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Insiders’ Guide to Dining in Newport

Regulars at the Newport Jazz Festival (including staff, artists, media and sponsors) recommend their favorite restaurants in the area

Flo's Clam Shack in Newport, RI
Fluke Wine Bar in Newport, RI

We asked several Newport Jazz Festival regulars (staff, artists, media, sponsors, et al.) to recommend their favorite places to eat while in town for the festival. We hope you enjoy their selections.

– Lee Mergner, JazzTimes

Click here for more Newport Jazz Festival coverage from JazzTimes.

Anthony’s Seafood
963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown (401-846-9620)

If you’re looking for local seafood in a casual setting Anthony’s Seafood is a great choice. Anthony’s is also a fish market so the food is always fresh. They feature fried, grilled and boiled seafood including lobsters and shellfish in a casual setting. Open for lunch and dinner daily. For those craving something sweet after your meal, stop by Frosty Freeze just up the road near the intersection of East Main Rd and Aquidneck Ave. (Tim Tobin, Newport Jazz Festival)

Lobster rolls, steamers and stuffed quahogs are plentiful in Newport. Just about every seafood restaurant in the area (read: just about every restaurant in the area) lays claim to offering the finest. So, the fact that I’m recommending Anthony’s Seafood may not seem like a left-of-center choice amongst the local restaurant options. I will mix it up by insisting that instead of a lobster roll, you try the Portuguese fish chowder: a spicy seafood melange complete with chouriço. (Bennett Jackson, Newport Festivals Foundation)

Aquidneck Lobster Co. & Bar
31 Bowen’s Wharf (401-629-2890)

Unless you have friends or family who are locals, this is the closest you can get in Newport to getting a lobster straight from the ocean and on to your plate. The restaurant in attached to the fishing boat dock. I’ve only eaten at the bar area, which is a fun atmosphere, but loud and a bit chaotic. However, any inconveniences this caused was always off-set by how fresh the seafood was, not to mention how generously portioned! They recently opened a restaurant bar in the same location, which I have yet to go to, but it’s presumably quieter and more organized. A bonus is that they also have a seafood market where you can buy lobsters which they will put on ice for you if are traveling. (Melanie Nanez, Newport Jazz Festival)

The Bar at The Chanler
117 Memorial Boulevard (401-847-1300)

Located in a historic home turned inn on Newport’s famous Cliff Walk, The Bar at The Chanler evokes the romance of Newport’s gilded past. This intimate spot is perfect for post festival cocktails at sunset. (Brandy Wood, WBGO)

Boru Noodle Bar
36 Broadway (401-848-4200)

Noodle bars may be a dime a dozen in Manhattan but this is Newport’s only slurp house featuring delicious bowls of soup loaded with pork, fish or vegetables in constantly changing combinations. Using seasonal, local ingredients like clams and corn, chefs Casey Shea and Steve Lucier create made-to-order delights behind a neat bar. Boru isn’t a traditional sit-down restaurant. You order at the bar, there are a few tables and bar stools, it’s BYOB. The enthusiastic staff will sometimes volunteer information such as, “I grew that mizuna you’re eating in my garden and picked it this morning.” The unique (for Newport) concept has been so successful in its first year that Boru is now expanding into a nearby space. (Casey Farley, freelance writer)

Brick Alley Pub
140 Thames St. (401-849-6334)

My friends and family make a tradition of visiting the Brick Alley Pub at least once a year. The atmosphere is casual, the food is reasonably priced and it’s a great place to bring groups. We love the nachos. There’s plenty for everyone! (Robin Morse, JazzTimes)

351 Thames St., Forty 1 North Marina Resort (401-847-5400)

The Christies of my youth has been replaced with a quirky, retro place. The location is great and the décor is something that has to be experienced. Make sure you sit in a swinging chair! Christies is a light, fun place with great drinks and a traditional New England menu. (Robin Morse, JazzTimes)

Flo’s Clam Shack
4 Wave Ave., Middletown (401-847-8141)

Flo’s will give you a feel for the no-frills beach town atmosphere that you find up and down the New England coastline, rather than the posh resort atmosphere that dominates much of downtown Newport. Located on the Newport-Middletown border, steps from First Beach, Flo’s has been serving up fresh seafood since the 1930s. It features a takeout and order window, outdoor seating on the deck and a homey raw bar upstairs. (Ken Franckling, writer/photographer)

A favorite of WBGO and festival staff, Flo’s Clam Shack is distinctly New England, and distinctly funky. Steps from Newport’s Easton (“First”) Beach, the vibe is relaxed and the deep fryer is popping. There’s a Raw Bar and the ubiquitous lobster roll. Head upstairs to the deck for a view of the water as you enjoy your meal. (Brandy Wood, WBGO)

