Word of Mouth: Newport, Rhode Island

Restaurants, a vinyl shop, a hotel and more in the vacation destination

Best known for its lavish history during the Gilded Age and a flourishing sailing culture, Newport is the southernmost town on Aquidneck Island. Located beside Narragansett Bay, it’s a 40-minute drive from Rhode Island’s capital, Providence. While embarking on the Cliff Walk, visiting the opulent mansions and boating are all Newport classics, there are plenty of lesser-known, nuanced (and sometimes off-kilter) treasures to be found in this seaside town.

Fluke

Located on Bannister’s Wharf, Fluke is somewhat hidden away upstairs, offering a few tables with harbor views. At the helm of the kitchen, chef Eddie Montalvo—who worked in NYC with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer and others—focuses on seafood and high-quality produce for seemingly simple fare that’s super-fresh and flavorful. We recommend trying the “Fresh Local Fish Bites” (a trio of seafood amuse-bouche-style snacks), the seared scallops with local squid and arroz negro, and the housemade spaghetti with clams and preserved lemon. Within the bright space, there’s table and bar seating (all socially distanced for now) and the delightful staff will help you select a wine or a cocktail to match the evening. Only open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday, be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Wayfinder

Renovated by Dovetail + Co and NYC-based Reunion Goods & Services, the Wayfinder Hotel (previously the Mainstay Hotel & Conference Center) boasts 197 rooms, but it’s the communal areas—open to guests and locals—that really stand out. Bright and airy, the retro-inspired foyer, cafe and restaurant were designed to feel like a beach house, with colorful artworks, vintage decorations and wicker seating. At the restaurant, Nomi Park, guests can enjoy brunch on tufted banquettes or sip on an expertly made cocktail (we recommend the spicy Lit Juice—made from Lunazul tequila, passionfruit, lime and chili; but if you want a Manhattan, Dark and Stormy or a Negroni, they have those on draft). The dinner fare is the most appealing here, with tweaks on classics like brown butter lobster rolls; grilled gem salad; or halibut with peas, tarragon oil and nasturtium. The hotel is a six-minute drive from the town center, but there are also bikes available for guests to borrow, should you want to pedal to downtown Newport.

Flo’s Clam Shack

Steps from the 3/4-mile-long Easton’s Beach (locally known as First Beach), Flo’s Clam Shack offers up fresh fish and seafood dishes in a rustic two-floor location. The lines to order can get a little long, so be sure to secure a spot to sit first, and then take your pick from homemade clam “chowda,” Flo’s famous clamcakes, seafood platters, lobster rolls, fish sandwiches and a raw bar. There are beers and soft drinks available too. Guests can dine in, take away or opt for the drive-through.

Vinyl Guru

Stocking albums by everybody from Marvin Gaye to Suicidal Tendencies, Vinyl Guru sells, buys and trades records on Newport’s Broadway—except on Mondays and Tuesdays. The humble space feels retro and not unlike any other local record store, which is precisely the appeal. After working up an appetite digging through the vast collection and buying a few LPs from the friendly and knowledgable staff, Salvation Cafe offers up tiki vibes and snacks just steps away.

Hummingbird Cafe

This BYOB restaurant, co-owned by Jamaican natives and husband-and-wife duo Dezna Bowen and Abraham Parkes offers up super-tasty Caribbean food for in-house dining or takeout. From jerk chicken to curried goat, rasta pasta (made with shrimp and crab) and fried plantains, the dishes are spicy, zesty and full of flavor. A laidback but cheerful space, Hummingbird Cafe currently takes reservations, offers indoor and outdoor dining, and does not accept cash.

Thames St Kitchen

Thames St Kitchen is just one of family-run The Mission Group’s restaurants in the area (they also run Nomi Park, Mission and Winner Winner) and it’s also their original. With leather seats, concrete tables and a wooden bar, the interior is subtle but the food is bright. There are starters like the beet salad and pea toast, while mains focus on meat and seafood—lobster with miso, trout roe and leeks; and scallops with maitake, tapioca chips, and mushroom dashi.

Images courtesy of respective venues