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Chelo’s Waterfront Bar and Grille

Hate bar hopping? There’s no need with Chelo’s Waterfront: they have it all.

By Kaitlyn Murray

As most locals can attest, one of the marks of a true Rhode Islander is the roundabout way in which we give directions.

“Okay, so remember Bonnet Market Place? You just make a left where that used to be and then….”

To outsiders, it probably seems as though we are stuck in the past. Having lived most of my life in the Ocean State, I can’t say that they are wrong. To this day I still think of Rhody Joe’s in Wakefield as the old stomping grounds of Chelo’s Restaurant (turns out Chelo’s owns Rhody Joe’s. Go figure.). But can you really blame me? Every year the restaurant used to send me vouchers for a free dessert during my birthday month. My middle school boyfriend may have forgotten, but Chelo’s never did.

Other than the sweet birthday wishes, however, I don’t remember anything particularly remarkable about the original building before it changed names. It was just a nice restaurant my family and I sometimes went to eat together. And, like many southern Rhode Islanders, I rarely ventured ‘north of the tower’ growing up so other Chelo’s locations were foreign to me.

So imagine my surprise when, on a group outing for a friend’s birthday, I learned that there was not only a waterfront Chelo’s, but a Chelo’s that was hopping. We had reservations for 7:30 at the Warwick location on a Friday night and when we showed up the valet parking lot (initial thought: Chelo’s has valet parking!?) was completely full. Thankfully, my friend and I only had to wait a few minutes before we managed to (rather creepily) follow a couple from the front entrance to their car and snag their spot.

Opting for the first available table, we missed out on the outdoor seating – but we were not disappointed. The interior is very Rhode Island-esque, with ocean murals and subtle nautical accents everywhere you turn. Also around every corner: servers. The place was packed, but there was more than enough wait staff to go around, ensuring that each and every table received their due attention. The second a waitress walked away with my friends’ appetizer order, another one appeared with the plate of steaming stuffies in hand. I am not a big seafood fan, but the smell alone was mouthwatering. The quahog dish vanished almost as fast as it had appeared.

As for the actual meals, I was similarly impressed. Having had a late lunch, I settled on the Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich with the intention of taking half of it home. Well, just one bite and my mouth had other ideas – it was a perfect, delicious blend of balsamic marinated chicken, savory gorgonzola cheese, and fresher than fresh roasted red peppers and spinach. There was nothing left to box – a sad reality which left me cursing myself the next day when my only option for lunch was chicken noodle soup. The same went for my friend who ordered the signature salmon burger. I swear she would have licked her plate clean had it been socially acceptable.

But just because the meal was over, it didn’t mean the night had to be. After we paid our bill, which was very reasonable might I add, my group and I made our way through the dining area to the back porch. Once outside it felt like we were crashing a wedding reception, only better because we didn’t have the pressure of pretending we left the wedding gift at home or the anxiety of trying to seamlessly mingle with other guests. Busy bartenders handed out lethal-looking cocktails, lounge chairs and fire pits splayed out before us on a perfectly manicured lawn and a gaggle of – shall we say – ‘enthusiastic’  guests were rocking out in front of a stage with a local band. Oh, and did I mention that Chelo’s on the Water is, in fact, on the water? The docked boats and calm bay breeze created a picturesque backdrop for our night out.

Naturally we hit the bar first, as it was a birthday celebration after all. I am now partial to their signature, tropical-tasting concoction: “Courtney’s Punch” –  three olives raspberry, vanilla, and orange vodkas, pineapple juice, orange juice, splash of grenadine –  and boy does she pack a punch! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

With drinks in hand, my friends and I ended the night with laughter around a roaring fire. Even though Chelo’s Waterfront Bar and Grille was much hipper than the Chelo’s I had come to know as a child, the atmosphere was still the same; welcoming and easygoing. This is one Rhode Island staple I don’t foresee locals having to talk about in the past tense any time soon.

Chelo’s Waterfront Restaurant, 1 Masthead Dr., Warwick, 401-884-3000, chelos.com/waterfront

If you have a tip or think we missed something, shoot us a message, tweet us at @InsidersGuideRI or email Kaitlyn Murray at kmurray@rimonthly.com.

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