I’ve been to Red Stripe a few times over the years and I’ve always enjoyed my experiences there. This time, my wife and I met two friends for dinner. We talked and ate, but by the end of the night all four of us had the same thought of, “Why don’t we come here more often?” It’s one of those places that you might not always think of right away, but when you do, it’s never a disappointment.
Service and Atmosphere
The atmosphere at Red Stripe is casual and their expanded dining room offers more seating than before for the throngs of guests hoping for a seat on a packed weekend. There is a bar and open kitchen, which gives this brasserie a pub-like quality in some ways, but overall the impression feels like relaxed fine dining. The seating is close quarters, but not so much so that it feels cramped. The service is consistently friendly and helpful, which is always welcome considering how busy it can get at times.
The food is underrated at Red Stripe. Every time I go, I’m so pleased with everything I try there from start to finish that I wonder to myself why it’s been so long between visits.
Crusty Bread – If you’re anything like my wife or so many others in this world, a good meal can often be judged by the bread set at the table before the meal. Good bread usually means a good dining experience while mediocre bread signals a disappointing meal ahead. Red Stripe seems to understand this and so the meal starts with this awesomely crusty and warm bread. It’s a hearty bread that can be extremely filling, so you have to be careful, but it tastes so good that it’s hard to resist asking for more once you’re done.
Basque Calamari – I am not exaggerating when I say that this is some of the best restaurant calamari that I’ve had in a while. At first glance, it just looks like a typical Rhode Island style calamari with the pepper rings, but they are not your average calamari. The breading was crisp and yet the calamari itself was tender, which is exactly what everyone should strive for when making calamari. So many restaurant over-fry the squid in a misguided attempt to make them very crispy, but they just end up with a rubbery mistake. Other restaurants douse their calamari with oils or other sauces, which just immediately ruins the whole point of breading something. Red Stripe hits this deceptively simple dish right on the mark.
Moules & Frites (Mussels and Fries) – An entire section of the Red Stripe menu is devoted to mussels prepared different ways with different sauces accompanied by shoestring fries. All of the preparations look incredible. The mussels are large, steamed perfectly, and the sauces complement the mussels rather than overpower their delicate flavors. While the mussels are great, it’s the sauces that really steal the dish. This is where that crusty bread comes in. Fries are great, but dip that crusty bread in the sauce and you’ve just made a great dish an unforgettable one.
Short Rib Bourguignon – This is a classically french dish that was executed perfectly. The fork-tender short rib braised in the rich red wine reduction paired extremely well with the decadent mashed potatoes. If that fancy take on “meat and potatoes” wasn’t enough, the charred Brussels sprouts added crunch to break up the textures. I’ve had this dish a few times and every time I have it, I remember exactly why I keep ordering it.
Cookie Pie – This dessert is a half-baked cookie in a mini cast-iron skillet with a scoop of vanilla topped with whipped cream, chocolate, and caramel sauce. Sounds great, right? The problem is that neither my description nor the picture can do this dessert justice. The four of us ordered this dessert to share and after the first timid courtesy of allowing someone else to taste the dessert first, that courtesy turned into a feeding frenzy with spoons flying left and right as we all tried to get just one more scoop of any of the delicious ingredients. I don’t care what else you order for dinner, but you must order this dessert. It takes everything simple you loved as a child about warm soft-baked cookies or ice cream and ratchets those feelings up into a sweet wave of euphoric nostalgia.
Red Stripe offers a comfortable environment and great food at a reasonable price. I have yet to taste anything from this restaurant that I didn’t like and I look forward to returning. Highly recommended for an easy casual dining experience with excellent quality food. Just make sure to get a reservation on the weekend.