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Why Locals and Visitors Love the Coast Guard House Restaurant in Narragansett, R.I.

A detailed look at one of New England's most iconic, beloved coastal restaurants

Coast Guard House Restaurant, Narragansett, R.I.
Coast Guard House Restaurant.

Article by Eric Hurwitz, @newenglandinfo. Story created on 10/8/2019.

The Coast Guard House restaurant in Narragansett, R.I. reveals a scene that people dream about when envisioning what makes coastal southern New England so memorable.

Located on Narragansett Bay, the Coast Guard House offers local seafood right off the boat, stunning ocean views from the comfortable year-round dining room and bar and seasonal seaside outdoor dining decks and patio. The unforgettable overall experience comes across more like a vacation destination rather than just a dining out spot. It's simply a place you don't want to leave.  But it is much more than the water views and seafood, however, that make this historic waterfront restaurant (formerly a U.S. Coast Guard station) a destination. While the Coast Guard House "Sea Food, Sea Friends, Sea View" slogan accurately captures the essence of the restaurant, a behind-the-scenes look shows even more depth to this landmark business.

The Coast Guard House can indeed be a place to catch the culinary spirit of coastal New England including
clam cakes, a chock-full-of-clams cup of New England clam chowder, overflowing lobster rolls, lobster ravioli, lobster mac and cheese, steamed lobster, salmon, pan roasted scallops and calamari.

Lobster roll from the Coast Guard House, Narragansett, R.I.
Lobster roll with fresh herbs, citrus aioli and lettuce on a buttered brioche roll. Served with fries.

For those preferring something else beside locally-harvested seafood, however, the Coast Guard House comes through, also, with, for starters, locally-sourced beef for burgers, a prime rib special (more on that shortly), grilled chicken dishes, flatbreads, salads and pasta dishes. There seems to be something for everyone as evidenced by the lunch, dinner, brunch, deck, terrace, and dessert  menus.

For those who enjoy drinks to go along with their water views, the Coast Guard House features many local brews, fine wines and some appealing signature cocktails from its
wine list
and beer and dessert drink menus.

Mudslide drink on the patio at the Coast Guard House in Narragansett, R.I.
Mudslide cocktail. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

This thoughtful food and drink presentation comes from a crew of highly experienced, impassioned staff including long-time head chef Angel Cardona, wine director
Elisa Wybraniec and pastry chef Jamie Chernesky. These are not hobbyists but rather seasoned pros who know what they are doing, much to the benefit of the customer. The same goes for managers Vicky Hien, Robin McGuigan, Randi Rouslin and Fred Koury and the whole staff (many employed for over 10 years here), for that matter,  who come together to run a tight ship that has been anchored for generations at this idyllic coastal spot.

They are a thoughtful group, too, always keeping the customer in mind.

"We see people from all over but want to be a local place first," said
Bob Leonard, who co-owns the Coast Guard House with Judge Frank Caprio (chief municipal judge in Providence whose judicial work is televised on the show, Caught in Providence) and Joe Formicola . "In the summer, we don't reserve all the tables so people can just walk right in and enjoy the restaurant."

That Special Feeling of Dining Out by the Coast

The sea, seafood and scenery can have a profound effect on all the senses and the Coast Guard House comes across as the epicenter of these three delights -- plus, all the other good things that come with it. "We are a 21st-century restaurant in a historic structure," said Leonard. "We do lean on seafood but have something for everyone. I think it is our location, affordability and quality product that sets us apart."
Water views at the Coast Guard House in Narragansett, R.I.
Splendid scenery from the side of the restaurant.

There's not a bad indoor or outdoor seat in the house. Direct views of the water, only separated from the restaurant by rocks, feel like being on a boat. This is about as close to the water that one will experience at a waterfront southern New England restaurant.

Dining with a view at the Coast Guard House Restaurant, Narragnasett, R.I.
Looking out at the sea.

Commanding views from up above provide the ultimate outdoor dining experience serving like an introduction to the local sea...

