Tucked Away Treasure: Rye Tavern, Plymouth MA


We turned around twice, despite the signs. After all, you don’t expect to find a fine dining establishment tucked away down a long dirt road. The Rye Tavern, however, is just that:  worth turning around for and pretty unexpected.

Photo Courtesy of ryetavern.com

Located in Plymouth, MA near the Pine Hills and the exclusive Old Sandwich Golf Club, the tavern exudes historic charm. The building itself dates back to 1792 and was converted to the current restaurant about three years ago by a group of locals committed to the now-popular farm to table movement.

We arrived on a dreary Friday night, not quite knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised, though, at 7pm to see a full parking lot followed by a warm and welcoming atmosphere inside that quickly helped take the early fall chill from the air.

The dining room is cozy – a mere 15 tables wrapped around a giant hearth – and abuts a small bar that accommodates another 8-10 patrons. Our waitress explained that, had it been nicer outside, the heated outdoor patio would have been open too. Quick math puts total indoor capacity for the place at about 50, so it was a good thing I had made a reservation. The place was full from the moment we arrived until we left around 9pm.

We started our overdue date night out with drinks. My husband had an IPA brewed in Somerville, MA while I sampled an organic red wine that was on special that evening. We settled on a nice cabernet to go with dinner, reasonably priced at $40 a bottle. Of course, we could have ordered something more expensive from the wine list – there was plenty to choose from – but our date night wasn’t THAT overdue, and we’d like to have another one before the holidays!

For dinner, we each had a salad to start, and for me, that was the highlight of my meal. Locally grown melon over a bed of greens and topped with bleu cheese, pickled onions and prosciutto. I raved about it to the person sitting at the next table over, and before I knew it, she was having the same salad brought to her table! We also ordered a Caesar salad, which was also very good. The restaurant has its own 2100 square foot vegetable garden, so it’s likely our salad ingredients came from there, but I can’t confirm (some think it’s weird if you ask people where they got their melons). Our salads clocked in at $9 and $7 respectively.

The place was buzzing, so it didn’t bother us much that dinner took a while to arrive. Our waitress was very attentive, ensuring we were content with our glasses of wine and the fresh baked cinnamon bread she had brought.

For dinner, I opted for comfort food. Gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream served with local roasted squash, figs and apples. Served in a cast iron skillet, it arrived piping hot and was the perfect sized portion (small) for such a heavy dish. I loved the combination of the figs and the winter vegetables. My only complaint: the sauce was too salty for me, likely in an effort to offset the sweetness of the figs.

My husband ordered the menu’s only steak, and raved about the parmesan truffle mashed potatoes. Unfortunately for the couple dining next to us, the steak was sold out by the time they ordered around 8pm. Another thing to keep in mind – don’t get your heart set on a particular dish. The menu changes every eight weeks or so to take advantage of what is available locally according to the season.

Our evening ended with one last pour of wine and a quiet chuckle about our shared admiration of the sinks in the restrooms (no joke, they were amazing… see photo!).  We also decided that with its charm, good food and friendly staff, the restaurant would be a great spot for our daughter’s rehearsal dinner when she gets married (she’s four, so we’re hoping the restaurant stays in business for a long time). Until then, we’ve already pegged the out of town family members we hope to bring to the Rye Tavern on a return visit. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for good weather so we can try the outdoor patio – an extension of the indoor appeal, with tiny twinkling white lights adorning the trees, for good measure.

Colonel Blackinton Inn, Attleboro MA

After our not-so-memorable trip to Castle Hill in Newport, I was starting to question myself: are my standards too high? Am I too picky? Are my date nights so infrequent that I have unreasonable expectations when it comes to restaurants? Whether the answer is yes or no, Scott and decided that for our next night out, we'd stick with what we knew. So when it was time to decide on a place to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary, the choice was simple: The Colonel Blackinton Inn in Attleboro.

The Inn, located at the outskirts of downtown Attleboro, has been under the current management (same group that runs Luciano's in Wrentham) since 2003, and has consistently been a popular destination for the area's discerning diners. For us, personally, it's been the background for some pretty significant occassions: a farewell party when I left my first real job; our wedding rehearsal dinner; baby shower; birthdays, funerals and now anniversaries. So, it may just be my emotions getting the best of me, but can't help it... I love this place.

