NORTH SMITHFIELD — When Ron Carter was an older teen-ager back in the late 1970s, he often would make the short trek from his home with his dad, Fred, to Lindy's Tavern in Forestdale just to enjoy a few beers and shoot some pool with pals.
It was quite the town hangout back then, a place where folks would go to imbibe, order a sandwich or watch the Red Sox or Bruins on the tiny TV above the bar; this was back when Boston's WSBK Ch. 38 televised the B's.
“A woman named Lynn Richer eventually sold it in, like, the late '80s, then someone else bought it and named it Ryan's; not long after, that owner sold it, and it remained empty for about four years,” reminisced Carter, 52, on Friday afternoon. “I don't know why they sold it; maybe they couldn't make a go of it.
“I actually bought a L'il General convenience store in town about 15 years ago, and owned it for 10, but then sold it,” he continued. “After that, I was driving trucks, delivering heavy equipment to Boston, the Cape, Connecticut. I remember driving by this place when it was empty and thinking, 'Man, I wish it was open again!'
“All of us, we grew up here. The guys I went to (North Smithfield) high school with, we all came. Everybody's fathers hung out here when we were little, and – when we came of age – we did, too. I thought it was a rite of passage when the drinking age was 18 … I was really bummed out we didn't have it anymore. It was such a neat little place.”
Carter finally got the itch to do something “crazy” in January 2008. He wanted the old Lindy's back, so he approached a friend, Jim Carrey of Carrey's Construction Co. of North Smithfield. He explained to him his plan, and Carrey bought the building with the proviso Carter lease it from him.
There's no way he would call it “Ron's Tavern,” he indicated, because it was always “Lindy's,” and “Lindy's” it would remain. He opened on May 1, 2008.
Carter described the first year as “brutal,” as patrons were few and far between. Slowly, however, business picked up. Nowadays, Lindy's Tavern is perhaps one of the most sought-after pubs and seafood eateries in northern Rhode Island.
“I didn't know if it was going to work; the first year or so was tough, as it wasn't all that busy,” Carter mentioned at about 4 p.m., Friday, as his smallish place began to fill.
“I think a lot of people thought of it as just another bar, but it wasn't. This is a tavern with a lot of terrific food.
“Now we have families come in here, and they bring their kids with them,” he added. “I remember the first time a couple brought in a little one, and we just had chairs for adults. I never thought I'd have to go out and buy a booster seat when I first opened, but that's just what happened.”
The first thing you notice when you walk through either the front or side door is the ambiance. It's both quaint and homey, and your mind can't help but drift back when songs such as The Spinners' “Backstabbers” emanates from the newfangled juke box.
“It's hooked up to the Internet, so all people have to do is type in the song they want to hear; the box will download it, then play it,” Carter smiled. “It reminds me of when I was in junior high and high school.”
On one pillar hangs a corkboard where customers are encouraged to post business cards and do a little advertising.
“That's so they can do more business, but we'll promote any event to help out – fundraisers, church bazaars, summer picnics, you-name-it,” Carter said. “We get a mixed crowd in here. We have at least 25-30 of the old regulars, including Charlie MacDonald. I have a photo hanging on the wall (by the front door) of Charlie and his teammates when they played football for the 1947 Slatersville Red Raiders.”
He then pointed at the left side of the bar, and there MacDonald sat, drinking a draft and laughing with an old friend.
“He was more than happy when I re-opened,” Carter grinned. “Now we also get a lot of newcomers, unfamiliar faces, in here. We actually have three gals who live in Narragansett, and they drive up once a week for the seafood. We've had people from Milford, Westwood, even Connecticut.
“We always ask the new folks who come in how they heard about us, and, turns out, they say a friend of a friend of a friend told them, 'Go check it out!'” he added. “Last Saturday night, I had a couple from Johnston. You know what else I discovered? People come up from Florida to visit relatives or friends, and they come here for the seafood. That makes me feel great.”
Despite having eight employees, Carter maintained his business now is “in the black.
“Even though the economy was and is still bad, we're holding our own,” he said. “Patrons tell me they feel comfortable here, that it's like home and that the people are friendly. They also say the food's delicious.”
Therein lies the reason for Lindy's success. Carter sells his seafood, everything from steamers to scallops to whole friend clams to the basic fish and chips, seven days a week. He said the fish is fresh haddock purchased from Wilfrid's Seafood in Woonsocket, but it goes beyond that, too.
Dinner specials are on stage every night. On Mondays, patrons may enjoy pasta and meatballs, all you can eat, for $6.99 (while Monday Night Football viewers may choose chicken wings at a quarter each); Tuesdays feature fish and chips, fried or baked scallops, baked haddock, chicken or eggplant parmesan, steak tips or Black Diamond steak for $10.99 (it includes choices of soup or salad; French fries, mashed potatoes or rice pilaf; or the vegetable of the day or penne or linguine, not to mention coffee and dessert).
As for “Wacky Wednesdays,” patrons may partake in a scallop or clam plate (with fries and cole slaw) for $11.99, but may choose to have half-plates of the former and ribs for a mere dollar more.
On Thursdays and Saturdays, Carter delivers a prime rib special, a 12-ounce portion of beef with potato and vegetable, for $11.99; while Fridays belong to fish of any kind – steamers, mussels, fried clams, etc.
“We've got everything from wieners to wings, and eight-ounce burgers you can build your own way (usually at 50 cents per garnish, excepting bacon, which is $1),” he noted. “One of the best sellers is our 'Lindy's BBQ Burger,' which comes with barbeque sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese and sauteed onions, and fries and a deli pickle, for $6.59
“Our steak sandwich is also big,” he continued. “It's eight ounces of choice prime rib, and it's only $7.99. The turkey and corned beef sandwiches we make right here; we cook it and slice it ourselves. You can have any sandwich you want, as a club, in a wrap, or on marble bread, light, white, wheat, rye or bulkie roll.”
Lobster and clam rolls are offered at market price.
In addition, Lindy's has a bevy of salads and appetizers to excite the pallet. The more extravagant appetizers include boneless buffalo wings (served with celery, carrots and blue cheese dressing, $7.99); fried calamari ($6.99); steamers (market price); clam cakes (six at $3.29, 12 for $5.99); and jalapeno poppers (six for $5.99).
Then there's the Friday and Saturday night entertainment opportunities (9 p.m.-12:30 a.m.). Carter revolves about six or seven bands in every week, among them the Violin River Quartet of East Providence (a Grateful Dead tribute band); and guitarists/soloists Steve Malec of Burrillville and Jay Parker of Scituate.
“They're both very talented individuals,” he said. “On occasion, I'll have them come in and play together. It's mostly a mix of rock, pop and oldies. On Wednesday nights, we have karaoke. It's taken a while for this to get going, but it's been worth the wait.”
As he looked out his nearly-filled tavern at about 4:30 p.m., someone asked Carter if he could have imagine this sight two short years ago.
“Nope,” he replied simply. “We were struggling. A lot of people told me they didn't think it was going to work, and I had my doubts, too. It's been gradual, and it took a year before we saw even a little bit of life in here. But it's here now, and I'm thrilled by it.”
Lindy's Tavern is located at 82 School St. in Forestdale, and is open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m., and Sunday, noon-1 a.m. To order take-out, or for more information, call (401) 356-1966.