Views from the upper deck at the Coast Guard House Restaurant in Narragansett, R.I.
View from the top deck.

Those wanting to be even closer to the water can opt to dine on the patio...

Outdoor patio at the Coast Guard House in Narragnansett, R.I.
Picture-perfect location for a coastal restaurant.

The Coast Guard restaurant, however, is not just about location, location, location.

"Some coastal restaurants get away with a lot just getting by on their location and not focusing on the quality of food and the overall experience," said Leonard. "We want the food and service here to be as good as the view. We feel our slogan 'Sea Food, See Friends, Sea View' is a good one for our restaurant."

Gaterhing at the Coast Guard House restaurant, Narragansett, R.I.
A Coast Guard House gathering at twilight. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

A Strong Survivor: The Coast Guard House

The Coast Guard House Restaurant building in Narragansett, R.I. once housed a U.S. Coast Guard Station.
In the beginning. Photo source: Coast Guard Facebook fan page.

Where the Coast Coast House is currently located, famed architects McKim, Mead & White designed and had built a solid granite building in the late 1800s for the United States Life Saving Service -- the precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard. This, from the same architects who designed Rhode Island’s State House, the Boston Public Library and New York City’s Pennsylvania Station. They also built the stunning Narragansett Towers (1885) -- once a wing of one of Narragansett's famed hotels and now used as a public events venue -- which majestically stands right next to the Coast Guard House. Both buildings have National Register of Historic Places designations.

The historic Towers building in Narragansett, R.I.
The Towers building in Narragansett.

The Coast Guard House Restaurant opened in the 1940s as a seasonal operation that became year-round in 1979.  Hurricane Sandy devastated the building in late Oct. 2012, breaking windows, tearing the awning protecting an upper deck, creating overall ruin in the kitchen and destroying side paneling facing the ocean.  This wasn't the first time the building fell victim to harsh climate, however, as
Hurricane Carol in 1954, Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Bob in 1991 also created serious damage to the structure.

"After Hurricane Sandy, a lot needed to be done," said Leonard. "We closed for a year and seven months. It put our people out of work but we were determined to come back even stronger."

Exterior of Coast Guard House restaurant, Narragansett, R.I.
Front of Coast Guard House restaurant.

With major renovations, including additions and design changes as well as state-of-the-art structural improvements, the Coast Guard House started with a partial reopening in mid-2014 which eventually led to a full restaurant opening. The history remains but the modern touches lend a much-needed spaciousness, comfort and logically laid-out design scheme.

To get a more broad spectrum idea of the beauty of the newly-renovated Coast Guard House, take a virtual tour of the downstairs area by moving the arrows...

And also a virtual tour from the top...

Rebounding from the horrific eye of the hurricane to the loving eye of the public, the Coast Guard House has truly returned to its classic form, and then some. Although for generations a special destination, the Coast Guard House seems more refreshed today with not only an updated look but more food and drink offerings.

"We are better than ever," said Leonard. "We survived the hurricane, thankfully."

A Restaurant for All Seasons

Candleight dinner at the coast Guard House, Narragansett, R.I.
Candlelight dinner event. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

Year-round events and
seasonal specials play a huge role in the restaurant's appeal with some irresistible offerings. The Candlelight Dinner -- held the second Tuesday of every month -- offers a special date night out experience with the combination of a gourmet meal, the warm glow of candlelight and ocean views creating an incredible ambiance.

The Coast Guard House also features a series of History Dinners that
feature local "seafood specialties from the past with a modern twist," and a talk by Jim Crothers, executive director of the South County Museum

Coast Guard House wine director Elisa Wybraniec and
chef Angel Cardona collaborate through all four seasons to create multi-course menus that complement the restaurant’s extensive wine selection (more than 350 bottles and 25-plus selections by the glass).
The outstanding wine list has earned the Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” every year since 2015. The Coast Guard House also features beer dinner events.

