by Kezia Bacon

Picnic Lunchbreak is a weekly column co-sponsored by Edible South Shore & South Coast and the North and South Rivers Watershed Association. Its purpose: pairing restaurant takeout options with beautiful outdoor places, to encourage al fresco dining, even in these blustery days of March!

Many area nature preserves offer picnic tables with gorgeous views. Need a break from your routine this week? Place an order, grab your food, and meet a friend for a refreshing dining experience. Not only will it bring some light to the grey days of the pandemic, it will demonstrate your support of local restaurants during this challenging time!

The day I researched this article was sunny and unseasonably warm. As I drove to the restaurant to pick up my food, and then to the picnic spot I’d selected in advance, I observed people outdoors everywhere — strolling, sitting on benches, enjoying a meal or a coffee outside. So it wasn’t a total surprise when I arrived at Kingston’s Sampson Park and discovered a small group already enjoying their lunch at my intended spot, a picnic table that overlooks the Jones River. I smiled and kept driving. Fortunately, I had a back-up plan.

And so that’s how I ended up at Gray’s Beach Park, another inviting locale with a water view. This multi-purpose town-owned property features Kingston’s only public beach. Its 6.5 acres are also home to a broad grassy field, basketball and tennis courts, a fenced-in playground, and a 0.25-mile paved walking loop. In addition, there’s a short boardwalk at the edge of a sandy beach, plus several benches and picnic tables, some with overhangs to provide shade. Most of the sitting areas offer views of Kingston Bay and Plymouth Beach. It’s a terrific spot! Parking stickers are required from April to October, but if you head over there before the end of this month, you can park for free!

On the way, make a stop at the West End Grill, located in the Summer Hill Plaza on Route 3A, about 3 miles away. Like its sister location in Randolph, this spot boasts an extensive menu. Lunch options include paninis and “signature sandwiches,” as well as five different “Lunchbreak” entrees such as steak tips, chicken caprese, and stuffed cod. The full menu, available throughout the day, adds an impressive array of options, including pizza, salads, soups, and burgers, plus fish, steak and pasta entrees, and even more sandwiches!

I opted for the “signature” Fish Sandwich — golden-fried scrod on a toasted roll with lettuce and tomato and a separate to-go cup of tartar sauce. It came with my choice of sides — French fries, cole slaw, pasta salad, or rice pilaf — but wanting to try the sweet potato fries, I upgraded for an additional $1.99. I also added a side of slaw. As usual with these Picnic Lunchbreaks, the portions were quite large.

Enjoying the sunshine, the warm weather, and the ocean view, I mused at how this variation on fish & chips was an apt selection for my beachfront lunch. The seagulls agreed. Was it the scent of the fried fish? Do they recognize takeout containers? As I unpacked my picnic, I noticed that a small curious flock had gathered around me. At heart, I was willing to share, but I’ve learned that it’s not in the birds’ best interest if I do so. I refrained, and they departed shortly thereafter.

West End Grill took a little break during the pandemic, but it is now open again for in-house dining. Being relatively large in size, it provides a comfortable socially-distanced experience. The restaurant also offers take out and curbside pickup. You can view the full menu online. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.

West End Grill
160 Summer Street, Kingston
Hours: 11am-9pm daily, dine-in and takeout

Gray’s Beach Park
Grays Beach Road (off Howlands Lane), Kingston
Hours: dawn to dusk

North and South Rivers Watershed Association

Edible South Shore & South Coast