Life in Newport, Rhode Island, has always been shaped by the sea. It’s home to a US naval station, and a former site of the America’s Cup yachting race. Go for a day trip to gawk at its Gilded Age mansions, or take in the crashing waves pummeling the craggy shore along the 3½-mile Cliff Walk, or spend a weekend sauntering through its many museums and sights such as the nation’s oldest synagogue and the church where Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John F. Kennedy tied the knot. Or get away from the downtown crowds altogether at the island’s beautiful beaches or Sachuest Point’s oceanside nature trail. But whatever you do, be sure to punctuate your time with food from some of the best restaurants on the East Coast. Now that New England is coming back to life, it’s a fine time to indulge in Newport’s dreamy coastal culinary scene.
1. BAR ‘CINO
There’s something amusing about a pizza served on a slab with a pair of kitchen shears on the side. A familiar dish often sliced into eight portions suddenly becomes more exotic and interactive. At Newport Restaurant Group’s Bar ‘Cino (pronounced “chee-no”), led by chef Mariana Gonzalez-Trasvina, pepperoni seems passé; grilled pies are instead layered with ingredients such as just-harvested tomatoes, fontina, Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil, or decked out with prosciutto, fig, and arugula. The crackly thin crust is the perfect, barely-there canvas for highlighting the rich flavors of its toppings. Sit on the quaint cobblestone sidewalk patio or at the rambling bar, which stretches the full length of the dining room, and sip Italian-inspired cocktails topped off with aperol and prosecco. Cheers to eating pizza the authentic Italian way, no matter how you slice it.
Location: 22 Washington Square, Newport, 401-619-8201, barcino.com/newport
Make sure to try: Bruschetta with extra virgin olive oil, confit tomatoes, mozzarella, saba balsamic, and sea salt ($9), followed by the prosciutto and fig pizza ($21).
2. CARA AT THE CHANLER AT CLIFF WALK
This is Newport luxury at its finest. The oceanfront grounds might be straight out of The Great Gatsby. Gilded Age elegance starts at the boutique hotel’s front door, where overnight and dinner guests are sometimes greeted by staff by name. Book an evening reservation to sit by the windows and soak up sunset views of the famous Cliff Walk and Easton’s Beach, where surfers battle the waves no matter the season. For an extravagant feast, there’s a five- or even eight-course blind chef’s tasting with off-menu surprises, or settle in for more casual fare at The Café’s year-round covered outdoor terrace (still with waterfront views).
Location: 117 Memorial Boulevard, Newport, 401-847-2244, thechanler.com
Make sure to try: A pear martini ($19) is a must before cutting into a multi-course tasting meal at Cara. Menu offerings might include native seasonal vegetables, caviar, bluefin tuna, dry aged duck, lamb, and uni. At The Café, best bets are the burger with bacon, red onion marmalade, and ale house cheddar ($26), or the prawn and calamari cookpot with crisp toast ($35).
3. CASTLE HILL INN
Dining at Castle Hill Inn feels like eating while sailing on Narragansett Bay, the salty sea breeze adding extra brininess to bivalves and Rhode Island-caught seafood. Schooners skim by with crew members waving to bystanders who sip cocktails on Adirondack chairs set up on the rolling green lawn in front of the inn. Book a patio table or opt for the walk-up chair service, then wander over for a glance at the inn’s garden, where the kitchen team grows and harvests 30 different vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the menu. The dining room windows inside the Relais & Chateaux 1875 mansion and Forbes Travel Guide four-star restaurant also frame Newport’s best waterfront views.
Location: 590 Ocean Drive, Newport, 888-466-1355, castlehillinn.com
Make sure to try: Indoors, diners are treated to executive chef Lou Rossi’s multi-course pre-fixed menus ($92) with wine flights, while the outdoor lawn menu is more casual with clam chowder ($10), lobster rolls ($34.50), burgers ($20), and more. Ingredients include the finest local meats, seafood, and seasonal produce procured both from the on-site garden and local markets.
4. CLARKE COOKE HOUSE
Probably the most iconic of all Newport’s restaurants, this 18th-century dining landmark with America’s Cup sailing sophistication boasts five dining rooms and bars. It’s not a visit to the Cooke House without an order from the raw bar, where oyster varieties are listed by harvest location. Casual diners are best suited to the wharf-level Candy Store cafe and Summer Sushi bar, where there’s a more relaxed vibe and a menu that includes a lobster roll ($27), sandwiches, and salads. On your way up the stairs to the bistro, pick up a Dark and Stormy ($12) at the Midway Bar, then get elevated in more ways than one at the top level’s Sky Bar and open-air Summer Porch, with its elegant reservation-only, pink-and-white tablecloth service. Men are expected to wear jackets, collared shirts, slacks, and closed-toe shoes. For a party atmosphere, keep an eye open for the reopening of the downstairs Boom Boom Room, which is on hiatus.
Location: 26 Bannister’s Wharf, Newport, 401-849-2900, clarkecooke.com
Make sure to try: As luxe a raw bar spread as you can afford ($3.50 per oyster). Fried calamari ($15) — it’s Rhode Island’s official state appetizer after all — and any main course with lobster.
