Order this... Homemade comfort food at Kimberly’s
Ask any local on Block Island if they know Kimberly and you’ll probably hear “of course!” in reply. That’s not only because she runs two restaurants but also because she is known for catering weddings and pitching in at nearly every large and small event that takes place on this island.
Kimberly has what seems to be an endless amount of energy and I’m not quite sure when she finds time to sleep. She and her husband, Norman Ward, and Chef Terry Smith, came out to Block Island 36 or so years ago for an “end of the year party,” fell in love with each other and the island, and now Kimberly runs the restaurants where Norman, Terry and his wife Patti all cook.
After working for a time at Dead Eye Dick’s and the Beachead, Kimberly took over the restaurant across from the Block Island Grocery in 2014, renamed it Kimberly’s and it’s now one of the few places that remain open through much of the winter. When they close down mid-February, she and Norm fall asleep and rest until May…but I jest. They really go off to Utah to ski at Powder Mountain and then come back to the island in time to open Kimberly’s by Mother’s Day.
This year the intrepid group decided to open yet another restaurant, and thus the Block Island Oyster Bar and Grill was born. Kimberly says it feels like it was meant to be, as they started on the pond at Dead Eye Dick’s and are now back on the pond at Champlin’s Marina. She says the best part of being there has been the opportunity to hire brand new help in a newly renovated building with a view that can’t be beat. Despite opening late June this year, the Oyster Bar developed a steady following, which led to a long waitlist for dinner nearly every night. Several items were big hits—Gazpacho Bloody Mary’s at the bar, the many varieties of local oysters, Tuna Tacos and a miso-glazed cod over forbidden rice that is now on the menu at Kimberly’s for the fall. Next year they plan to extend the season much longer and will be opening Memorial Day.
Kimberly continues to run a vibrant catering business for both locations and off-site as well, accommodating up to 200 people at the Oyster Bar and anywhere from five to 350 people off-site. But as things wind down on the island, she’s mostly looking forward to having locals and off-season visitors come in to Kimberly’s for homemade comfort food. Lobster macaroni and cheese, baked cod with lemon, and chicken Parmesan will be on the menu and available for take-out along with many other fall favorites. Norm’s French onion soup will be back along with a roasted winter vegetable salad.
I asked the chef team—Norman, Terry and Patti—some questions about cooking on the island and what local is their favorite customer. Not surprisingly for a team that’s worked together for a long time, many of their answers were the same.
Q: What’s your earliest food memory that made you think “I want to work in a restaurant?”
Norm: I was a dishwasher in a kitchen when I was 14 to 16, and that made me want to be a cook.
Terry: I read Anthony Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential” and I knew that was what I wanted to do.
Q: What would you want to eat for your last meal?
N&T: Pan seared swordfish with a spicy lemon topping, sautéed spinach and forbidden rice.
Q: What is the one food you never want to eat again?
N&T: Anything with mint. Can’t stand the taste. (Kimberly and Patti laugh.)
Q: How did you end up cooking on Block Island?
Norm: I worked for a guy who had restaurants in Newport and Mystic, Gene Kotama, and he took over Dead Eye Dick’s and asked us if we wanted to come out here and cook. And here we are!
Q: What is your favorite food to cook with on the island?
N&T: The freshest ingredient of the day.
Q: If you’re eating out on the island, what other restaurant do you go to and what do you order?
N: We like The Spring House, and will order whatever fresh fish was caught that day.
Terry and Patti: Winfield’s, Terry gets the duck and Patti gets the Winfield’s salad. And the desserts.
All: We also love The Barn and get whatever meat special is on the menu that night.
Q: Who was your most memorable customer?
All: Adrian Mitchell. He is our best customer, comes in three to four times a week and always orders whatever is new. He’s great and will try anything.
Q: What’s your favorite dish to cook right now that you wish everyone would order at least once?
All: The lamb or the duck. We’re doing a lamb rack this fall that’s so good, and a roasted duck with peach chutney and fingerling potatoes. We love duck and wish more people would try it to see how good it is.
After Columbus Day Kimberly’s will be open for lunch on weekends, so save room for a Gazpacho Bloody Mary with bacon as you soak in the late fall sun outside on the patio.
If you come by on Sunday nights, you’ll be able to watch the game of the week on the big screen while enjoying delicious Prime Rib au jus with mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables, and your very own homemade Yorkshire pudding. It’s a classic meal from an island favorite —come by this fall and winter and see if it doesn’t become one of your favorites too.