There is something about New England’s historic seaside communities that sets them apart from other such cities and towns elsewhere in the country.
They tend to be charming, walkable places with beautiful architecture, quaint commercial areas, and endless ocean views, and one of the most appealing of them all is Newport — a small Rhode Island city which, because it’s actually on an island, has the feel of a true destination spot where once you get there, you pretty much stay put.
Because of this, the restaurant and bar scene is absolutely hopping since folks who visit Newport generally aren’t going to stray from the immediate area all that much. The options for dining and drinking are actually quite varied for a city often seen as a hangout for the wealthy (which is not completely true), with a handful of them listed here.
Many visitors to Newport don’t get past Thames Street, the waterfront area, and the mansions of Bellevue Avenue — and for good reason. But a short walk up the hill from Thames Street (or heading south on Bellevue beyond the mansions) will bring you to a particularly charming section of the city that feels like its own little village in a way.
Here, you will find several spots for food and drink, including the Hotel Viking (1 Bellevue Avenue) a famous, old luxury hotel that also has a fine-dining restaurant and a more casual lounge just made for a glass of bourbon or scotch. The Viking also has a seasonal rooftop bar called Top of Newport, which features pub grub and cocktails along with views of the nearby mansions and ocean.
A short walk north from the hotel will bring you to a romantic eatery called Sardella's Italian Restaurant (30 Memorial Boulevard West) that features cozy dining rooms, wood fireplaces, and northern and southern Italian fare that includes outstanding pasta dishes. Like so many structures in Newport, the one in which Sardella’s resides has tons of character, making it a wonderful date-night spot or a place to get out of the rain or snow.
Thames Street is indeed a must if you’ve never been to Newport since it is home to an abundance of restaurants and bars. If you like slightly more “grown-up” places that are laid back and won’t cost an arm and a leg, the Gas Lamp Grille (206 Thames Street) is an excellent option. This two-floor restaurant is known for its comfort food items including some great ones for lobster lovers (lobster tacos, lobster mac and cheese, chilled and warm lobster rolls, etc.).
Lovers of neighborhood drinking joints will probably like O'Brien's Pub (501 Thames Street), a decades-old bar that has a dog-friendly patio during the warmer months and an unpretentious interior that’s perfect for watching sports or chatting with locals.
As you continue southward on Thames, the touristy vibe makes way for a more residential feel. Here, you will find Mamma Luisa (673 Thames Street), a homey Italian restaurant that is literally located in a house and is another great date-night spot with charming rooms just made for quiet conversation.
Expect to see Northern Italian fare and a variety of wines here, with food options including such items as spaghetti carbonara, veal scaloppini, pork tenderloin stuffed with prosciutto and parmesan cheese, and grilled sirloin steak topped with arugula and shaved Parmigiano.
Another part of Newport that is often overlooked is the Broadway area, which has the feel of a separate downtown section and tends to be more of a local spot with relatively few tourists finding their way over there.
Some excellent drinking establishments are located in this part of the city, including The Fastnet Pub (1 Broadway), a hidden gem that has the dark, moody feel of a place you might find in Dublin or Galway. The Fastnet is one of those multi-room bars where it’s good to roam, finding a little nook or cranny to hang out in, and if you’re hungry, the steak tips, chicken curry, fish and chips, and burgers are much better than you might find at your typical pub.
Speaking of pubs, just up the street from the Fastnet is another local watering hole called the Pour Judgement Bar and Grill (32 Broadway), and you probably won’t find tourists here as it is a bit of a dive bar, albeit with decent food and little in the way of sketchiness. The Pour Judgement has the feel of a speakeasy or a casual beer bar, and you’ll certainly find some good local and regional brews here along with pub grub such as wings, nachos, and chili.
Newport is one of those places that never gets old or tired because it’s basically a small city packed with more to see and do than many large cities, and its somewhat confusing layout at the tip of an island is just made for random exploration. In addition, around every other corner are restaurants and bars just waiting to be discovered, which helps make this historic Rhode Island community even more of an inviting place.