5. FLUKE NEWPORT
It’s more than just the namesake fish at Fluke; this Newport restaurant explains and promotes local and sustainable seafood species such as monkfish, flounder, black bass, scup, lobster, and more. The restaurant’s dining room sits on a second level, overlooking Bannister’s Wharf with distant sunset views of the harbor. Executive chef Eddie Montalvo turns the harvest of the sea into memorable meals, relying on his two decades of experience working in the kitchens of David Bouley, Laurent Gras, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Danny Meyer. He’s dedicated his craft to the Ocean State, where he sources from area farms and local commercial fishermen.
Location: 41 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, 401-849-7778, flukenewport.com
Make sure to try: Start with the creamy lobster bisque with pureed toasted pecans ($18), then follow with the seared Georges Bank scallops with local squid, black rice, and aioli ($44), or the lobster over a blend of saffron pasta and squid ink angel hair pasta ($40).
A Newport newcomer that opened during the pandemic adjacent to Hammetts Hotel, Giusto is freestyle Italian, which means that chef and Rhode Island native Kevin O’Donnell puts his personal twist on Italian classics. “Giusto’' means “quite right” in Italian, and the phrase fits a menu filled with new flavor experiences. O’Donnell taps into ingredients that are available locally from farms, fisheries, and food producers to create a whole other type of regional Italian cuisine that highlights Rhode Island-raised, harvested, and grown foods.
Location: 4 Commercial Wharf, Newport, 401-324-7400, giustonewport.com
Make sure to try: Ricotta frittelle for a snack that plays off a bite-size arancini but with a burst of ricotta, honey, and truffle inside ($7). Order several rounds of house-made pastas, such as bucatini ai frutti di mare with scallops, lobster, shrimp, summer squash, and spicy tomato ($32). Finish with scoops of house-made gelato in flavors like milk chocolate peanut butter fudge and espresso ($4).
7. HUMMING BIRD
Humming Bird owner and chef Dezna Bowen brings the flavors of her Jamaican homeland to this coastal New England destination by offering tongue-tingling options for three meals a day. Dishes range from an American-style breakfast menu of eggs and pancakes loaded up with tropical fruit to authentic homestyle Jamaican jerk and curry chicken dishes for lunch and dinner.
Location: 104 Broadway, Newport, 401-619-0032, hummingbirdnewport.com
Make sure to try: Crispy coconut shrimp ($15.79) to start, followed by spicy pepper-laced jerk chicken ($15.79), hearty curry chicken with carrots and potatoes ($15.79), tenderly braised oxtail in a rich gravy ($18.79), or whole steamed snapper ($35 for 2½ pounds). Occasional specials might include Jamaican mutton, slow-cooked until it’s falling off the bone. Pro tip: Add plantains to everything.
8. MIDTOWN OYSTER BAR
Raw bar towers and rosé all day. Midtown Oyster Bar specializes in the freshest bivalves from area waters, including Rhode Island, Cape Cod, and Maine. Seating options can match the mood: There’s the softly lit dining room; the second floor’s bright and airy flag room; the intimate raw bar; and the seasonal rooftop deck (plus two other decks). No matter where you eat, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Location: 345 Thames Street, Newport, 401-619-4100, midtownoyster.com
Make sure to try: As many Rhode Island oysters as you can slurp. Also try the tartare trio with ahi tuna, Norwegian salmon, and hamachi to start ($15), followed by the seared scallops with carrot fondue ($29), spicy lobster pasta ($30), or the warm butter-poached lobster roll ($28).
A burger may seem simple enough, but Mission doesn’t take the easy way out. The restaurant grinds its meat in-house (using locally raised beef as much as possible) for the freshest, tastiest patties and hot dogs. The burgers are spread with special “Mission sauce,” an aioli mixed with ketchup, cornichons, capers, herbs, and brandy. Mission also flips farm eggs for breakfast sandwiches in the morning, decked out with Taylor ham, bacon, or sausage. Order online or at the counter for takeout or dine in at this family-friendly fast casual spot. Guests can also nab notable craft brews and Nitro Bar coffee to go or to stay and sip.
Location: 58 Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown, 401-324-5811, missionnpt.com
Make sure to try: A house-ground cheeseburger ($9), which you can sometimes order with radish sprouts instead of lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, and Mission sauce, plus a side of hand-cut fries ($4) proves that simple food done extremely well can rival a five-star meal any day of the week.
10. NEWPORT LOBSTER SHACK
Bite into the city’s best lobster roll Thursdays through Mondays at this rustic shack and food truck on Long Wharf, Newport’s last working fish pier. The shack is supplied by the Newport Lobster Shack fishermen’s co-op, owned by locals who work in the industry. Guests can choose live lobsters, crabs, and conch at the market to bring home (they’ll steam lobsters on site) or sit at picnic tables and feast on the fruits of the sea while surrounded by working boats. It’s a place you can feel good about supporting the locals who put your meal on the table.
Location: 150 Long Wharf, Newport, 401-847-1700, newportlobstershack.com
Make sure to try: Get your claws on a lobster roll ($17-$26, though market prices fluctuate). Also try the lobster bites ($22), fried like nuggets (your kid’s first taste of the good life), steamed lobster dinners, fish and chips ($15), and more.
