After hearing about this SouthCoast staple since working at The Standard-Times, I was thrilled to finally visit The Back Eddy for this week’s Newbie adventure. The last time I was in this area of Westport was when I visited Elephant Rock on Horseneck Beach.
I arrived at The Back Eddy only 20 minutes after it opened, and already the parking lot was crowded and the outside seating area was full. There is plenty to do while waiting for a table on the deck. Aside from the indoor dining and bar area, the outside deck features a bar, raw bar and grill. People can also arrive to the restaurant by boat.
I decided to sit inside, near the windows, where I was still able to enjoy the view of the Westport River. Wow, oh wow. Absolutely stunning!
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The restaurant felt as if I was in an upscale fishing shack – rustic with an ocean theme. It had a local hangout vibe, seemingly full of regulars that have been dining with The Back Eddy for years. More so, the waiters referred to a few guests by name and one waiter knew what a man behind us was going to order.
“It’s kind of 70-30,” said owner Sal Liotta. “We call them circles, we have a ton of circles of guests from a radius of zero miles out to Boston.” Liotta says he has locals that visit three to four times a week, a couple from North Attleboro that come every Saturday and guests that rent for a few weeks in Westport and visit The Back Eddy almost daily.
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The Back Eddy building’s history
Opened April 1, 1999, Liotta partnered with award-winning chef Chris Schlesinger, known for the cookbook, “The Thrill of the Grill,” to offer Westport a semi-formal, seafood-serving hangout. In 2002, Liotta bought Schlesinger out. Now, for the past 22 years, Liotta says he’s been having an amazing experience.
“I’ve got staff members that were in car seats, when they started coming to the restaurant with their families. It’s quite something,” Liotta said.
Built in 1952 by the Judson family, the property originally served as a dress shop, gas station and deli. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel destroyed the property and it was quickly rebuilt and renamed Moby Dick Enterprises.
Since then, the location has been through six or seven incarnations, according to Liotta, including once being owned by LaFrance Hospitality. Eventually, Peter Sharp (whose family owned the Carlyle Hotel) purchased the building and turned it into a more formal restaurant.
“Then we took it and made it a little more casual, and a little bit more serious food,” Liotta said. “I think it’s a little bit more diverse than it was previously.”
The Back Eddy is open year-round except for 10 weeks from Jan. 1 to the second week in March. In late October, the bistro also offers a Sunday brunch which Liotta says gives the kitchen the “ability to stretch” and gives guests a different experience.
What’s on the menu at The Back Eddy
I enjoyed the Maine mussels, recommended by Liotta, which he says are “East Coast Grill-style” with hoisin, coconut milk, chilies and cilantro. It tasted sweet, sour and spicy all mixed into one. I’ve never had a broth like this with mussels — which were also cooked perfectly.
Liotta says they sell over 5,000 lobster rolls a year. I decided to try the lobster roll and thought it tasted amazing. The lobster meat tasted great and was very flavorful. However, the real main attraction were the french fries. I’ve had a lot of fries in my days, and these fries were incredible — super flavorful and crisp.
My mother joined me and had the Seafood Casserole special which is roasted leeks, cornbread crumbs, asparagus, lobster meat, shrimp, and scallops. She also enjoyed the meal thoroughly, saying that the leeks were the best she’s ever tasted in a dish.
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Liotta also says a popular menu item is the Boat Show which is grilled swordfish, garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and lemon-caper butter. “It’s the simplest dish on the menu in a way,” Liotta said. “It’s like a traditional combination for New England.”
Looking around the room it seemed as if people were enjoying the fried clams and scallops, too. And there are also non-seafood items on the menu such as the ribeye, which Liotta noted makes up 50% of their entree sales.
Desserts include coffee crème brulee, a warm apple crisp and a coconut sticky rice pudding. As well as an extensive drinks menu with plenty of wine and beer choices as well as some clever cocktails such as the “One Eyed Jack” which is 100% agave, Grand Marnier and fresh squeezed sour mix.
“We try to provide a fun atmosphere, loud, kind of a little bit of a party. But some thing that’s a little bit more tailored,” Liotta added.
That was definitely the vibe I picked up during my time at The Back Eddy: one big party. A place to go to get away, chill out and have some fun. You can’t go wrong with the menu and you can tell the staff prides itself on making sure you’re having a good time, too.
And I had a great time.
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.