Returning Oct. 15, the Coast Guard House will serve prime rib on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Buck-A-Shuck will offer oysters and clams Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m.

Oysters from the Coast Guard House in Narragansett, R.I.
Oysters from the Coast Guard House.
Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

Wednesday brings Wellington Wednesdays, serving Beef Wellington all day while Thursday offers a 1.5 lb. lobster dinner special also offered throughout lunch and dinner.

Locally-caught lobster from the Coast Guard House, Narragansett, R.I.
Local lobster (from Point Judith) from the Coast Guard House. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page

A Rarity in Waterfront Seafood Restaurants: Good Value for the Money

The Coast Guard House Restaurant expertly bridges the gap between seafood shack and upscale seafood restaurants. It is unusual for a restaurant with this sophisticated of a look look to prioritize an informal vibe for everyone to enjoy and with good value for the money that seems more in line with the seafood shacks. As examples of the latter, fish and chips come in at around $16.50, at this writing -- about what you'd pay at many seafood shacks and Irish pubs.   Fish and Chips from the Coast Guard House, Narragansett, R.I.

The jam-packed lobster roll costs just $21, about five dollars less than many other local spots specializing in this quantity of lobster meat.  A cup of clam chowder goes for $5, mussels for $12 and an award-winning calamari appetizer at $11.50.
Calamari from the Coast Guard House in Narragansett, R.I.
Calamari. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

"It's true that many restaurants with this kind of location can be an expensive dining experience," said Leonard. "We try to keep the prices down, keeping the customer in mind. We want everyone to be able to come to the Coast Guard House."


Cup of New england clam chowder from the Coast Guard House in Narragansett, RI.
New England clam chowder.

There are so many fish in the sea when it comes to New England waterfront seafood restaurants that it's hard for a local or vacationer to choose the right one. Some excel on a few levels but not all. High quality cuisine, atmosphere, excellent service and fair pricing all play vital roles in a restaurant's success. Elite seaside restaurants like the Coast Guard House (as opposed to elitist; there is a big difference) exceed virtually all of the the critical tenets of a top-notch local restaurant with water views.

Aerial view of Coast Guard House, Narragansett, RI
Aerial view of Coast Guard House. Photo source: Coast Guard House Facebook fan page.

Additionally, the Coast Guard House can be a standalone destination or part of a day trip or vacation to South Country. This wonderful, underrated region of southern New England delights with its 100 miles of coastline with 20 public beaches, hiking and biking trails, canoeing and kayaking opportunities, local seafood (with, of course, the Coast Guard House as a go-to dining out spot), craft breweries and distilleries, hotels, quaint small towns and villages, charming mom and pop shops and myriad seasonal festivals.

The reviews don't lie: The Coast Guard House garners a 4.5 rating amongst 1000-plus reviews on
TripAdvisor. But there is an element that goes way beyond the reviews: the Coast Guard House is a strong survivor. In the true New England spirit, this iconic local restaurant has overcome hurricanes, bad economies and growing competition.  Talk about an evolution, as the Coast Guard House has forever followed a line from a Kelly Clarkson song long before it ever came out:"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" (although, admittedly, the line initially came from 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche).
People admire strength, the sea, seafood and seeing others as a community coming together. Ultimately, the Coast Guard House comes across as a restaurant version of the U.S. Coast Guard -- that is, as a first responder to the public's love for coastal waterfront restaurants.

"People want food and service as good as the view," said Leonard. "We listen to the customers first and are always finding ways to do just that."

Coast Guard House Restaurant is located at 40 Ocean Rd., Narragansett, RI. Tel. 401-789-0700.
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Coast Guard House in Narragansett, R.I. is a famous local landmark known for locally harvested seafood and spectacular ocean views from the inside dining room and outdoor decks and patio.

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More local small business reading:
Coastal Roasters, Tiverton, R.I.: Fresh roasted coffee, water views

Carmella's Pizzeria, Middletown, R.I.: Delicious pizza created by a classically trained French chef

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