll love DeWolf Tavern. It has all that plus stunning water views in historic Bristol.
DeWolf Tavern is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Entrée prices range from $16-$27. There is plenty of parking, as well as boat dockage at Thames Street Landing. For more information visit dewolftavern.com or call (401) 254-2005.
The Bristol Harbor Inn is the DeWolf Tavern’s sister property.
Tandoor Native Roasted Lobster.
Crème brûlée with homemade shortbread.
Side entrance of the DeWolf Tavern.