2016-06-02 / Senior Savvy

Dining Days Gone By

By Florence Archambault

The news that three of Aquidneck Island’s favorite restaurants were closing prompted me to realize that over the 50 years I have lived in Newport I have watched many restaurants (both good and not so good) close. Some had an influence on my life and I was sorry to see them disappear.

One of our family’s favorite was Mac’s Clam Shack on Lee’s Wharf. This place was rich in a real seaside atmosphere. We sat outside on the pier and my son would insist on feeding the sea gulls his French fries. The clams were some of the best. I remember one time we were there and it was a little chilly so we ate in an attached building in front of a fireplace. They moved over to Connell Highway but it wasn’t the same and eventually they closed.

Then there was the Driftwood Restaurant on Connell Highway near the Hi-Way Bowling Alley. After bowling the league would go over there and we would order pitchers of beer and sit around and rehash our games.

Our favorite Chinese restaurant was the Hong Kong on Equality Park, where we became very friendly with Eddie and Soo Eng and their family. Their daughter Mamie still comes to Newport once a year to have lunch with me. Eddie was always giving me a bottle of plum wine in which I marinated fresh fruit. They were such a nice family and, one of them (Harry) still lives on the island.

And who could forget John Francis Pershing Sullivan (Sully) broadcasting every noon on 1540 WADK from the Spindrift Restaurant on Long Wharf, near where Panera Bread is now. They served great sandwiches and one could have a fun lunch there enjoying Sully’s banter.

Way out in Portsmouth on the East Main Road was Cooky’s Diner, where you could watch the cook carve huge slices of turkey off a fresh turkey for a sandwich. My favorite was the soup bowl of homemade tapioca pudding for dessert.

They moved to the West Main Road but it wasn’t the same and it is now Cindy’s Country Café.

On Thames Street, Vi Lewis presided over his Embassy Restaurant. One of my first pieces for Newport This Week was a feature on him. When I would tell people that we ate there, they would shake their heads and tell me it was sailor’s dive. He was always kind to the fleet, served good food, and made my kids feel important and we became friends.

The first restaurant we ever took the kids to when we arrived in Newport in 1965 was Salas’ Dining Room. Although it hasn’t been gone as long as some of the others, it is still missed. It was here that I first encountered Oriental spaghetti. My-eight-year-old son always had a plate of plain spaghetti with butter. The restaurant’s recipe was a little spicy for me but I managed to adapt it to our taste. There were times when I fed the five of us using one leftover pork chop, or a piece of steak.

Tommy’s Diner in Middletown hasn’t been gone for long but I’m sure it is sorely missed by the clientele that gathered there daily for their coffee. Family-run, it served good food as well as employed a congenial wait-staff. Where do they go now, I wonder? Wherever it is, there cannot be the same ambience.

PW’s Saloon in the Brick Market Place (as well as Yesterday’s) was a neat place for the courthouse crowd to grab lunch. You were made to feel welcome by owner and host, Rich Lacey. The décor was interesting and the food tasty.

These are just a few of the places I remember. I’m sure that some of you are saying, “How could she forget this place or that?”

Many of you have your own favorites or memories. One thing is sure: There will never be a shortage of restaurants on Aquidneck Island, and what a choice of cuisines we are offered. Something for everybody. Drop us a line and tell us about your favorite dining spots from the bygone days.

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