Fluke Wine Bar & Kitchen
41 Bowens Wharf (401-849-7778)

Everyone in town for the weekend should make a stop at Fluke. Whether it’s for some of the most creative seafood dishes in Newport, a glass of wine or one of their famous “Fluke Sunsets”—visually stunning and also quite tasty—Jeff & Geremie are the most gracious hosts on the island and the view spans both the Newport & Narragansett Harbor. Plus, they are hosting Mark Whitfield on 8/1 for a jazz breakfast (9AM – 11AM) and then again late night from 11PM – 1AM. (Matthew K. Webster, North Coast Brewing Company)

The Franklin Spa
229 Spring St. (401-847-3540)

A local favorite where the line can be out the door on the weekends in the summer, but the satisfying breakfasts are well worth the wait. Rocky Botelho, owner and chef, serves up top-notch traditional fare and savory daily specials. “The Brenton Reef Benedict” is a house fave-two poached eggs over lobster meat on a bed of steamed spinach and a grilled tomato on a bolo roll…or if you like it spicy, “The Portuguese Sailor,” grilled chourico and egg with melted cheese will guarantee that you will be back for more. (Lisa Malaguti, JazzTimes)

La Forge Casino Restaurant
186 Bellevue Ave. (401-847-0418)

Most everyone who’s been to Newport knows about La Forge, which is located at the entrance of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I think it has the best lobster and lobster salad in Newport. I have never had a bad lobster experience there. For my wife, Bari, it’s “a must.” (Danny Melnick, Newport Jazz Festival)

Mama Luisa’s
673 Thames St. (401-848-5257)

This family-run Italian restaurant is housed in a small row house on Lower Thames Street. It’s relatively quiet, but jovial atmosphere in cozy rooms downstairs and upstairs is a welcome respite from some of Newport’s larger establishments. Serving fresh pasta with local ingredients, this restaurant has never disappointed my family or the myriad of people I have brought here. Reservations a must. (Deborah Ross, Newport Festivals Foundation)

Matunuck Oyster Bar
629 Succotash Rd., South Kingstown (401-783-4292)

On the way to or from Newport, Matunuck Oyster Bar is just off of Route 1 and well worth the stop. The restaurant’s motto is “from pond to plate.” The oysters are grown in nearby Potter Pond and are sold to restaurants all over little Rhody as well as in farmers’ markets. At the restaurant, grab a waterside table and prepare to be wowed. Beyond the view, the food is sensational. There’s a raw bar, fish dishes, clams and lobster in addition to the oysters. I’m stuck on the oyster po boy served on a toasted baguette. It’s as good as any I’ve had in New Orleans. Salads are fresh and delicious as the restaurant farms nearly everything on the menu. Owner Perry Raso even does free tours of Potter Pond Estuary. (Casey Farley, freelance writer)

29 Marlborough St. (401-619-5560)

Hamburgers, hot dogs and, for the vegetarians, falafel, French fries and a nice selection of craft beers. That’s the entire menu at the funky Mission, but don’t fret the limited offerings. It’s the quality that counts. The beef is grass fed and ground in-house, hot dogs are handmade, thick cut fries are sprinkled with sea salt. Hamburgers come laden with “Mission Sauce,” aioli with ketchup, cornichons, capers, herbs and brandy. Mission is casual, you order at the counter and then sit at community tables while the food is cooked to order. The wait is worth it. (Casey Farley, freelance writer)

156 Broadway (401-847-4971)

A must stop for foodies and beer geeks alike, Norey’s has been a local & tourist favorite since 2000. While they no longer serve breakfast, chef/owner Tyler Cullen has revolutionized the culinary scene in Newport and helped expand what he likes to call the “Craft Beer Revolution.” Definitely worth a trip down Broadway. (Matthew K. Webster, North Coast Brewing Company)

Pasta Beach
138 Bellevue Ave. (410-847-2222)

My first encounter with Pasta Beach was with a great group of Jazz Festival regulars a few years ago, but I was a bit hesitant because of the name: I live at the beach, so it sounded a bit too cute. But my friends insisted it was great and they were right—it’s amazing! Terrific pasta or fish, nice service, cute restaurant and big portions. Be sure and get your reservations ahead of time. (p.s. Last year they sat a very large table for Mr. Woody Allen next to us—my guess is he knows good food. (Lisa Hilton, pianist/composer)

