Billy’s is our local. Local pub, local bistro – we just think of it as our local, as our Irish friends would call it. Some of the staff are current or former Barrington High School students. One of Barb the owner’s sons is a teacher at the High School. Andrew was a waiter there one college summer. We feel very connected.
We started going to Billy’s on Thursdays years ago, when that was our housecleaning day. Because I felt strongly that our kitchen stay clean for at least 12 hours before we messed it up again, we had dinner out. Billy’s is exactly one mile from our house, so it was an obvious choice. Housecleaning day is now every other Friday, but Thursday still feels like our Billy’s night.
One mile from our house! If we had to, we could walk home.
We almost always sit at the bar, where we enjoy the company and attention of the fabulous Melissa, Mel to those who are regulars. We go early to be sure of getting seats at the bar – five? Five-thirty? It sounds ridiculously early, but since I wake up 12 hours later to go to work, it is just the right time for us to have a leisurely dinner. Mel is a creative and expert bartender, always ready to recreate an old favorite or invent a new drink. She remembers our preferences in both food and cocktails. We can actually say “I’ll have the usual” and she’ll know. Chuck’s is a Ketel One martini, very dry, with blue cheese stuffed olives. Mine is a Stoli O cosmo, not too sweet.
For years I would only order steak frites, medium rare, with a house salad, no onion, blue cheese dressing on the side. Barb makes the best blue cheese dressing anywhere, and I’ve had them all. If Billy’s weren’t already fabulous, it would be worth a trip just for that dressing. The steak is tender, flavorful, perfectly cooked, and served with a yummy horseradish sauce on the side (as Harry said to Sally, “on the side is a very big thing for you.”) I often have small containers of Billy’s blue cheese dressing and horseradish sauce in the fridge. Sadly they look alike at a glance, so one must be careful to check before dressing a salad at home.
Now I mix it up in my ordering. It’s always a challenge to decide, since I’ve never had a bad meal there – everything is delicious. How can I try something new if I know, love, and crave the old things? Ah, yes, I’ll be back next Thursday, so I can go back to the tried and true then.
Their lobster sandwich is perfect. Very lightly dressed in a lemony mayonnaise, served on grilled bread with bacon and baby spinach, and heaped with fries. Or sweet potato fries. Or onion rings. Or some combination.
The littlenecks appetizer is truly the taste of Rhode Island, and no one makes it better. Small clams in a tomato-y, garlicky, oniony broth with chunks of chorizo
(pronounced shureez here in New England), with lovely grilled bread on the side for dunking. When Chuck and I moved back east from Ohio in 1997, we craved clam broth and ethnic food. Here it is, in a steaming bowl.
Do you want seafood? They cook it perfectly. The fish in the fish & chips has the lightest, crispiest coating imaginable. Not the least bit oily, and enormous! Halibut with a sundried tomato tapenade, served over a parmesan or fontina risotto. Swordfish. Shrimp. New England Shore Dinner. All are delicious, and there are no better seared scallops anywhere. We are spoiled by the variety and presentation of fish here, to the point that we won’t order certain ones in other parts of the country. Scallops in New Orleans? Why?
Craving a burger? We have friends who won’t eat one anywhere else. You can get them served on your choice of flat grilled bread, buns, or Portuguese bolos. Bacon? Sure. Cheddar, American, provolone, goat, or Swiss cheese? Up to you. Avenue N and Table both make outstanding burgers, too, but with fewer options and variations available. Chuck’s favorite is the Marsala burger, with mushrooms and bacon. And nobody beats Billy’s fries.
If you are very, very lucky, you may find that Barb has made eggplant rollatini, my favorite. We got a double order to go on New Year’s Eve, to enjoy the next day with our other lucky foods.
Kid-friendly, but without feeling overrun, Barb and her staff at Billy’s do a great job of making everyone feel welcome.
In case you’re wondering: no, this is not a paid review. I just love this place.