Food Review – Phil’s Diner

Phil’s Restaurant

323 Main St
Wakefield, RI 02879

Phil’s Diner is a Wakefield landmark, located near the center of Main Street and Robinson. The restaurant has three different dining areas. The first and oldest, is a simple booth and table arrangement located on the first floor. There is a long counter area. The second is located above the first and has several small tables and a couple of nooks for intimate dining. The third area is upstairs and across a walkway for open rooftop dining.

Phil’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinners at all three locations. There are bars located on the second floor and on the rooftop so drinks can be had at any meal. The place has become popular with the college crowd and became a hero to the locals during a major power outage when they served food using their gas grills and battery powered lamps.

The food here ranges widely from straightforward hash and eggs to burgers to more elaborate meals in the evening. Pick your mood and pick your location. Outdoor dining doesn’t usually start until after 11 and is shut down during the cold weather or when serious storms are brewing. The second floor does have a large screen TV dominating one wall, which can give a kind of sports bar feel, but it usually has the sound off.

If you want to try something different and have a sweet tooth, try the cinnamon roll french toast. I usually have mine with bananas and whipped cream. Serious sugar shock – keep away from small children!

Simple items (scrambled eggs, bacon, hash, home fries) are generally cooked on the open grills on the first floor. More elaborate food is prepared in the kitchen in the back.

Phil’s also has some excellent desserts, and a friendly wait staff. They seem to adjust to the dining you are looking for. So expect, a friendly, garrulous waitress on the first floor and a more subdued waiter on the second. Outside the atmosphere is faintly reminiscent of open air dining everywhere. Cocktails and a slower meal so you can soak up the fresh air. I wouldn’t recommend it for serious business meetings or large gatherings though the space is difficult for those kinds of events.

For outdoor dining in summer I recommend arriving just before five pm. The crowd has not arrived. The sun is usually setting and the air has a mild but not annoying breeze. For breakfast get there early and don’t be surprised if there is a line in good weather, especially on Saturday.

Good food, good price and good ambiance depending on what you are looking for.

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food review – Middle of Nowhere Diner

The Middle of Nowhere Diner

222 Nooseneck Hill Rd
Exeter, RI 02822

The Middle of Nowhere is suitably named, located far from any of the major towns in South County on Rte. 3 not far from Rte 95.

Food at this establishment is served in portions that go beyond generous. Four egg omelets are the norm.

My personal favorite is made with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, and thinly sliced turkey. Served with home fries or a fresh fruit salad and a cup of excellent coffee that was kept filled for the duration of my meal.

Waitresses are friendly, and the site has two entrances both of which can accommodate a wheelchair.
Food here is a solid meal that would leave a burly truck driver sated. I noticed a large lumber truck outside when I arrived and a small collection of pickup trucks and flannel shirts on my entrance. Family fare is a powerful draw and I often see groups of children crowded into the booths arguing over who has to share their waffles.
If you come here in summer be sure to leave room for ice cream at the appropriately named Next to Nowhere Ice Cream Shack – a giant barn structure that deserves it’s own review.

However, if you don’t feel like ice cream, or it’s the wrong time of year, don’t pass up the opportunity to try some of the delicious desserts that are available after your meal… if you can find the room.
The Middle of Nowhere may be hard to find, but it’s worth looking for.
David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food Review – The Cooked Goose

The Cooked Goose

92 Watch Hill Rd
Westerly, RI 02891


The Cooked Goose is one of the prides of Westerly Restaurant lovers. Located near the water is has both indoor and outdoor dining. Parking is a bit tricky but there is ample room in the back once you negotiate the narrow road or angled driveway.
The interior is lovely with a large stone fireplace and comfortable large chairs or more traditional tables and chairs inside and out. The staff was prompt and courteous. We were seated quickly and menus arrived within moments.

I noticed a mixture of locals and tourists and a smattering of business suits and beachwear.

The open layout keeps this from being a particularly romantic dining experience, but sitting near the fireplace after a blustery morning out on the water would be really pleasant.

I was surprised by the flavor and texture combinations. My favorite was a salmon Benedict with hash browns substituting for the traditional English muffin or bolo. Coffee was also very good, and it’s not something I usually notice unless it is very good (or very bad).

