Cover Story

23 Restaurants for Al Fresco Dining

Eat at these delicious, scenic restaurants all summer long

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

Your favorite summer dining spots in South County are your favorites for a reason: gorgeous views, delicious food, great service. But those places are a lot of people’s favorites. Smart locals know that it’s a lot easier to get a table at The Coast Guard House on a Tuesday in July than on a Saturday, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a meal with a view, without the crowd? This summer, take the time to explore some places you haven’t tried yet, or haven’t revisited in a while. You won’t regret it.

Have S’more
Everyone knows The Ocean House, with its private beach clam boils and haute locavore cuisine in Watch Hill. But the hotel’s sister property is equally luxurious, a little bit more casual and decidedly less difficult to get a reservation at. On a spit of land between the Atlantic and Quonochontaug pond, The Weekapaug Inn is a luxury resort with a quieter, family feel. They offer several dining options for guests, but The Restaurant and The Lawn are open to the public, too. The Restaurant serves modern New England cuisine from Chef Ryan Murphy, like New England Bouillabaisse with seasonal Narragansett seafood, and pickled Rhode Island Beets with bone marrow. Two separate patio areas, one upstairs and one downstairs, ensure access to the endless water views. New this year, The Lawn serves small plates and seasonal cocktails – and s’mores from the fire pit once the sun goes down. 25 Spray Rock Road, Westerly. 855-679-2995,

Raise the Bar
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need to be on the ocean to have gorgeous water views. Doherty’s Ale House Lakeside, the newest iteration of the wildly popular company behind Doherty’s Ale House in Warwick and Carriage Inn in North Kingstown, proves that. Lakeside is perched on Tiogue Lake in Coventry, and offers the same kind of creative comfort food as the other Doherty’s locations, like ‘Gansett Beer Can Chicken (just trust us on how delicious this is) and the Ale House Burger with house cured bacon. The real draw, though, is the beer: Doherty’s has nearly 100 on tap, including true beer geek varieties like tripels, gose, barley wine and sours. For non-beeries, they make craft sodas to order in exotic flavors. 446 Tiogue Avenue, Coventry. 828-1700,

Hit the Dock
Matunuck has its share of delicious restaurants – just drive past the valet line at Matunuck Oyster Bar on the weekend if you need proof – but it also has its share of hidden gems. People who already know and love Jim’s Dock won’t be thrilled to see the secret shared in print, but the food is so good that word was bound to spread eventually. The BYOB restaurant is quite literally a dock on the shore in Jerusalem (a tiny hamlet directly across the sound from Galilee). It’s super casual – don’t hesitate to roll right off the beach and head there for a bite, and dogs are welcome outside. Expect to find traditional New England clam shack fare, but at its absolute freshest. Pick your live lobster from the salt water tank – the water is cycled in fresh from the sound – and soak in the sun while you wait. 1175 Succotash Road, Wakefield. 783-2050, Facebook: Jim’s Dock

Feel Like a Kid Again
But – and this part is key – a kid with adult beverages. The Charlestown Rathskeller is the kind of place where you can go for a quick meal, or spend a whole afternoon hanging out with friends, playing lawn games. Once a speakeasy, the Rathskeller is now a gastropub in the truest sense: all of the old murals of sports stars like boxer Jack Dempsey are still there, as are the pub’s iconic fries – the only difference is that the fries now come plain, loaded or with truffled pecorino or short rib gravy. The menu offers everything from burgers to a Duck & Sausage Plate with confit duck leg and German-style brockwurst, along with “the coldest beer in RI.” Outside, there’s a fire pit, tons of dining and picnic tables, and lots of action around the cornhole and horseshoe pits. The Rat also offers live music on Monday and Tuesday nights if you’re looking to dance off those fries. (Trust us, don’t miss them.) 489A Old Coach Road, Charlestown. 792-1000,

Feel the Romance
When it comes to designing the perfect date, it doesn’t get much better than a romantic outdoor setting, with ocean breezes wafting in. The golden rule in real estate might be “location, location, location,” but those are also three good reasons to visit Simpatico Jamestown. The stunning restaurant has a garden terrace, with gauze curtains billowing in the breeze, flowers blooming all around and twinkling lights overhead. Two decks, and an outdoor bar, add to the ambience. The New England meets the Mediterranean menu doesn’t hurt, either. Think classic (like Little Rhody Necks – littlenecks with chourico in a sweet corn cream sauce) meets creative (Shrimp Classico with artichoke hearts, thyme and spinach in a lemon and white wine pan sauce). The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but on a date night, starting off with a cocktail isn’t a bad idea… 13 Narragansett Avenue, Jamestown. 423-2000,

Be a Tourist for a Day
We know, we know. You can think of a million reasons not to cross the bridge into Newport in the summer: the traffic, the crowds, the tourists… so many tourists. The thing is, when you avoid the City by the Sea, you’re depriving yourself of some of Rhode Island’s best food and scenery. The trick is to go there this month, before the New York license plates start lining the streets. And if you’re going to go, you might as well go big. The Spiced Pear at the Chanler at Cliff Walk is one of the state’s chicest dining experiences. At night, Chef Thomas Duffy prepares haute New England locavore cuisine tinged with French influences. By day, though, the restaurant’s Cliff Walk Terrace serves a more approachable (and affordable) menu, offering small plates like Citrus Poached Shrimp and Town Dock Calamari, pizzas like a Hawaiian with pineapple, prosciutto and pickled jalapeño, and sandwiches like the kobe beef GQ Burger. There’s even a separate section dedicated just to lobster. The view, though – overlooking First Beach and the Cliff Walk, with expansive views of the Atlantic – is worth the drive alone. 117 Memorial Boulevard, Newport. 847-2244,

