I did a post a while back about my Charleston recommendations, and now it’s time to bring it back to my roots. Not all the way back to my hometown roots of Worcester, MA, but to the roots of my adult life, which started in Newport, RI the fall of 2000. I’ve spent the majority of the last 18 years of my life in Newport, so I think/know I’ve got some good suggestions for you.
Whether you’re in town for your wedding, a bachelorette party, honeymoon, mini-moon, babymoon, full moon or just a day trip, I’ve got you covered. If I have any, I’ll post my personal photos taken at each place, mainly because that’s more fun for me.
Let’s start with breakfast and brunch.
Diego’s (downtown Newport location). I love Diego’s for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks, but I’m placing it in this category because you won’t find another brunch menu like their’s in Newport. This is a downtown hot spot that’s always busy in-season (technically Memorial Day until Labor Day, but has been stretching into October in recent years), so get there early or make reservations if you can. This is my home away from home, so if you see a short girl with blue-tipped hair, a Biggie Smalls necklace and some kind of tequila drink in front of her, that’s me!
Corner Cafe. Full disclosure–I’ve never had brunch at Corner Cafe, but it’s a Newport favorite so I had to include it. People rave about this place and after looking at the menu, I understand why. I always see a line at this locals’ spot when I drive by on weekends, and they don’t take reservations, so that’s something to keep in mind for your planning purposes. Corner Cafe is on Broadway, so not downtown but close to Upper Thames Street. It’s BYOB, so something to be aware of if “brunch” really means “mimosas” to you.
The White Horse Tavern. Now here’s a place I have brunched at many times! This is a quintessential Newport restaurant, established in 1673. So if you like your eggs with a side of ghost stories, which the bartenders are usually happy to share, this is your spot. The food is fantastic, and it’s one of the few places in Newport that I think has a good Bloody Mary. (I got snobbish about Bloodies after drinking so many fantastic ones in Charleston.) It’s close to both Upper Thames and Broadway, so if you’re onto day drinking post-brunch, this puts you in a good location. Definitely make reservations if you want to go, as it gets busy on weekends.
Atlantic Grille. If you’re staying in Middletown near the beaches, this is a great nearby breakfast option. Friendly servers, great, consistent food and plenty of space if you’re with a bigger group. They’ve usually got some awesome specials (I still–sometimes successfully–order the Firecracker Omelette, a buffalo chicken and cheese omelette they used to frequently have as a special back in the day.) If you’re going on a weekend, be prepared to wait if you don’t have a reservation.
Gary’s Handy Lunch. For basic, cheap breakfast food and fast service, you can’t beat Gary’s. This 50s style diner on Lower Thames is a Newport staple for both locals and tourists. A cheese omelette and a chocolate milk at Gary’s was my hangover remedy in college, so I’ve been there countless times. (However, this is not the place to get a hangover, as they don’t serve alcohol.) If you go on a weekend, you might have a wait, but tables typically turn over pretty quickly. FYI: This is a cash only establishment.
Franklin Spa. It sounds like a place where you’d get microdermabrasion, but I promise you, it’s a restaurant. This former pharmacy turned diner is in the center of downtown but it’s one block up from Thames, so it’s a semi-hidden gem. They don’t take reservations and it’s small so it gets packed quickly, but it’s a solid breakfast spot seven days a week, year-round.
Ready for lunch?
Smoke House. “BBQ and summer cocktails”–that’s what their website homepage says. Add “people watching” to that, and you’ve got the perfect description of one of my favorite summer spots. This seasonal, half open air restaurant and bar is smack in the middle of downtown. The front section has a three sided bar (is that what they’re called?) in the center, and seating around the perimeter of the room. If you can grab a stool there, you’ll be looking right out onto America’s Cup and Thames Street. And oh, the interesting outfits you’ll see! Smoke House keeps the plastic window flaps down if it’s raining, but if it’s not, you’ve got direct access to the hoards of people who walk by every second. It’s usually open from April until early October, so don’t be mad at me if you go in March and walk up to a boarded up building.
The Port. Even though this restaurant is technically on Thames, it’s pushed back from the street, so unless someone has told you about it or you’ve read a helpful blog post like this, you might not see it if you are just walking around Newport. That means it’s sometimes a little easier to get into than the restaurants that face Thames. The Port is right on the water and they’ve got enough space for bigger groups, so it’s a good lunch choice if your crew rolls deep. I don’t eat seafood, but my foodie brother and sister-in-law loved their Steamed Mussels.
Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant. This Newport staple on Upper Thames has something for everybody. The food is consistently great, the cocktail list extensive, and they might have the friendliest servers in Newport. The warm atmosphere and fun decor of Brick Alley really differentiate this restaurant from any other place in town. People I’ve brought there have especially loved the lobster roll, and I spent my college years obsessed with Louie’s Chicken Nachos and Key Lime Martinis. Brick Alley is always busy, so I’d recommend reservations.