Like most restaurants located in toruist areas there are glass cases with things to buy to remember the trip, and a rather large selection of dessert items, pastries, and some of that delicious coffee to go.

The Cooked Goose is for breakfast and brunch and runs year round, (although there is a several week break near the beginning of the year – call before you drive out.)

It is definitely worth the drive to find it.

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food Review – Celestial Cafe

Celestial Cafe

567 S County Trl
Exeter, RI 02822

Celestial Cafe is one of the best restaurants in South County. It is remarkable not only for its food, but for the speed and flexibility of the cooking staff in preparing it. Many restaurants have large menus composed of dishes that sound delicious, but have one item you can’t stand. The chef’s at Celestial take such changes in stride. The waitstaff will often suggest alternatives as substitutes. So you don’t just remove the kale from a dish, the staff will substitute swiss chard upon request.

The food is swiftly prepared even when the place is hopping. I have had a complex breakfast prepared just for me in a small area just off the bar while an entire baby shower group was filling the main dining hall having lunch. No unreasonable delays, no excuses, just simple timely service.

Celestial does a Saturday brunch with a wonderful selection backed by local organic produce. My personal favorite is working my way down the list of amazing French Toast recipes. You can find everything from coconut rum to a homemade strawberry/blueberry compote that was so delicious I wanted to lick the plate. I have trouble prying my friends away from shrimp seafood omelettes.

Celestial is handicap accessible, the waitstaff is courteous, friendly, and very professional. Brandon, one of the owners and the head chef often visits the patrons to check on their dining experience.

Celestial also has a large well-stocked bar, and the Saturday night dinner crowd will find a happy place with a pleasant atmosphere.

And if you get the chance, try the chips – homemade and warm with their special sauce. They are served any time of day.

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food Review – Jiggers Diner

Jigger’s Diner

145 Main St
East Greenwich, RI 02818


Jiggers is a dining car restaurant located on Main Street in downtown East Greenwich. They serve breakfast all day, except Tuesday’s when they are closed.

The car is small, but well designed. There is a long counter area so if you are alone or with a group that doesn’t want or need a booth, that might be your best bet on a busy day.

Even in the off-season Jiggers draws a respectable crowd at all times of the week. In season, on a nice day, expect to find the place easily by the line waiting to get in.

The waitstaff is happy, friendly and knowledgeable. The portions are generous and are freshly made. Expect to wait a bit since the cooking area is small and everything is made by hand. I was surprised that, in spite of the wait time for meals for myself and two guests, all the food arrived together, and all of it was properly prepared and still warm. Kudos to the cooks in the back.

The restaurant is not handicap accessible. Not their fault; they are closed in by businesses and there simply isn’t room for a ramp.

The prices are reasonable and the menu has a number of interesting choices if you want to try something a little bit off the beaten path.

For example, I found the Salmon and Avocado Florentine Benedict to be absolutely delicious. A combination of flavors blended surprisingly well and just the right amount of capers on the Hollandaise sauce added a bit of tang without distracting.

Would I eat there again? At least once a week if I can.

For me it’s a long drive… and it’s worth it.
David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food Review – Crazy Burger

Crazy Burger Cafe and Juice Bar

144 Boon St
Narragansett, RI 02882

Crazy Burger must be one of the most reviewed restaurants in South County – and for good reason. Crazy Burger is one of my go-to places for an incredible breakfast. The decor has to be seen to be believed. Crazy doesn’t quite cover it. No waiters in formal black attire here. In fact, the menu invites you to “BYOBBAM” – Bring your own booze by all means.

The seating is limited and even the locals will stand outside in the cold in middle of January for a meal here.

The waitstaff are the best you will ever meet in a relaxed style place. They work together with smooth efficiency in a place that still would be full if it were twice the size. Everybody shares the load. Waitresses will bus tables when their load is light. I’ve seen cooks deliver drinks when the load was heavy. You can tell the staff likes each other. And that happy atmosphere carries into the way they treat their customers. They WANT you to have a good meal. They want you to enjoy the food and the service.

Crazy Burger has a small back courtyard area for outdoor dining. It opens in the spring and stays open until just before the snow flies. The place is dense with tables and plants. It stays fairly cool even on hot summer days and when the temperature dips they have gas powered heating units to keep away the chill.

