Salvation Café

Going strong in Newport
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  February 4, 2009

Salvation Café | 401.847.2620 | 140 Broadway, Newport | Sun-Thurs, 5-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 5-11 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
In the world of quick turnovers, Salvation Café, now in its sixteenth year, is a keeper. Owner Sue Lamond was one of the first restaurateurs to see the potential on Broadway in Newport, away from crowded Thames Street and the wharves, and it's become a mecca for those in the food-know.

Lamond opened her tiny eatery next door to a Salvation Army thrift shop (thus the name), and she furnished it with funky cast-offs from that store: '50s-era tables and chairs, most covered with brightly printed vinyl; '70s-era beaded chandeliers, some with red bulbs; and record album covers from the '60s that line a hallway. And she chose colors for the walls and floor tiles that span those eras: aquamarine, tomato, goldenrod, lime, and tangerine. You could be forgiven for thinking you'd time-traveled when you walk into Salvation Cafe.

On a recent Saturday night, the place was jumping: booths and tables in both dining areas (one side includes a bar) were packed; waitresses were scarce, but friendly when captured; the wait between courses stretched on a bit. Nonetheless, we were with friends Rob and Jan, and we took it in stride. Bill sipped an Indian summer (hot chai cider with Sailor Jerry's rum), Rob a martini, and I a cup of peppermint tea.

We indulged in a potato and Gorgonzola pizza ($9) to begin our culinary expedition. The Yukon gold slices were delicious, with bits of Gorgonzola here and there among the rosemary-tinged ricotta, the sautéed red onion bits, and the truffled arugula.

The kitchen had run out of BBQ braised brisket, a signature dish which Jan had her appetite up for, so she chose instead a salad and a side: cheesy grits ($4) and an heirloom beet salad ($8). The roasted beets were tossed with goat cheese, spinach, and bacon/apple cider vinaigrette. Though she was pleased to find toasted pumpkin seeds on top of this combo, she would have preferred a stronger beet presence. The grits were great, sparked by scallions, and nicely cheesy.

Rob and Bill both gravitated toward the bouillabaisse Marseilles ($18). With a wonderful fennel lobster broth and assorted fin and shellfish (that evening it was sole, salmon, mussels, and shrimp), this is always a winner at Salvation Café. The garlic rouille in the broth made it even more appealing.

The guys each also had a side of crispy spinach ($4), a generous bowl of dark green leaves glossy with the oil they'd been quick-fried in and almost as salty as French fries. It's an alluring way to get your Popeye portion for the day.

I went for the crispy organic half chicken ($17) with parsnip puree and an orange gremolata sauce. Because the skin was left on the chicken, and perhaps because the thigh and breast were still attached, it was difficult to cut a piece of the boneless thigh without getting a lot of fat with each bite. However, you couldn't fault this chicken for dryness, and it was very flavorful. The juices mingled with orange zest and a bed of sweet parsnip puree, plus a bit of sautéed kale.

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