Michelle Hafers is in her third year of owning and operating Marley’s on the Beach, the sprawling indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar next to Iggy’s in Warwick’s Oakland Beach.
The property has had a number of tenants over the years, and Michelle has been determined to make it work…so determined that she called upon Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” for help. The popular show cast comes in to establishments and shakes things up a bit, offering suggestions to improve the operations. Michelle subjected herself to the scrutiny and took many of the recommendations. A special viewing party of Marley’s on “Bar Rescue” will be held at Marley’s on Sept. 15 when the show airs.
Hafers worked her way up the ladder at Fidelity, beginning as a secretary and rising to head technician.
“I have a strong need to succeed,” she said, “so when my husband suggested we go into the restaurant business, I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’ Well it’s hard. Long hours, problems popping up when you least expect it. I was frustrated after the first year, but decided to stick with it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Michelle describes the menu as “upscale pub food,” with everything from burgers and nachos to fried clams, swordfish kabobs and lobster. Much of the fish is at market price. The menu varies with the market, as Michelle strives to keep prices reasonable and the seafood fresh.
On our first visit, Joyce had the fish macaroni and cheese, with chunks of shrimp, lobster and fish in a huge bowl for $12.99. A huge portion of fish and chips is $10.99. Jessica, our waitress, suggested I try the sweet potato fries, along with their delicious cole slaw – And it was a good suggestion.
In the spirit of sharing, Joyce stole half of my huge order of tender fried clams. The chef cooks them with a crispy coating, which I had never had before but loved.
A signboard at the door lists a number of specials. On another occasion, we were attracted to the $9.99 special of a stuffie, three coconut shrimp and two clams casino. Fresh mussels were the big seller that day, including a pound of the steamed morsels for $9.99.
On our trips to the Caribbean, we enjoy a variety of rum drinks and then never drink rum again at home. Marley’s brought back that wonderful indulgence, with a variety of specialty drinks, reasonably priced at $6, with the familiar flavors and names of the popular island concoctions, like “Island Hopper” and “Sea Turtle.” Frozen drinks, like the Black Widow and Banana Split, are $7. They also do a wicked Fish Bowl, which we had tried in St. Thomas. Two straws, a fish bowl and a drink for two can be sipped slowly as you sit outside on the beach and watch one of the most beautiful sunsets you will see anywhere in Rhode Island. Many groups plan parties on the beach around the Tiki bar and barbeque pits.
Oakland Beach has become a mecca for great seafood in Rhode Island, and Marley’s is the perfect spot to enjoy the best in an informal setting, whether at the bar or one of the 300-plus seats in the large dining room or beautiful outdoors setting. And yes, they have heat in the winter, a question Michelle often gets asked.
“We do close in January and February, but we are available for catering and parties, and we do a lot of fundraisers,” Hafers said. “We raised over $40,000 in our last four fundraisers. I’m all about giving back to the community.”
Marley’s is open seven days a week, from 23 noon until 10 p.m. and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s karaoke on Tuesday nights. The weekends liven up with bands and a party atmosphere on the beach.
Marley’s is located at 885 Oakland Beach Ave. in Warwick, with plenty of free parking in the area. For more information call 736-0400.
“As we always say, Michelle proudly stated, “Summer never ends at Marley’s on the Beach.”