Take a Stand this summer in Niantic
This restaurant review gig is tough sometimes. Not once but twice in recent months, I’ve landed at the beach to observe and dine at seaside venues and report back. Best remote-work location ever!
The latest stop on my tour was the Crescent Beach Stand in Niantic, “powered,” as the adverts say, by the able crew at Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant. That was an endorsement for me, along with the stand’s location right across the street from Crescent Beach — complete with sea breeze, crashing waves, and happy people in colorful beachwear.
From the menu of backyard cookout staples, I took a more diner-ly approach during a weekday visit and sampled the Fresh Tuna Melt ($11), a combo of house-made yellowfin tuna salad, cheddar cheese, and a sandwich slice of pickle — a game-changing addition. Tuna melts made by amateurs can become gooey messes with no distinct construction. Not so at the Stand: The toasted bread upon which the tuna salad is served held up perfectly, and the pickle layer added welcome crunchiness and a zing of vinegar, which, to me, makes most things better.
I had skipped breakfast that day and thought the Old Bay Fries ($4) on the Sides menu sounded like a perfect partner to the tuna melt. Indeed, they were, with just the right amount of sweet, smoky, spicy Old Bay seasoning and a nice crispy texture. Be advised that the very generous portion you get for $4 might not be a good idea for one person to consume — at least after diving into a hearty tuna melt. (The mister was pleased to finish more than half of the giant cardboard cup of fries left over from my lunch.)
The Chicken Caesar Wrap ($8) turned out to be another fine example of texture and balance. Beyond the standard romaine lettuce, the Stand crew adds in a bit of purple cabbage to the veggie mix. The resulting heft kept the wrap from getting soggy, added crunch and helped distribute the light, refreshing dressing throughout. While there was just enough dressing to keep things interesting (thankfully, not drenched in it), I could have dealt with a bit more chicken in a Chicken Caesar Wrap.
As a huge fan of All Things Breakfasty, I was pleased to discover that the Stand offers one breakfast item all day (otherwise, breakfast service ends at noon), and that is the Egg McMama sandwich ($6). Yes, $6 is on the pricier side of the breakfast sandwich market, but it’s a sizeable sandwich on a larger-than-standard English muffin that comes with your choice of ham, bacon, or sausage (or salmon for an extra $3). The egg is served runny, which is fine because the hearty English muffin can support it with an assist from the layer of American cheese. If you choose the sausage like I did, you’ll see that the thick, juicy and sweet-spicy patty does a great job at catching egg runoff. (And I would hereby love to know where the Stand gets that very tasty breakfast sausage.)
We tried to cover several bases of the Stand’s well-curated menu. At least, that’s my official reason for sampling the Crescent Dog ($7), which is: a hotdog topped with the house macaroni and cheese and diced, fresh jalapenos. Is that a combo I would have dreamed up and prepared ever? Nope. That’s why we defer to the experts sometimes and put our trust in such a bold menu item. Your trust is rewarded, starting with a truly tasty hot dog (a bit larger than the grocery store variety), which is split down the middle — all the better to support the mac and cheese (more on that in a minute). As for the jalapenos, they were perched atop the mac and cheese and offered the dog-mac combo a wee bit of crunch and the lightest tingle of heat. Note to spice fans and spice-averse alike: Our peppers were very mild but flavorful.
FYI, the mac and cheese is available as a side ($4), and it’s quite enjoyable in its natural state, too. A mild cheese blend and good cheese-to-pasta balance gives it more of a kugel-like texture versus some of the saucier varieties out there. We appreciated the layer of shredded cheddar on top of our takeout order.
While there are plenty of summer days left to go this season, the Crescent Beach Stand is a limited time offer. Bring your appetite to Niantic for a beach day and enjoy the free side of local color.
The Crescent Beach Stand
37 Bayview Ave., Niantic
Note: There is no phone line for the beach stand, but if you have questions, consider calling the main Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant phone number at (860) 739-8866. The friendly voice who answered when I called that number with questions was very helpful.
Cuisine: Summer snack shack staples, including burgers, dogs, sandwiches, lobster rolls, and several other seafood options. Bonus: Breakfast classics like omelets, egg sandwiches, and pancakes are served until noon. Lunch starts at 11 a.m.
Atmosphere: Very, very casual. A large covered porch offers limited seating at sturdy picnic tables at which diners clad in everything from bathing suits and coverups to sundresses and khakis took in the view of adjacent Crescent Beach. Parking is a challenge if you don't happen to be a resident of Crescent Beach — no lot and the stand is on a tight, one-way street.
Service: Welcoming, knowledgeable, and efficient
Hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., daily; closed in bad weather; seasonal
Prices: Reasonable, considering the highest priced item is the $15 Crab Cake Benny or Lobster Grilled Cheese, but some folks might balk at a $7 hot dog (which, to be fair, is sizeable and covered in macaroni and cheese).
Handicapped access: Not great. Several stairs lead to the ordering window; the sidewalk to approach the building is narrow and crumbly in spots; and there was no parking lot that I could identify.
Credit cards: Accepted
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