Rye Tavern, Plymouth MA
by Tatum McIsaac
We turned around twice, despite the signs. After all, you don’t expect to find a fine dining establishment tucked away down a long dirt road. The Rye Tavern, however, is just that: worth turning around for and pretty unexpected.
Located in Plymouth, MA near the Pine Hills and the exclusive Old Sandwich Golf Club, the tavern exudes historic charm. The building itself dates back to 1792 and was converted to the current restaurant some years ago by a group of locals committed to the now-popular farm to table movement.
We arrived on a dreary Friday night, not quite knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised, though, at 7pm to see a full parking lot followed by a warm and welcoming atmosphere inside that quickly helped take the early fall chill from the air.
The dining room is cozy – a mere 15 tables wrapped around a giant hearth – and abuts a small bar that accommodates another 8-10 patrons. Our waitress explained that, had it been nicer outside, the heated outdoor patio would have been open too. Quick math puts total indoor capacity for the place at about 50, so it was a good thing I had made a reservation. The place was full from the moment we arrived until we left around 9pm.
We started our overdue date night out with drinks. My husband had an IPA brewed in Somerville, MA while I sampled an organic red wine that was on special that evening. We settled on a nice cabernet to go with dinner, reasonably priced at $40 a bottle. Of course, we could have ordered something more expensive from the wine list – there was plenty to choose from – but our date night wasn’t THAT overdue, and we’d like to have another one before the holidays!
For dinner, we each had a salad to start, and for me, that was the highlight of my meal. Locally grown melon over a bed of greens and topped with bleu cheese, pickled onions and prosciutto. I raved about it to the person sitting at the next table over, and before I knew it, she was having the same salad brought to her table! We also ordered a Caesar salad, which was also very good. The restaurant has its own 2100 square foot vegetable garden, so it’s likely our salad ingredients came from there, but I can’t confirm (some think it’s weird if you ask people where they got their lettuce). Our salads clocked in at $9 and $7 respectively.
The place was buzzing, so it didn’t bother us much that dinner took a while to arrive. Our waitress was very attentive, ensuring we were content with our glasses of wine and the fresh baked cinnamon bread she had brought.
For dinner, I opted for comfort food. Gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream served with local roasted squash, figs and apples. Served in a cast iron skillet, it arrived piping hot and was the perfect sized portion (small) for such a heavy dish. I loved the combination of the figs and the winter vegetables. My only complaint: the sauce was too salty for me, likely in an effort to offset the sweetness of the figs.
My husband ordered the menu’s only steak, and raved about the parmesan truffle mashed potatoes. Unfortunately for the couple dining next to us, the steak was sold out by the time they ordered around 8pm. Another thing to keep in mind – don’t get your heart set on a particular dish. The menu changes every eight weeks or so to take advantage of what is available locally according to the season.
Our evening ended with one last pour of wine and a quiet chuckle about our shared admiration of the sinks in the restrooms (no joke, they were amazing… see photo above!). We also decided that with its charm, good food and friendly staff, the restaurant would be a great spot for our daughter’s rehearsal dinner when she gets married (she’s four, so we’re hoping the restaurant stays in business for a long time). Until then, we’ve already pegged the out of town family members we hope to bring to the Rye Tavern on a return visit. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for good weather so we can try the outdoor patio – an extension of the indoor appeal, with tiny twinkling white lights adorning the trees, for good measure.
Tatum McIsaac is a south shore resident, self-proclaimed foodie, and mom to two kids who actually like vegetables! She works full time in corporate communications, but loves spending her free time perusing farmers’ markets, scoping out local eateries with her husband, and cooking for her family. In addition to her posts on the eSS&SC blog, you can read her New England restaurant reviews at Good Taste by Tatum.