Located right around the corner from the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where the Newport Jazz Festival’s Friday night concert is held, Pasta Beach offers convenience, conviviality and very good Italian fare with creative combinations. It’s rather small, so make a reservation to ensure a table inside or on its front deck. (Ken Franckling, writer/photographer)

Perro Salado
19 Charles St. (401-619-4777)

The owners call their menu “inspired Mexican.” I just love it—from drinks to appetizers to the main event. It’s in a historic 18th-century naval officer’s home near Washington Square. You can’t go wrong here. (Danny Melnick, Newport Jazz Festival)

Salvation Cafe
140 Broadway (401-285-7738)

When you walk into a place whose motto reads, “Keeping Newport weird since 1993,” you know you’re not at The 99. Salvation Cafe brings the kitsch from the kitchen and art deco sensibilities, with a musical backdrop that might give you a side dish of Etta James or surf hits. Eat inside or outside by the tiki bar. Owner Sue Lamond opened at a time when Newport’s Broadway was desolate and a little creepy. Then the area evolved into a scene, and her cafe has anchored it. Of course, none of this matters if the food stinks. So, good news is the food matches the fun Man Ray vibe … some of the best calamari east of Providence’s Federal Hill, a generous heap of pad Thai and a teriyaki salmon accompanied by fried spinach. Hey, it’s spinach. Must be good for you. Lamond opened 22 years ago with artwork and furnishings she found at a nearby Salvation Army thrift store (hence, the name). Lamond grew up next door in Middletown and has long been plugged in to the Newport arts scene. So come in feeling weird or boring. But the real weirdos are the ones who never come back. (Jim Gillis, Newport Daily News)

30 Memorial Boulevard West (401-849-6312)

One of my favorite Newport Jazz traditions is to start Friday evening off at Sardella’s with my family. If you’re looking for a filling and delicious Italian dinner, you won’t leave here hungry. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and each room in the restaurant brings a little bit of Italy to New England. Besides the chicken parm, the best thing about Sardella’s is that it’s only a block away from the Tennis Hall of Fame so you can walk right over to the music! (Nora Hogan, Newport Jazz Festival)

Scales & Shells
527 Thames St. (401-846-3474)

As far as I’m concerned, a trip to Newport is not complete without at least one visit to Scales & Shells—unless for some reason you don’t like fish or seafood, because that’s all they have. Everything is always fresh, beautifully seasoned, and meticulously prepared—as you can see for yourself, because the kitchen is out in the open, near the entrance. Side dishes and desserts are also first-rate. They don’t take reservations, and it’s usually crowded, so you should get there early or be prepared for a long wait. (There’s also a smaller upstairs room that does take reservations but has a limited menu.) Until recently they didn’t take credit cards, but now they take MasterCard, Visa and Discover. A meal there will not be cheap, but it will be worth the price. (Peter Keepnews, jazz writer)

Scales & Shells has some of the most delicious lobster, crab and seafood that I’ve had. Very fresh and really wonderfully prepared. The one downside is that the lines can be quite long as they don’t take reservations… But if you have the time and are in the company of some good friends you don’t mind chatting with while you wait then it’s a great choice. It’s relaxed and not a super formal atmosphere but the prices are higher than some of the other restaurants such as Flo’s. When I went we discovered a few tables of folks we knew from the festival and it was a great hang as we took our time, ate, drank talked and laughed together without being rushed by the wait staff at all. (Oran Etkin, jazz artist)

Thames Street Kitchen (TSK)
509 Thames St. (401-846-9100)

Twin sisters and their husband chefs run this small but seriously refined spot at the end of Thames Street. The menu is limited to four appetizers, entrees and even fewer desserts each night. Each plate is an unexpected delicacy featuring local ingredients from places like Simmons Farm in Middletown. Currently squash blossoms come with olive powder and smoked tomato aioli or there is spicy steak tartar. Seafood and chicken entrees are always available and vegetarians can get a veggie plate, just ask when making reservations, which are essential. TSK is BYOB with a $3 corkage fee per person. Fifth Ward Liquor is a few doors down Thames Street. (Casey Farley, freelance writer)

The White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough St. at Farewell (401-849-3600)

The White Horse Tavern is a must-stop, being that it’s one of the oldest taverns in the land, built in 1673. It was a regular haunt for Colonists, British soldiers, Hessian mercenaries, pirates, sailors, founding fathers and all manner of early American folk, according to its website, and more recently, all manner of Newport Jazz and Folk attendees. It’s also been voted best restaurant and best wine list in Newport. But if you can’t stomach the dinner bill, pop in for a pint. There’s a cool vibe in this old haunt. (Jason Olaine, Jazz at Lincoln Center)


Originally Published