Our town and surrounding region is truly blessed with an abundance of spectacular restaurants to feed our every craving, and it has been my honor to begin covering the origin stories of some of my favorites. Particularly in the aftermath of the coronavirus, which has turned the restaurant industry on its head, it’s so important to shop small and (safely!) reach out to your neighbors and make sure they’re doing okay.
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Today’s piece centers around B&B Dockside, where they truly know how to satiate your cravings for the savory side of life, be it through breakfast or burgers.
TK Kyan, a New Jersey native, came to Rhode Island for college and ended up forming a band, Foxtrot Zulu. After more than a dozen years of playing and touring together, TK and his bandmates were impacted by the bursting Dot Com Bubble in the late 90s, which led to many independent record labels closing down and leading band members to take on more steady jobs where they could find them. TK had always dabbled in restaurant work so it felt like a natural move to return, and he soon found employment at Happy Holidays in Westerly, where Supreme Pizza stands today. Fortunately, his future-wife Megan, a native of nearby Warwick, was also working at Happy Holidays, and the two soon hit it off and became an item.
“She actually already knew me from the band,” TK said.
TK moved through the ranks at various kitchens in towns and worked as a chef at the Andrea Hotel until 2010.
“Most chefs dream of having their own place, but it’s easy to dream about it and talk about it, harder to pull the trigger,” TK explained. “And then we finally found ourselves in a position where we could just go ahead and do it.”
Megan was responsibly apprehensive, as most people know that starting a small business, particularly one as volatile as a restaurant, can be a big risk, but also supportive of the endeavor. When the perfect starter spot opened up on Oak Street, they jumped at the opportunity to begin building their dreams.
“That location was perfect for us. The rent was low, and the space was small, so the overhead wasn’t that high, and it really gave us the chance to get our legs under us,” TK said.
After only about a year and a half, they had already maxed out on the potential of the space but stayed another few years while they looked for their next great location.
“I just happened to be driving by Martin Street and saw that it was available – we were some of the first people to express interest in it, and the rest is history.”
Their current location, with its ample parking and beautiful dockside views, provides the perfect setting to enjoy some truly remarkable comfort food. If you know, you know, but in case you’ve never been to Dockside, let me highlight some of my personal favorite menu items:
For burgers, I’m consistently torn between two options. The TK, named for you know who, which sounds simple enough (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg on top) but it’s that addition of their special Oak Sauce that really puts it over the top. Then of course, there’s the Elvis – I look for this style of burger everywhere I go (with peanut butter, bacon, and American cheese) but only occasionally find it and never find it anywhere better than Dockside, particularly when you throw in some caramelized bananas. Whatever you choose, just do not miss out on their fries, whether they’re “Dressed,” “Dirty,” “Smoked,” or “S’Oaked.”
For breakfast, I’m all about the omelets, and I’m honestly not even an omelet person normally – but where else can you find one called the Rangoon and filled with crabmeat? If seafood in the morning isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other options for you, like the Westerly, which features fresh soupy, onions, peppers, and provolone.
When asked about his process for creating the menu, TK explained that he had been most interested in trying to steer away from fine dining, which had been his primary focus as a chef during the past decade.
“We really wanted to offer people comfort food, in a place that they could visit multiple times a week because of both the food and the prices,” he said. “Every time my wife and I would discuss our breakfast options, we realized we hadn’t found a place that we really loved going to yet, so we decided we wanted to make that place instead.”
So breakfast and burgers became the name of the game, with the burgers inspired by his beloved White Castle (which he calls “strangely amazing”) and Five Guys.
TK attributes the success of their menu largely to their dedication to what he refers to as “proven flavor combination that people crave at a primal level.” That description was even a part of his loan application and mission statement, so it’s clearly something they take very seriously.
“We didn’t want to invent anything weird or take any big gambles,” he explained, adding that the Popper burger is just what you would be wanting and expecting – it matches the flavor profile of a jalapeno popper exactly. This approach took off almost immediately, with their original customer base coming in multiple times a week even when they had first opened. “They’d come in and say ‘I dreamed about this the other night,’ which is exactly what we had wanted to happen.”
Of course, giving people what they expect doesn’t mean that the menu is boring. While the menu is broken down into classics for the traditionalist breakfast enthusiasts, there’s ample room for signature dishes that no one else in town is offering. TK uses a stoplight analogy to guide his menu cultivation.
“If you’re at a stoplight and you can take an easy right turn into Place A, what can we offer that will make you take the left turn instead to come to our place?” he asks himself and his staff regularly.
“So for example, a lot of other places will offer corn beef hash out of a can but we decided to go with roast beef hash and it really sets us apart,” Megan added.
“Even the way that we make potatoes is something we’ve put a lot of thought into,” TK said. “When I was touring, I loved the shredded hashbrowns you’d find at places like Denny’s and Waffle House but I couldn’t find them too many other places, so we decided to make them here.”
Of course, no article about a restaurant operating in May 2020 would be complete without mention of how they’re handling the Coronavirus pandemic, but the good news is that B&B Dockside, having worked hard to find their tribe of regular customers, is adapting.
“We were lucky because we’ve always enjoyed a good takeout business, to begin with – burgers and breakfast are easy enough to make to go through curbside pick up or delivery,” TK explained.
Transitioning their hours to reflect more open nights than mornings, other than weekends, was one of the first priorities.
“It’s definitely required a pivot, but it’s manageable, and now we’re going to be pivoting again with outdoor dining, which meant going out and buying tables and chairs,” Megan shared.
Outdoor dining will begin at B&B Dockside began just before Memorial Day.
The temptation to simply close and try and weather the storm with no service was present, but TK and Megan opted to push through and make the necessary changes in order to provide a sense of normality for their regulars and their staff.
“People have been really thankful. At first we remained open purely for the hope and the morality of it, but people have really started to show their appreciation. They know we’re trying to help support them, so they’re supporting us in return, so we’re really glad we stayed open,” TK explained.
“And we want to keep our staff working and always be moving forward with them,” Megan added.
The key, they believe, is remaining fluid.
“We are dipping our toes constantly, testing the waters, and we don’t want to over-commit to any one solution because you never know what’s going to work long term.”
Be sure to call B&B Dockside to get some tasty takeout or check on outdoor seating availability – breakfast on the water always sounds divine, but especially now when enjoying something delicious can doubly help to sustain local people and their dreams.