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New England dining reviews >>> The Western Hotel, Burrillville, RI

Dining Review

The Western Hotel offers top notch steaks in a historic setting
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Western Hotel restaurant photo

Article and photo by Eric H.

BURRILLVILLE, RI) -- For those in search of a true hidden gem restaurant, the Western Hotel seems to be hidden much better than most, tucked away in the tiny northern Rhode Island town of Burrillville.

A former late 1700s stagecoach stop once accommodating Abraham Lincoln before he became president, the Western Hotel has that "showdown at sunset" look in an old lonesome-looking, historic, craggy long wooden building with a second floor balcony spanning the entire width of the building, an untamed dirt parking lot, a small air conditioner almost falling out a first floor window, a "specials" sign with nothing listed on it, and a straightforward brown "pizza and tavern" sign. Once inside,
however, all trepidations about some guy with his head down on the bar with a drink and Hank Williams, Sr., playing on the jukebox are completely diminished -- the Western Hotel is a friendly place offering the kids crayons (even the glitter kind) and the adults some of the best steaks this side of the Mississippi (yes, Boston that includes you).

The Western Hotel has served as a hotel, efficiency apartments and for the past 20 years, solely a restaurant. It can be a place to drink, but the separate dining room feels cozy, safe and full of character. The decor is all solid wood (except the ceiling panels), with swinging doors leading to the bar. White lights and comfortable booths lend a nice feel within the small room.

The black diamond steak ($9.95 for eight ounces, $16.95 for a double portion) stopped a personal long-time losing streak of finding a good restaurant steak, with its incredibly tender sirloin taste complemented by mild spices -- reminiscent of the Hilltop Steak House (Saugus, Mass.) many years ago or the renowned Buffalo Head in Forestport Station, N.Y. (in the Adirondack Mountains). Other steak dishes include prime rib and marinated steak tips, which we're sure to try on ensuing visits. The price was right, too, as self-proclaimed "great" city steak houses charging two or three times the amount have nothing on the Western Hotel.

If a baked potato could ever rise above the norm (they seem to all taste the same, with the exception, strangely of, Wendy's), the Western Hotel's version would be the candidate, baked just right with a subtly pleasing taste.

White New England clam chowder is a personal favorite, so it was disappointing that the next batch wasn't quite ready. That taste bud letdown, however, was rectified by some truly amazing red Rhode Island clam chowder with a phenomenal tomato base and plenty of tender clams.

The Western Hotel also serves pizza, fresh fried seafood, salads, pastas and grinders. Service is straightforward, but pleasant and efficient.

Recommended to us by a neighbor, the Western Hotel is definitely a word-of-mouth place to those not living in the area. As we all know, word-of-mouth places often turn out to be great discoveries. On our first visit, the Western Hotel, in its historic grandeur and great steak, is a special place that will most likely find a place in our personal restaurant hall of fame.

Western Hotel Pizza and Tavern, 610 Douglas Ave., Burrillville, RI. Tel. (401) 568-6253

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