Eat Your Heart Out
They really don’t make restaurants like the Nordic Lodge anymore – but lucky for us, the Persson family has been keeping the beloved culinary tradition alive since 1963. Everyone knows about the restaurant’s legendary buffet: hundreds of items, ranging from pastas and prime rib to a raw bar and classic New England seafood offerings. What you might not realize is that the Nordic Lodge is situated on 90 acres of lakefront property – and that you can enjoy the all-you-can-eat experience outside, as well. (When you’re overstuffed, there are some strategically placed hammocks designed for reclining, digesting and taking in the water view.) On Sunday afternoons, enjoy live music outside on the lawn. Not in the mood for two hours of indulgence? You can order appetizers from the bar and enjoy them outside, too. 178 East Pasquiset Trail, Charlestown. 783-4515,

Beach It, then Eat
On the shores of Salt Pond, Cap’n Jack’s was already a hidden gem. Yes, you drive or walk past it every time you go to East Matunuck State Beach, but you might not realize that behind the restaurant is an expansive patio with water and wildlife views. This season, the Cap’n and crew are debuting a totally redone outdoor area, with 30 seats and fire pits to gather around once you’ve eaten their kicked-up New England fare and you need some time to digest. For something lighter, check out their attached raw bar, Salt Marsh. And if you can possibly leave the restaurant without stopping by their bakery, well, you’ve got more willpower than we do. Who can resist a cupcake with a lobster on it in the middle of summer? No one, that’s who. 706 Succotash Road, Wakefield. 789-4556,

Have a Shore Thing
Many people fondly remember (or, let’s just say, loosely remember) warm summer nights at Marley’s on the Beach, a legendary local bar in Oakland Beach with its own tiki bar and shoreline. The place hit hard times, and not even a visit from Bar Rescue could save it. When Marley’s closed, the consensus was that people just wanted the next-door Iggy’s to add a bar – and that’s exactly what happened. Now, Iggy’s Boardwalk offers all of the delicious seafood and doughboys that their walk-up window still does, but is a full service restaurant that takes full advantage of its proximity to the ocean. Think raw bar and tropical libations year-round, not just during the summer (though there really is something unmatched about enjoying them outside in the sand, isn’t there?). The menu has expanded to include more options for people who don’t love seafood, and is a really nice complement to the takeaway restaurant next door. 889 Oakland Beach Avenue, Warwick. 737-9459,

Big City Chic
Summer just wasn’t made for cities: traffic in hot cars, burning pavement, crowded sidewalks. But sometimes, a touch of urban sophistication is just what the doctor ordered. Find the perfect blend at Besos Kitchen and Cocktails. Perched on Main Street in East Greenwich, the chic eatery offers delicious, creative food (think Pan Seared Halibut with drunken peaches) and libations (we love A Reverie of Rose, with genever, house-made rose simple syrup, grapefruit and prosecco). The wraparound porch of Besos’ charming old house offers views of Main Street, while the garden below (with an outdoor bar) keeps you a little more hidden from the street – and a lot more surrounded by fragrant blooms. It’s perfect for a romantic night out. 378 Main Street, East Greenwich. 398-8855,

See and Be Seen
Whether you’re arriving by car or boat – seriously, they offer free dockage for restaurant patrons – Blu on the Water is the place to see and be seen in the summer. The chic waterfront restaurant and lounge is perched on the water at the East Greenwich Marina, and has a huge waterfront outdoor area with dining tables, adirondack chairs and fire pits. The restaurant has a raw bar, and focuses on fresh seafood, like Lazy Lobster Casserole and Scallops and Bacon with a barbecue drizzle. Once the sun goes down (or for a Sunday funday, we’re not judging you), relax at the outdoor bar with a cocktail like a Pomegranate Margarita or six varieties of sangria. 20 Water Street, East Greenwich. 885-3700,

Soak In the Sea
If you’ve been to Hammerhead Grill, or its downstairs bar The Bon Vue, you know to expect crowds, and lots of them. Knowing this, owner Mike Aiello decided to simultaneously step things up and slow them down. The restaurant is now 1230 Ocean Bistro, offering what the new chef calls “Narraterranean cuisine,” blending Narragansett’s signature fresh seafood with Mediterranean influences, like Ricotta and Tuscan Bean Pate and Roasted Cod Nicoise. Chef Jeanette, who comes to the restaurant by way of much-missed Basil’s and Red Rooster, makes everything from scratch, in-house, fresh to order. Her food is best enjoyed outside on the expansive upstairs deck. After your meal, chill out downstairs at the Bon Vue, which has an outdoor tiki bar, live entertainment and a summer cocktail menu with creative martinis and mojitos. 1230 Ocean Road, Narragansett. 789-6159,

Dance the Night Away

Dinner is one thing. Dinner and a night of entertainment is entirely another. On the shores of Salt Pond, TwoTen Oyster Bar & Grill is a delicious destination that offers a lot more than food. Think three bars, regular live music and tons of fun. The downstairs 210 Dockside Bar offers unspoiled views of the marina, and on Wednesdays, the girls get complimentary prosecco for Ladies Night. Deals like $15 bottles of wine and a $6 martini menu are open to everyone. At TwoTen, the menu is more than your typical coastal cuisine. In addition to offerings like Oysters Rockefeller and Lobster Rolls, they also offer a sushi menu, and an extensive gluten-free menu that includes fried seafood. 210 Salt Pond Rd, South Kingstown. 782-0100,


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