During Prohibition, belowground restaurant was a speakeasy.
Brand New: Little Compton's Stone House Tap Room offers taste of history
By Gail Ciampa
Journal Food Editor
LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. — The Stone House Tap Room had only been open for a few days when I headed down to Sakonnet Point for dinner.
I felt the call of the restaurant, which is in one very unique space. I had dined in it once, more than five years ago, under different owners. I remembered the ambiance well and warmly.
The Stone House was constructed in 1854 as a private home for a Providence businessman, David Sisson. It became an inn in the 1920s, and that's when the old tap room in the basement served as a speakeasy during Prohibition. The Stone House Inn is now a luxury resort and it has been newly reopened by owner Thomas Roos.
One must take their chances with not giving a new restaurant the time to gain its balance, but I was willing to take that risk for the chance to sit in the historic space.
The Stone House was constructed in 1854 as a private home. It is now a luxury resort and has been newly reopened by owner Thomas Roos. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
I found the place full with diners, no doubt many guests of the inn gathered for a wedding over that weekend. There were big and small parties among the 50 or so diners. I was more than happy to take a seat at the bar and to share this experience with my husband, who had not been there before.
He was as enchanted as I in the belowground restaurant with thick walls of stone. It's almost like dining in a wine cellar, but here the ceiling is low and the walkways tight. The intimacy is charming.
The Taproom Kettle Chips, top, and a bowl of New England Clam Chowder. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
Our server, Stephanie, was everything one hopes for in a bartender. She was friendly, chatty and mixed a nice Bombay gin and tonic ($10) and offered a taste of the Loose Cannon draft ($8).
As we found ourselves waiting for our entrées, she poured us glasses of Sauvignon Blanc on the house. Apparently the printer was not sending the orders to the kitchen, which was on a floor above the tap room. So we waited a while before they realized what was happening.
But it was pleasant to sit and sip, and we were temporarily satisfied from our appetizer and bar treats.
The menu, from chef Jim Carroll, is small, but still offers the must haves for both the space and the region — burgers, clam chowder, steak and a fish of the day. Carroll was born and raised in Newport and has cooked at several spots, including Oceancliff in Newport and at the Jay Peak resort in Vermont.
The menu offers must-haves for the space and the region, including burgers. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
His New England clam chowder was outstanding. A cup ($6) had plenty of clams, a flavorful, creamy broth and chopped bacon and dill on top. Everything is better with bacon, he noted in a conversation after my visit.
The Taproom Kettle Chips ($12) were recommended by Stephanie, and she was right. They were waffle-cut, thin potatoes deep fried and then drizzled with pancetta, sharp cheddar, Maytag blue cheese and chives. If you were going to sit at a bar and enjoy a cocktail or beer, this was the perfect accompaniment.
The New York strip steak ($28) was a grilled 16-ounce piece of meat that came with creamy mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. The meat was tender and had nice grill marks. It was done to order but arrived sans the herb butter I had asked for. But I found it didn't need the seasoning.
The menu at the Stone House Tap Room in Little Compton includes the fish of the day. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
The local fish of the day ($28) was a nice piece of cod served on a bed of creamy risotto.
The bottom line
It's cool driving to the Stone House Tap Room, and it's even cooler to dine in the belowground space. I have no doubt many a diner will make a special memory there this summer.
Fun fact: The Stone House is a National Register historic property.
Details: Stone House’s Tap Room, 122 Sakonnet Point Rd. (401) 635-2222. No reservations. No wheelchair access. Restrooms are reached by stairs up one floor. Hours are 4:30-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; till 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and closing at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Closed on Tuesday. Check on the Stone House Facebook page or call because they do close for special events.
A stone fireplace in the dining room is a popular feature with diners. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo