Newport, Rhode Island
Gilded Age mansions, scenic cliff walks, oyster shacks, and a serious sailing scene make Newport, Rhode Island an ideal seaside escape. It’s proximity to New York (a quick 3.5 hour drive) and Boston (a mere 1.5 hours) is a plus. The city draws huge crowds in the summer, but has its own quiet charm in the winter months, too. No matter what time of year you choose to visit, there are enough seafood-centric restaurants and activities (both indoor and outdoor) in this old-world stronghold to satisfy everyone. No boat shoes or cable knit sweaters required.
The Lawn590 Ocean Ave., Rams Head | 401.849.3800
On any evening of the week, have a drink reclining in an Adirondack chair overlooking the East Bay at Castle Hill Inn’s outdoor restaurant. It opens for the summer each year and along with drinks, serves up delicious New England fare, which is some of the best around.
Perro Salado19 Charles St., Downtown | 401.619.4777
If you’re driving in on a Friday night, make this husband-and-wife helmed restaurant your first stop. Located in the northern part of town, where most restaurants are pretty tired/run-of-the-mill, this casual Mexican restaurant is the exception. Andi makes the cocktails (her cilantro-jalapeno martini is insane) while Dan heads up the kitchen, bringing his own brand of upscale Mexican to Newport. Expect perfectly battered fish tacos, a Mexican-infused kale salad, and avocado fries, which probably shouldn’t be missed.
Newport Creamery181 Bellevue Ave., Bellevue | 401.846.6332
Belly up to the circular bar at this soda fountain off Bellevue Ave for classic shakes (specifically, the “Awful Awful”), sundaes, and cones, all with flavors ranging from black raspberry to maple walnut and crazy vanilla (vanilla flavor, crazy colors). Newport Creamery began by delivering local milk to residents in the ’30s. They then opened a “milk bar” on Main Road, a little north, but we head to this location for a quick, sweet, pit stop in town.
White Horse Tavern26 Marlborough St., Downtown | 401.849.3600
The tavern dates back to 1673, when it was a colonial watering hole, and it looks it with patriotic flag curtains, deep fireplaces, and woodsy interiors. The food is of the delicious New England variety: Chef Rich Silvia sources local Rhode Island fish, meat, and vegetables to make traditional dishes like clam chowder, fish cakes, lobster macaroni & cheese, and clam boils. There’s a formal dining room upstairs, or stay downstairs and grab a snack and drink at the bar. There’s also a brunch menu on Sundays with local specialties like lobster stuffed omelettes and eggs benedict.
The Mooring1 Sayers Wharf, Newport Wharf | 401.846.2260
Head to this big, bustling Newport Wharf restaurant for lunch before visiting the museum and library just a few blocks away. It’s a no-frills and family-friendly affair during the day (lots of kids coloring on placemats), but the casual food is super tasty. In fact, it’s perfect waterside lunch fare, from the fresh and meaty Mexican white shrimp to the delicious Cajun Redfish Wrap. The real standout, though, is their Native Scallop Chowder, brightened up with bits of dill. Be sure to snag a table out on the patio overlooking Narragansett Bay.
The Franklin Spa229 Spring St., Downtown | 401.847.3540
This classic neighborhood diner serves up gargantuan portions and bottomless cups of coffee for breakfast, brunch, and lunch every day starting at 6am. It’s nothing fancy, and the décor is expectedly kitschy with red vinyl booths, stools, and a long formica counter, but it’s worth making a stop for breakfast. You will likely brave a line of tourists and locals waiting for Blueberry stuffed French Toast or Eggs Benedict with lobster.
Flo’s Clam Shack4 Wave Ave., Middletown | 401.847.8141
A visit to a Rhode Island seaside town would be incomplete without a clam shack stop, and if you’re only making one, go for Flo’s with its picnic tables and fishermen’s tchotchkes hanging from the ceilings. Open since 1936—when it first introduced New England to the fried clam—it’s now a major, two-floor operation overlooking Easton Beach. Besides fried seafood, they’re known for their chowder. Bring cash.
Matunuck Oyster Bar629 Succotash Rd., South Kingstown | 401.783.4202
Grow, harvest, serve is the motto of this seafood restaurant just ten minutes from Newport and owned by actual oysterman Perry Raso. This is the freshest fish that you can eat, all sourced from adjacent Potter Pond with its shellfish beds and accompanying organic farm—so close, you can see it from the restaurant. Owner Perry is at the forefront of sustainable aquaculture (he has his own Ted Talk on the subject) with a menu that features a combination of wild-caught and farm-raised to reflect it. Start with a sampling of oysters from the raw bar, dive into tuna tartar tacos and scallop ceviche, and finish with the lobster and Alaskan king crab. Aim to be seated just before sunset and enjoy the view.
Fluke41 Bowens Wharf, Newport | 401.849.7778
Fluke is on the more refined and pricey end of the dining experiences to be had in Newport, but worth it for a special occasion. Aside from the many fresh seafood options (try the fluke, obviously) there are plenty of inventive vegetable dishes like the fava bean farrotto and pea shoot salad, all made with local ingredients. Owners and best friends Geremie and Jeff have built a stellar booze list of artisan wines and cold-pressed juice cocktails that you won't find anywhere else in town.
Meg’s Aussie Milk Bar111 Bellevue Ave., Newport | 401.619.4811
Megs’ Aussie Milk Bar is the product of Newport native Meg marrying Aussie Haydn, and together bringing a slice of the down under food culture back to Rhode Island. Milk bars are to Australia what diners are to America, specializing in tasty breakfast options, snacks, and milkshakes. Locals love the flaky hand pies, anzac cookies, and fresh smoothies. Australians take their coffee seriously and Meg's is no exception, there is an extensive coffee menu and all the milk used comes from the pasture-raised cattle on nearby Blackbird farm. (Americans take note: a long black is Aussie speak for an americano.)
The Black Pearl1 Bannister's Wharf, Newport | 401.846.5264
The Black Pearl is a historic Newport institution with three dining options for every occasion. Eat outside on the waterfront patio, people watch and order the clam chowder, it’s hands-down the best in town. Below deck, the Commodore’s Room is the more classic option with wood-paneled walls and a seafood-centric menu. The Tavern is loud, fun and more of a sport’s bar. Whichever option you choose, both the atmosphere and the food are guaranteed to be good.
Mission29 Marlborough St., Newport | 401.619.5560
We’ve been told multiple times that this is hands-down the best burger to be had in Rhode Island. Mission is a low-key, family friendly burger and falafel spot that’s always full. The food sounds simple but the flavors are loud in the best way-be sure to get their signature "mission" sauce and homemade pickles with your burger. Meat options aside, Mission makes excellent falafel served in a warm pita with preserved lemon and all the traditional sides. In the summer try their popsicles, made in-house with locally grown fruit. Arrive early, seats are limited but the line moves quickly.
Clarke Cooke House1 Bannister's Wharf, Newport | 401.849.2900
This Bannister Wharf eatery is the quintessential Newport dining experience. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, the summer sushi is a must order (even when it's not on the menu). Tom Gidley, fresh off a stint in The French Laundry kitchen, has been the Clarke Cooke House Executive Chef for twenty years and knows what the locals love to eat. After dinner, wander upstairs to the candlelit sky bar, after eleven the tables are pushed to the side and the dancing starts.