The back area is handicap accessible but the crushed stone driveway makes it a serious challenge. The outer front door is narrow and two small steps to an inner front door are a real challenge for the non-handicapped, so no entry through the front for those in a wheelchair without assistance.

Now, let’s talk breakfast. Eggs Benedict is one of my favorites here, served with a wonderful batch of cubed home fries or fresh fruit. Yes, I know that it’s considered sort of trite to like eggs Benedict. But try it here and tell me I’m wrong.
I also like their Western Quesadillas with red peppers, crumbled bacon, eggs, a Monterey Jack cheese, and soft, artfully browned, folded, and pie cut quesadilla which fills half the plate. It is served with a small pool of hollandaise and a thin slice orange as a complement to the meal. It works!
You can also opt for a fun and basic dish like the Surfer’s Breakfast, or come a bit later for some of the lunch items. The Gorgonzola Burger is fantastic!
Of course there are puns all over the menu. My favorite, and the favorite of reviewers is the Lunacy Burger, made with salmon and wrapped with a paper thin pastry shell.
I could go on, but there is no need. Ask anybody where they want to go for a crazy good meal – and, yes, you can finish the pun.
In spite of the lack of handicap accessibility this restaurant still deserves five stars. The service, the atmosphere and the staff are just wonderful. I hope you like it as much as I do.
David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.

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How I Review

This is a new blog area for me.  I’m expanding on the reviews I do for Yelp.  I don’t do a lot.  I’m pretty choosy.  Here, you will get some additional insight on my choices for good places to eat.  I’m also going to tell you a bit about my philosophy on food reviews.  I’ll comment a bit on some of the other factors I take into consideration, like service, ambiance, handicap accessibility, noise level, and even pet friendly service.

Obviously, food quality is of paramount importance.  Fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables are the starting point of any good meal.  Portion size is another factor.  These form the basis for the food portion of any review.

However, I often see reviews in which the reviewer seems to have blundered into the wrong place.  Looking for a quiet meal and elegant dining at a sports bar during the Super Bowl is ludicrous.  In fact, expecting great service is pretty much out the window too.

When I review I try to see what the focus of the restaurant is.  Are you trying to be an upscale restaurant, a country getaway, or a family friendly buffet?  I do not expect to get coq au vin, from a pizza and burger joint.  If the servers are coming to my car on roller skates, I’m not expecting the menu to have a big wine list.

My expectations are also set by what I want to eat.  When hungry I look for places with large portions.  If the waistline is pushing staunchly against the belt buckle, I seek out places with smaller portions and more interesting choices.

I try to give a more detailed view of my expectations in my review.  So, if I tell you that the décor is fun and interesting,  I’m also telling you that it’s not the place for a quiet, intimate, candlelight dinner.  If I say I liked chatting with the servers, that means I talked to them and they were intelligent, bright, conversationalists.  If I say the servers were efficient and the restaurant was intimate then I’m telling you that this is not a place for a sweats and sneakers.

I also have a personal policy of never giving a bad review.  It’s not that I have never been to a bad restaurant or gotten a bad meal.  I’ve had some that left me in an intimate relationship with the porcelain goddess for hours.  You won’t hear about those places in my reviews.

Why?  Because it serves no useful purpose.  I’m happy to tell you where you should go to eat.  I’m happy to tell you who has great service, wonderful food, and a great ambiance.  I would rather direct you to those places than to denigrate a restaurant that may have gotten a shipment of bad meat, that fired the incompetent chef I reviewed two weeks earlier, or who axed the waitress who got my order wrong three times in a single meal.  You don’t want to know all the bad places to eat – you want to know the good ones.

I also believe that price is important, but not critical, in choosing a restaurant.  I have enough of the penny-pincher in me to want to get a good meal at a fair price.  I don’t want a great meal at a great price.  Why?  Because I’ll love the food and they will either have to drop their quality or raise their price to stay in business.  If they don’t. I’d be reviewing a business that would soon be hosting a “For Sale” sign.

That said, a good chef can turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.  Those are the places I love to find, and love to share.  And, when backed by a great service staff, and a good atmosphere, those are the places I highly recommend.

I’ll have more to say on that later.  But, I think it gives you an idea of where I’m at.