Portside at 22 Bowen’s. This is 22 Bowen’s outside bar and restaurant, and it is perfect. The food is always good, and Portside bartenders know how to make a cocktail. There are I think ten seats at the bar, and ten or so tables on the patio. The waterfront location (like any closer and you’d be on a boat) is beautiful, and the people watching potential–right in the middle of Bowen’s Wharf–is off the charts. I bet this is exactly the kind of place people think of when they think of Newport, and while Newport has several different vibes (depending on where you are and who you ask), it is part of our City by the Sea fabric.
Pour Judgement. If you like clever names, beer and good burgers, you’ll love Pour Judgement. This Broadway bar and restaurant has been around since 2006, which is a long time for a place in Newport, so you know it has to be good. It’s a locals’ spot, so here’s one of those other vibes I was talking about. If you’re staying near Broadway or want to venture there from downtown (it’s very close to Upper Thames), this is a solid lunch choice.
And now for some day drinking. Let’s pub crawl our way through this list.
The Deck. If you’ve got a big group and you want to sit out by the water, here’s your spot. I host a couple day drinking events each year (usually one for my birthday and one for my business anniversary), and this is always where we start. The tented outside area is huge, with a big center bar and a smaller one off to the side. There are tables under the tent, and more out on the uncovered deck area. People come right off their boats into The Deck, so that’s how “waterfront” it is. You’ll love it.
O’Brien’s Pub. Right around the corner from The Deck on Thames and Waites Wharf is O’Brien’s, a year-round Irish pub. They’ve got a big inside area with booths, tables and a bar, as well as a tented outside bar and dining area, and a patio area beyond that. The patio is usually pretty packed during the summer with families, bachelor and bachelorette parties and lots of dogs. If you’re on Lower Thames, this is a good day drinking spot than can accommodate big groups.
Surf Club. Now let’s make our way towards the center of downtown with a stop at the outside bar and dining area of Surf Club. It’s close to Newport’s iconic wave statue at the busy corner of America’s Cup and Thames, so there is plenty of great people watching. Surf Club is new-ish to Newport (within the last couple years), but they are already well-liked by locals. The cocktails are awesome (they had or have a Jalapeno Margarita that I love) and the servers are always friendly. This is a perfect summer day drinking spot.
The Black Pearl. If you take a left out of Surf Club and walk for about three minutes (give it four in heels), you’ll get to Bannister’s Wharf on your left. As soon as you turn down that Wharf, you’ll see a patio with red umbrellas. That’s the patio at The Black Pearl. If the weather is nice, this is a prime location for good cocktails and lots of people watching (can you tell I like that?). The Black Pearl restaurant is known for their clam chowder, but the patio is known for their frozen Mudslides. Cheers!
The Landing. Things are about to get rowdy if you’ve made it to this waterfront bar and restaurant on Bowen’s Wharf. The lower level has a big main bar, a raw bar where you can also get drinks, and a few tables. There’s usually live music happening by the main bar. There are more tables and another bar on the upstairs deck. The Landing is a seasonal bar for the public, but I believe they do private events inside the restaurant off-season. I can’t verify this, but I would guess that 90% of all summertime bachelor and bachelorette parties that pass through Newport make a stop at The Landing.
Vanderbilt Rooftop. Now let’s get classy. Cross over to Thames from Bowen’s Wharf, then go left onto Thames. Take a right onto Mary Street and you’ll soon see the gorgeous Vanderbilt Hotel (formerly called the Vanderbilt Grace, then the Grace Vanderbilt). Their rooftop bar has stellar views and fantastic cocktails. It’s got a low key vibe and isn’t stuffy or pretentious. It’s open during the summer season only (I mean, who wants to be outside during the cold weather anyway?) from 4:00pm – 10:00pm on weekdays and 12:00pm – 10:00pm on weekends.
Dinner, anyone? You really should get some food in you.
The Red Parrot. It’s a tourist hot spot, but I’m a local and I still go there (especially when I’m craving their Sexy Steak & Gorgonzola Salad). The food is consistently good, and they’ve got some awesome cocktails. This is another great spot to go with a group, not only because they can accommodate a lot of people, but because their menu is huge–one of those menus-in-a-binder–so everyone can find something they like. Red Parrot is at the beginning of Lower Thames, so location-wise, it is perfection. Walk ten minutes up or down Thames from there and you’ll go by several other bars, restaurants and shops.