11. NEWPORT VINEYARDS
This Middletown winery and restaurant’s backdrop is its own 100-acre vineyard, where grapes grow through three seasons right outside the year-round tasting room’s doors. It also has its own brewery and lunch cafe, Taproot Brewing Co., where farm ingredients are used in the food and to flavor the brews. Executive chef Andy Teixeira leads the kitchen staff on gathering local ingredients for an ever-evolving New England menu that’s heavy on Rhode Island-raised meat and local seafood. Teixeira is known for his house-cured charcuterie served with his own pickles and grainy mustard. Each day, the on-premise bakeshop makes fresh bread, pretzels ($9; pair them with Taproot’s brews), pastries, and more. The 100 percent from-scratch menu pulls produce from the on-property garden as well as from local farms including Wishing Stone Farm.
Location: 909 East Main Road, Middletown, 401-848-5161, newportvineyards.com
Make sure to try: Cheese and charcuterie boards, dishes of local seafood paired with the vineyard’s own vegetables, and wine or brews from the tanks.
12. PERRO SALADO
Mexican comfort food makes itself right at home in this cozy 18th-century naval officer’s house turned restaurant with the nautical nickname Salty Dog. The former quarters are now tiny dining rooms with only a handful of tables, several fireplaces, and a galley-like bar. For dinner, start with the mountain of guacamole served with tortilla chips and warm tostones ($14), followed by the crisp fish tacos ($16) or butter-poached lobster quesadilla with local corn and crumbled cotija cheese ($24). Brunch is big around here with guests lining up before the doors open for eggs Benedict ($17) and excellent house-made margaritas (try the prickly pear or blood orange versions; $9.50) to wash it all down.
Location: 19 Charles Street, Newport, 401-619-4777, perrosalado.com
Make sure to try: The lobster Benedict ($17) or quesadilla ($24). Street tacos filled with chicken tinga, tamarind-braised beef short rib, pork carnitas, or veggies ($10 for two) are also a sure bet, served with a tequila flight or margaritas, of course.
13. STONEACRE BRASSERIE AND STONEACRE GARDEN
Stoneacre’s two separate dining options offer different vibes: rustic-chic French brasserie or family-friendly, outdoors-inside atmosphere inspired by the gardens of the Stoneacre Estate, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The brasserie boasts black-and-white beach pinup photographs from the ’50s, burgundy leather banquette seating, and mosaic tile, while the garden dining room is filled with live plants and opens up to a large outdoor patio with distant harbor views.
Make sure to try: Menus change daily based on seasonal ingredients from area farms and fishermen, but for brasserie brunch, choose any of the fancy toasts, the creamy quiche with local mushrooms, and dessert-like bread pudding french toast. At other meals, brasserie classics like steak frites ($32), mussels mariniere ($20), and the roast chicken ($28) bring a hint of Paris to the seaside city, while the garden puts an Asian spin on menu items like tuna poke tacos ($18) and bang bang crispy lobster with truffle sriracha aioli ($26).
14. THAMES STREET KITCHEN
A mirror to the left of the open kitchen lists New York strips and rib eyes in numbers stretching from 30 to 45. First glance may read like prices, but — holy cow! — that’s the weight in ounces of the steaks. Cut to be shared between two or more guests, the filets are butchered from full sides of beef delivered to Thames Street Kitchen’s sister restaurant, Mission, where the rest of the meat is ground into burgers. The steaks are served bone-in, nestled in crocks and topped with watercress, capers, and roasted shallots. The slightly charred edges give way to warm pink meat — just the way steak should be. Don’t let the beef steal the side dishes’ thunder; the terrific raviolo is a single round pasta treat that bursts with egg yolk, ricotta, and serrano ham ($10), and the toast, changing by season, could be piled with spring peas, ramps, or local funghi and a perfectly poached egg ($9). Indoor and some patio dining available.
Location: 509 Thames Street, Newport, 401-846-0400, tsknpt.com
Make sure to try: One of the Mission cuts ($2.50 per ounce) sized for two with bonito brown butter, roasted shallots, and watercress, and all the side dishes you can handle.
15. WHITE HORSE TAVERN
How about a side of spooky with your house-made charcuterie? Newport’s White Horse Tavern bills itself as the oldest operating restaurant in the country and the 10th oldest in the world. Built in 1652 as a home, the red Colonial with clapboard walls and gambrel roof was converted into a tavern in 1673. The notorious pirate William Mayes ran the place in the early 1700s; the innkeeper was known for bringing boozy booty back to Newport, as well as for serving strong drinks. Legend has it he and other spirits haunt the premises. The handsome property was restored by the Preservation Society of Newport County, and is currently owned by a local hospitality group.
Location: 26 Marlborough Street, Newport, 401-849-3600, whitehorsenewport.com
Make sure to try: Classic dishes like clear-broth Rhode Island-style chowder with local clams ($6-$9), buttery rich lobster mac and cheese ($26), beef Wellington with foie gras mousse ($46), prime flat-iron steak frites ($31), native seafood, and more.