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The Atlantic Inn…The perfect end to a Block Island day

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 9:00am
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The Atlantic Inn is a Grand Gal, high on the hill overlooking Old Harbor with sunset views from the lawn. A lovely airy dining room is just off the inn’s lobby, and guests can eat breakfast on the wide covered porch. Covid has brought about some changes to this venue, and there is a silver lining to be found in this historic island setting.

This year, diners can enjoy the full menu on the lawn while they watch the sun set and enjoy the cooling southwest breeze. Adirondack and wicker chairs are socially distantly scattered about, some on the deck and most on the front lawn below. Plexiglass partitions are almost unnoticeable in the indoor dining room that boasts large open windows so you always feel the air moving. Discreet signs remind guests to sanitize hands and wear masks when not seated at a table, and I was impressed to see every staff member masked up even as they were coming in to set up for the evening.

Contact tracing is done for every guest, even for walk-ups, and reservations are suggested to be assured the seating area you desire. The staff has received many compliments for their safety measures and diners tend to return several times over their island stay to a place where they can get good food and feel safe. Brad Marthens, who owns the inn with his wife Ann, says that most people choose to eat outside and next year they hope to add more tables and string lights to make the experience even more magical.

Chef Denny, in his third year as executive chef for the restaurant, said that the outdoor dining option inspired him to think differently. “I really wanted to get creative this year and think outside the box—we were changing where we are serving, why not change up what we serve as well?” He says he has the “best kitchen staff we’ve had in years” and they’ve also made significant contributions to this year’s offering. Chef is “following the seasons” with his entrees and specials, produce is as local as Ann’s garden and not much further away than two nearby farms in Westerly. His best-selling salad features heirloom tomatoes from one of those farms, accompanied by candied walnuts, Manchego cheese, black sea salt and a surprising roasted peach vinaigrette that brightens the salad and elevates the play on a typical caprese salad. The menu shows many of these kinds of unique pairings this year, combining flavors and ingredients in non-typical ways. A shrimp and citrus stuffed dumpling nestled in a kaffir lime soy broth was tender and juicy, the flavor of the shrimp was nicely balanced against the warm Asian broth. An appetizer of rabbit confit was paired with a grilled corn-infused spoon bread and topped with pickled blueberry compote. Each element of this dish was amazing on its own, but all together the tastes melded into a delightful experience of texture and flavor. A pheasant brined for 48-hours was crisp and tender; served with a roasted jalapeño polenta that added a little kick to the dish and a cashew gremolata that tamed it back down. A beautiful piece of halibut served with sushi-seasoned bamboo rice, braised mushrooms and house-made kimchi was a feast for the eyes as well as mouth.

If you’re looking for a real treat, the restaurant is featuring a wagyu for two that was done a few years ago and is quite popular this year. The wagyu is flown in from Japan and presented on the whole rib bone along with butter roasted sunchokes, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms and a roasted anise dressing.

Creative fine dining under a sunset-streaked sky is a great way to end a summer day on Block Island.

Restaurant 1879 at the Atlantic Inn is open seven days a week. Call (401) 466-5883 or visit atlanticinn.com for more information.