After enjoying a glass of wine on the patio (staff was more than gracious when we asked if we could take our drinks outside), we settled into a corner table in one of the four dining rooms. The Inn, as you can imagine, is a converted home. So the dining is cozy, comfortable and full of charm circa early 1900's. The attentive, but not overbearing, staff adds to the charm. When our waiter approached, I thought to myself, "This is the same waiter we had the last time we were here (over a year ago)." Call me a cynic, but I was taken by surprised when he said, "Welcome back. I remember you two."

Onto the food. We've never been disappointed by the food at the Blackinton, and this trip was true to form. We feasted. The prices aren't cheap, but the amount of food, and the quality is well worth it. Crusty, rustic bread and warmed kalamata olives are complimentary to start. Then entrees are served with two sides and a salad. My eyes were apparently much bigger than my stomach, because I opted for a starter of escargot (yummy, and complete with that tong thing that Julia Roberts used in Pretty Woman). Then onto my salad and one of the specials: filet oscar. Medium rare filet, served with garlic mashed, al dente asparagus, lobster meat and a hollandaise. Just perfect. Scott got his usual NY Strip... said it was one of the best he'd ever tasted, and that's really saying something!

Stuffed, we skipped dessert, but enjoyed our last glass of wine, reminiscing about all the memories we've made at the Inn. Looking forward to many more...

The tab:
Atmosphere – 8
Service – 8
Food Quality – 8
Presentation - 8
Average Entree Price - 24-36
Kid factor – 6
Website: www.colblackintoninn.com

Castle Hill Inn, Newport RI


We recently visited Castle Hill Inn in Newport; a place I'd been excited to visit for way too long. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed. Call me lazy, or just short on time, but I'm copying and pasting, verbatim, the email I sent them a few days after the Memorial Day weekend.

Good morning,

I'm writing in response to the email I received regarding the season's opening of The Lawn. My family spent Memorial Day weekend in Newport, and as a special treat, my husband and I planned to have dinner at Castle Hill on Monday before heading back to work on Tuesday. My aunt and uncle are regular Castle Hill patrons and speak very highly of your establishment.

We were excited to have a night out, and in preparation, I had looked at your website and was excited to see that the Lawn was opening for the season over Memorial Day weekend. We were even more excited when the weather cooperated on Monday - it meant we could dine outside and enjoy the scenery and a casual dinner.

Unfortunately, when we arrived (6:15 pm), we were told that they were shutting things down outside and that if we'd like to have dinner, we would need to eat inside. Neither of us were looking for a formal, 3-5 course meal, and felt under dressed for the formal dining room. The staff were very pleasant and suggested sitting at the bar and enjoying the sunset, but we opted to head downtown, and ultimately had a very nice dinner at 22 Bowens (an affiliate of Castle Hill, I believe).

The reason I'm writing is not to complain, per se, but to express my disappointment in not being able to enjoy the night out at Castle Hill we'd been looking forward to for weeks. Seeing the Lawn promoted on your website, and then finding out that it wasn't an option (certainly not because of bad weather - it was beautiful out on Monday evening) was frustrating. Then to get the email below (I received a promo email announcing the Memorial Day grand opening of the Lawn) the day after returning home felt like salt in the wound!

There's no need to reply to this email. We'll likely return to Castle Hill at a later date for the dinner we missed out on this weekend. I wanted to bring the issue to your attention, though, as I fear others will misinterpret your advertising as I did.

Thank you for your time and attention to this note.

Tatum McIsaac

In case you're wondering, we haven't heard back from them. And the night we went to dinner, the weather was perfect. Low 70s with clear skies for miles. Unfortunately, all we'll remember of Castle Hill is it being Dark 'n Stormy.

The tab:
Atmosphere – 9 (breathtaking views!)
Service – 7 (nice enough when they told us we couldn't eat outside)
Food Quality – Don't know.
Presentation - Didn't get there.
Average Entree Price - 3-5 course pre-fix, $75-$95. Lawn menu: $24-$40
Kid factor – 3 (unless your child is meltdown averse and loves foie gras)
Website: http://www.castlehillinn.com