Newport, Rhode Island’s Best Al Fresco Restaurants

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Newport, Rhode Island’s Best Al Fresco Restaurants

A breezy al fresco guide to the best restaurants and bars in Rhode Island’s City by the Sea.

Newport Vineyard’s patio dining area. / Photo by Annabelle Henderson

Wouldn’t you rather be near the beaches this summer, relishing the coastal breeze on an open-air waterfront patio while sipping an Aperol spritz? We would too, so you’ll find us exploring these delightful restaurants’ al fresco dining spaces and savoring local culinary delicacies until fall weather forces us back inside. Lucky for us (and you!), Newport—an easy 90-minute drive from Boston—and its surrounding communities are a wealth of plein-air dining options, from the bustling downtown harborfront to the rural Sakonnet River and across Narragansett Bay.

The area also has become known for far more than just fried clams and lobster rolls. Menus are replete with locally caught seafood and farm-raised produce (calamari is even the state’s official appetizer, so you know it’s gotta be good), as well as Rhode Island-crafted wines, beers, and spirits. Rest assured—your palate won’t be on vacation even if the skies are cloudy.

Downtown Newport is wonderfully walkable, so if you’re lodging downtown, stroll along the wharves to a waterfront table for lunch, then hop in an Uber to explore the rest of Aquidneck Island. (Yes, Newport is on an island.) If staying elsewhere, you can park at Mary Street or the Mooring restaurant parking lot, or take your chances with hourly street parking and pay via the Passport app. (Find more lodging ideas here.)

There’s plenty of time to slurp, sip, and savor your way to a mouthwatering summer in Newport—and nearby. Here are our top picks within the city and a bit beyond.

One of the Brenton Hotel’s three rooftop areas. / Courtesy photo

NEWPORT

If you score a room at the Brenton Hotel, Newport’s newest boutique hotel overlooking the harbor, order a Naked Topsides cocktail or local Whaler’s Brewing RISE APA from the chic Living Room restaurant, and take it to the roof. Three directions of water views are the perfect accompaniment for a chill sunset. Then devour the native mussels that are bathed in coconut curry white wine sauce, and order extra bread to soak it all up. If shellfish isn’t your thing, the grass-fed Brenton sliders, goat cheese and fig-glazed flatbread, and plant-based meatball are equally delicious for lunch or dinner. (Bonus: The Brenton is very dog-friendly.)

Giusto’s

Down the street, you’ll find that settling into the couches on Giusto’s waterside patio is like transporting yourself to Italy. (Bostonians may recognize chef and owner Kevin O’Donnell as cofounder of SRV in the South End, a four-time Best of Boston winner in the Italian category.) Amid the energy of a summer’s eve downtown, yet set just far enough back to be private, this space is at once invigorating and calming. As such, it’s really the most sublime spot for a cocktail and meal with those you cherish. Start with that famous fried calamari or heirloom tomato salad, both of which are in season right this minute. You really shouldn’t leave until you’ve savored the squid ink bucatini with frutti di mare, ’nduja spicy sausage, and zucchini, or gramigna with spicy pork ragu, carrots, and fava beans. An espresso martini may be all you need for dessert, but order the authentic pineapple crostata anyway—because we never regret dessert.

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The small dishes at Cabana include seared sesame tuna and a local cheese trio plate./ Photo by Annie Sherman

Cabana

Over on Broadway, you’ll find a slew of eateries with tables unfurling onto the front sidewalk. But one of its recent additions, 2022 arrival Cabana, is known for what’s out back. Its popular Beach Bar is an homage to the city’s nautical heritage and is a post-sunset favorite with Rum Pigs and Broadway Juleps flowing freely under the patio lights. Pair local oysters with the cheese trio and baguette, or go right for the steak frites and seared tuna with cauliflower puree as the stars come out.

Belle’s Cafe

On your way out of town, stop into Belle’s Café at Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard for a hearty post-night-out brunch. The shipyard is an active port, so the megayachts docked there will set your heart aflutter. Once you recover, find your dockside table under an umbrella, where the wacky waffles, shipyard sandwich, or build-your-own omelet, paired with a bloody mary, should set you straight.

The Mooring. / Photo by Annie Sherman

A Cheat Sheet to More Can’t-Miss Summer Dining in Newport

At these classic Newport eateries, you’ll be greeted enthusiastically, whether it’s luxury white-linen dining or the casual paper napkin crowd.

  • Since 1936, Flo’s Clam Shack, adjacent to Easton Beach in Newport or Island Park in Portsmouth, has been a staple of fried clams, raw bar, and other timeless seafood dishes.
  • Grab a bowl of chowder and mudslide at 22 Portside in the heart of Bowen’s Wharf, where people-watching along the busy harborfront is an added bonus.
  • The patio at Pasta Beach (which also has a Boston location) is a fashionable Miami Beach-style Italian bistro where the espresso martini cuts the creamy bucatini cacio e pepe perfectly.
  • Stop into the casual Surf Club, a subterranean restaurant and cocktail bar with a hoppin’ sidewalk café at the center of town.
  • Is it summer in Newport if you don’t lunch at the Mooring? We think not.

BEYOND NEWPORT

Photo by Annabelle Henderson

Trade the urban crowds for pastoral vineyard vistas at Newport Vineyards in Middletown. With its Brix restaurant and Taproot Brewing along with estate-grown wines, this has become a regional destination for casual wine and beer flights, tasty small plates to share on the patio, and hearty farm-fresh meals from scratch. Whet your appetite with Newport Sea Salt pretzels and monk(fish) nuggets, and launch into a Pt. Judith bluefin tuna burger, or Cloverbud Ranch roast beef sammie with house boursin cheese, or the Vineyard Grown pizza with roasted mushrooms, pea greens, rosemary cream, and parmesan.

Head out to 15 Point Road on the banks of the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth where the peaceful water views and fresh native dishes will steal your breath. The lobster mac and cheese is a fan favorite, but the almond-crusted halibut with orange ginger beurre blanc comes in a close second. There’s also something earth-shattering about a local filet mignon that melts on your tongue, or perhaps that’s the roasted split duck with blueberries, raspberry gelee, and hoisin glaze? We can’t decide, but no worries, because everything tastes fantastic on this al fresco patio—especially when you chase it with Grand Marnier crème brûlée.

In Tiverton, don’t overlook the Red Dory and its charming patio. Its fresh cuisine is sourced largely from the area’s farmers and fishermen, highlighted with Mediterranean flavors. Wake up your taste buds with fluke ceviche, or go for broke with the raw bar platter. A smoked haddock and clam chowder is a hearty hug on a rainy day, while Spanish octopus can be your little Ocean State experiment. Or play it safe with pan-seared sea scallops with a garlic scape and hazelnut pesto.

On the other side of Narragansett Bay, Jamestown’s newest pedigreed neighbor is Beech, featuring multiple levels of al fresco dining in the arbors. While that Aperol spritz glass clinks and friends’ laughter emanates into the sky, you peruse the deep menu. Those sticky ribs in a pickled plum sauce are a wise choice because they will surely stick to yours, followed by littleneck clams in chitarra pasta, or maybe the Narragansett Beer-battered cod fish and chips. Linger under the stars with another cocktail and you’ll really see what summer in Newport County is all about. But if you didn’t get enough, come back from brunch tomorrow.