BRISTOL, Rhode Island — One of our favorite spots along the SouthCoast is Bristol. Allyssa and I enjoy the small-town feel of walking down Hope Street. Two of our best friends were married at Linden Place.

The spot felt like a perfect area in a locale we haven’t had too many Dine Out reviews.

Occasionally, I’ll dive deep into a restaurant’s reviews or a menu prior to visiting. This time, though, the Statesman Tavern had me with its name. No further research was required.

We were coming off a Philadelphia vacation where we visited the American Revolution museum, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Statesman Tavern felt like the right place. (Agree or call me crazy, let me be in my absurd decision making).

While I was extending my vacation and in an American Revolution state of mind, the name very well could come from it’s location on State Street.

According to its web site, though, my first inclination wasn’t far off, “Statesman pays homage to the classic American taverns that resided in towns such as Bristol over the past 250 years. Government officials, politicians, as well as businessmen and women often used these taverns to make decisions that helped shape the history of America. We aim to keep that tradition alive and well by creating a tavern that provides warm hospitality, paired with wholesome food and drink and some modern influence.”

It’s not hard to miss, as it’s almost a hole in the wall squeezed between Bar 31 and a pair of boutique shops.

We walked in and the atmosphere immediately impressed us. It’s much more 2018 than 1776, but that’s a good thing. The size is New York City-esque but it mixes a Bristol feel with a hint of the sea fused with a rustic vibe. It felt more intimate than small.

On a Friday night at around 8 p.m., we luckily snagged the final two-seat table without any wait and pushed the tavern to capacity.

After a taste test, I ordered a beer called SeaQuench [an ale from Dogfish Head Brewing] and Allyssa ordered a mixed drink.

Our meal philosophy worked a bit backwards after entering the Statesman Tavern, we noticed the desserts handwritten on a sign through the door. Monkeybread — cinnamon sugar bread drizzled with caramel and topped with whip cream — immediately became fixed in our minds as a must-have to finish the meal.

With that in mind, we navigated lightly through the appetizers, ordering the house salad ($8) that our waiter advised us was large enough to split. It included local lettuces, radish, red onion, apple, evoo, lemon and pecorino.

Unfortunately, we soon after realized they were out of monkeybread.

Meat and cheese plates are also available under a “snack, pick or share” section. We also thought about perhaps sharing the chile braised chicken tacos ($10) or the burgundy braised beef ($15) — bordelaise, tater tots, great hill blue cheese, green beans — but they appeared too large and hearty and we were ready for the main course.

For our entrees, the special that night of two six-inch fish tacos intrigued me, but the squash in it scared me away.

The fried chicken and cheddar cheese sandwich ($16) caught my attention and there was no turning back.

Allyssa wrestled with her decision for a while between steak frites ($24), prime hanger steak, fries, black pepper aioli and chimichurri butter, and seared scallops ($26), which came with egg yolk angel hair, capers, tomato, garlic and crispy kale.

The tomato based sauce with the scallops lured her away and to the steak frites. However, they were out of hanger steak, and she settled for rib-eye.

The salad arrived on our table with shaved pecorino atop bright green leafy lettuce. It was perfectly dressed in a delicious bitter mixture. Alone with the lettuce and cheese, it provided one of the best bites I’ve had for any salad, ever. Combine it with the apples and it became just about my favorite. Such a unique taste I had yet to experience, the bitter dressing worked well with the sweetness from the apple. We would have been satisfied if the meal ended there. It’s a dish we’d certainly order again.

It also set the bar high for the rest of the night.

After a wait a bit longer than I would have liked, our meals arrived. It really didn’t bother me too much since Allyssa and I were enjoying a great conversation, but nevertheless, it was a bit of a wait.

The fried chicken sandwich looked outstanding. The arugula was again dressed well. The cheddar melted nicely on top. My eyes widened and my mouth watered.

The first bite didn’t match my expectations. Subsequent bites mimicked the first. The chicken was cooked well, juicy and tender. However, it was a thigh, I would have preferred a chicken breast. Still, while the chicken was cooked well, it wasn’t transformed by the arugula or cheese. It tasted like any other fried chicken thigh. Some of the other flavors were lost. Overall, the sandwich was good, however, didn’t match the hype created by the first course or its appearance.

Allyssa’s experience with the steak was a similar one.The steak wasn’t cooked evenly from medium rare to medium well. The steak, like the chicken, was good, not great. The black pepper aioli was tasty but overpowered anything it was on. It likely played a role in Allyssa ordering another drink.

The fries that accompanied both plates were satisfying, but nothing out of this world.

Our total, prior to tip came to $81, which felt a bit expensive without dessert.

The Statesman Tavern offered just enough, though, for us to venture another visit to Bristol in search of monkeybread in the future.

 

 

 

 

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