The Mooring. This is a classic Newport restaurant. I’ve never had a bad meal at The Mooring, nor has anyone I’ve ever gone with. The Mooring is known for their seafood, but I also love their Chopped Salad and their burger. Even though I can’t eat their famous Bag of Doughnuts appetizer (lobster and shrimp fritters that come in a paper bag), I have to mention it because people get obsessed with it. If you get seated on the deck in the summer, you can enjoy the ocean view, but the inside dining area is nice too. Definitely make reservations here, especially during the summer season.
Perro Salado. This cozy Mexican inspired restaurant by Washington Square (near Upper Thames) is one of a kind. It’s in an 18th century house that was transformed into a unique and awesome restaurant. Their Cilantro-Jalapeno Margarita is probably my favorite cocktail in Newport, but they have several other great cocktails if you’re not into cilantro or jalapeno. The menu has changed since I last had dinner there, but I see several great options on the current menu. They have an outside patio that’s always bumpin’, and live music at I think 9:00pm (I’m not sure if that’s every night). Perro Salado is a really popular spot, so I definitely recommend making reservations.
22 Bowen’s. Listen, it’s impossible to get a bad meal or bad service at this Newport staple. From wine to steak to seafood to desserts, 22 Bowen’s knows what they’re doing. It’s on the fancier side, so go ahead and rock that cocktail dress, ladies. This restaurant is (obviously) in Bowen’s Wharf, which puts you right in the middle of things. As with every restaurant in downtown Newport during the summer season or during weekends most of the rest of the year, reservations are a good idea.
The Wharf Pub. If you’re looking for something more on the casual side but still want to be where the action is, look no further. Comfort food and craft beer is their thing, but even a tequila drinker with Celiac disease (that’s me!) can be happy there. I really love their burger (with no bun), and other people I’ve gone with have loved their tater tots appetizer. Their outdoor seating is great for people watching in the summer, and they have live music on weekends.
Is it time to go out? I’m in my mid 30s so I’m usually home by 9:00pm, but I’ve lived in Newport long enough to be able to help you here.
The Pelham. You can’t talk about going out in Newport without mentioning The Pelham. This cash only bar on Upper Thames is low key during the day in the summer season (they don’t open until the evening during the winter), but things get crazier by the hour at night. They have live music on weekends and maybe during the week in the summer (I can’t remember and can’t find it on their website), so expect a cover charge some nights. The Pelham has three bars, a pool table, a dartboard, ping pong, and a shuffleboard table, but the most important thing I want you to know is that even though their sign and their website says “One Pelham East,” no one calls it that. It can get a little shitshow-y at this bar, but I think that’s the point. It’s the perfect spot for bachelor and bachelorette groups, which is evidenced by the special bachelorette package they offer. Did I paint a good picture for you?
Dockside. If live music and dancing at a waterfront bar is your thing, Dockside is your place. This summer season hot spot is perfect for large groups. And it’s close to The Deck and O’Brien’s, so you can stumble around between the three and have yourself a very Newport summer night on Waites Wharf. They charge a cover, so get yo cash ready. Have fun! (I’ll be in bed.)
Newport Blues Cafe. Another one of the live music spots downtown Newport has to offer. There’s plenty of room for dancing by the stage, but if you’re more of a music-appreciator than a dancer, you can watch from the second level. (Don’t worry–there are bars on both floors.) The crowd varies depending on the band, but it’s not unusual to see a group of people in their 50s dancing next to a group in their 20s. There will be a cover, so prepare yourself for that. If you want to dance and the band is playing your type of music, Newport Blues is a great choice.
Forty 1 North. I call the waterfront outside bar and restaurant at this downtown hotel “Miami,” because that’s what it looks like. (I just learned they call this part of the hotel “The Pavilion,” but I’ve never heard anyone refer to it as that.) I’m more of a day drinker, and I love Forty 1 North for that during the summer, but I know people like going there at night too. I don’t know if they still do this, but they used to have a DJ (and a cover) on summer weekends. Even if they don’t, it’s good night out spot to go to because it’s big, it’s gorgeous and it’s got beautiful views. It’s on the fancier side, so think “night out” outfits, but it’s not stuffy.
The Cooke House. Its real name is Clarke Cooke House, but no one calls it that. This is a restaurant with a few bars and a basement level club call “The Boom Boom Room,” but I am far too old for that now. I stay on the upper levels and I’m fine with that. The Cooke House is on Bannister’s Wharf, so it’s always busy during the summer season. The servers and bartenders are great, and while it can get a little rowdy, it doesn’t get out of control. At night, I would say it’s more of a 30s and 40s crowd than a 20s crowd. The Cooke House is also a good spot for brunch, lunch, dinner and day drinking, so it’s worth putting on your Newport To Do list.
How’s that for thorough? This post took me forever to write, so you better like it 😉
Have a beautiful day 🙂