(2004) (2005) (07/30/06) (07/29/07)
I'll always look back fondly on the summer of 2004, mostly because it was the first season in my lifetime that the Red Sox won it all. And for four short months, the Way Back Eddy in Westport put out some of the most delicious ribs I've ever tasted. It's still there now, but it's not the same place it was then. In 2004, chef Steve Johnson had sold the Blue Room in Cambridge and hadn't yet found his new place (Rendezvous in Cambridge), so he decided to open up a small chicken and rib joint near Westport's Horseneck Beach. With the blessing of the Back Eddy (a restaurant once owned by Johnson pal Chris Schlesinger of East Coast Grill), Johnson opened the Way Back Eddy across the street. It's a small shack, with counter service and a few seats inside and on the porch. There are also a few picnic tables with umbrellas.
For that one season in 2004, the ribs were amazing: smoky, tender, juicy and loaded with a coarse dry rub that had a consistency somewhere between pot and potpourri. And with such a wonderful savory flavor that my wife and I would plan our weekly beach trips around the Way Back Eddy. The sauce served on the side was a little ketchupy, but any sauce would have interfered with the purity of these ribs. The pulled pork was good too, with a natural smoky flavor. Fried calamari and salads were also staples. But those ribs were a must.
In the summer of 2005, I showed up on day 1 to find no ribs and no Steve Johnson. They still had pulled pork and pretty good sandwiches, but those ribs are missed.
The motto of the Way Back Eddy is "No shoes, no shirt, no problem," making it easy to go there before, during or after a day at Horseneck Beach. During a beach day at in 2006, I took a walk to the Way Back Eddy and tried their pulled pork sandwich. It looked dry, but on my first bite I got an explosion of juices and Tabasco (or similar) sauce, along with the strong flavor and texture of the buttered and toasted bun. Not as good as in its heyday, but good.
The rest of the menu still looks good, with burgers, panini sandwiches, a numer of interesting salads, and a fried fish rollup with Inner Beauty (created by Schlesinger) hot sauce. They even have ice cream to relieve the heat of the sun or the sauce.
A smoked pork Reuben in the summer of 2007 had meat that looked more like sliced turkey than pork, but the blast of flavors and the quality of the other ingredients made it a good one.
The bottom line: The pulled pork sandwich is good, and the other offerings are creative and more than worthy for taking to the beach or enjoying just before the ride home. It's just that those fantastic ribs are only a memory now.