Upstart restaurants worthy of lasting affection.
Whether the craving is for a new shirt, an unknown author, an untried recipe or even just a fresh outlook on life, we all attempt inaugurations once in a while (some more frequently than others). And just like anything else, trying out a new restaurant involves certain hazards of the unknown. To put your palate at ease, we’ve assembled the following group of culinary newcomers whose short-term histories are already generating long-term allegiances. Try any of the following once and you might soon find yourself a regular.
Coastal Rhode Island
A new restaurant staple on the Newport scene, Midtown Oyster Bar effortlessly blends intriguing architecture and city charm with nautical nuances. Midtown has the feel of an old-school tavern from the 1800s but its high ceilings, generous allotment of windows and combination of wood, steel and marble accents lend modern appeal. The three-story building boasts a variety of unique dining and drinking “destinations,” from the warm and cozy first-floor tavern to two distinct bar areas to the third-floor loft dining space where harbor views abound. The options continue outside with two different decks. Whether your seating is indoors or out, Midtown is the perfect stop for a leisurely lunch; its mid-day menu features crowd-pleasers such as fish tacos and fish and chips as well as more creative fare such as a salmon BLT or a blackened swordfish salad. For dinner, delectable seafood appetizers and entrées steal the show but gourmet steak, chicken and burger choices round out the selections. And it goes without saying that Midtown’s raw bar, the area’s largest, is a feature not to be missed. Seriously, so good!
This humble little establishment feels more like you’re dining at a friend’s house than a restaurant, and the food is some of the freshest you’ll ever taste. Owned by Eli Dunn, who has a long history in the food industry, Eli’s Kitchen serves up comfort food with a local twist. Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch are all equally good. For dinner, a good start would be the Rhode Island chowder, Gray’s cornmeal fritters or a kale and Rhode Island mushroom salad, followed by a hearty meatloaf or shrimp and grits. Eli’s Kitchen caters to food sensitivities with options like Pam’s Dinner, a vegan and gluten-free chef’s choice tasting named after Eli’s wife. And every Friday Phoebe’s Fish & Chips is served as a tribute to Eli’s mother’s legendary dish.
Located at Newport Vineyards, just a stone’s throw from downtown Newport, Brix Restaurant offers a cozy and unique dining experience for wine lovers and foodies alike. The cavernous space features a large bar area, comfy couch seating by the fireplace and views of the vineyard’s wine barrels and tanks below. The menu, complete with an impressive gluten-free portion, showcases classic fare with a focus on local flavors. Sharable dishes include the mussels Sauvignon, the chef’s selection of artisan cheeses and an inventive array of grilled pizzas. Braised short ribs are a house favorite and the Portuguese seafood stew is not to be missed. In addition to Newport Vineyard wines, which are available by the glass, bottle or tasting flight, Brix also serves guest varietals from California, Oregon, France and Italy.
Chapel Grille is an oasis of culinary excellence conveniently located in Cranston’s Chapel View Lifestyle Village. Its menus impress with hearth-style fare, a discernible Mediterranean-Italian influence and a preference for locally foraged ingredients. Appetizers such as the “Rhody” clam roast or steamed New England blue mussels are ideal starters before enjoying a wood-fired pizza or build-your-own pasta dish. Rich, luscious risottos tempt along with paella, wood-grilled baby lamb chops and seafood-stuffed filet of sole. Tenderloins, rib-eyes and sirloins are also entrée contenders. Sunday brunch, complete with a gourmet buffet, à la carte menu and sangria, mimosa and bloody Mary bar, is not to be skipped. Seating options range from the plush main salon to an outdoor terrace with fireplace; however, the restaurant’s showpiece (and namesake) is its soaring Cathedral Bar, once a chapel built in 1891 that still features a vaulted ceiling, stone walls and stained glass windows. Nab one of the cushy leather barstools along the serpentine white onyx bar and assure yourself entertaining views of the kitchen and wood-burning stone hearth oven.
Here, the name says it all. TwoTen Oyster Bar & Grill specializes first and foremost in oysters, but not just any oysters: its hand-shucked, locally raised oysters are delivered daily within hours of harvesting. But the raw bar menu is just the start of all things delicious. TwoTen specializes in New England seafood classics such as clam chowder, clam cakes, fish and chips, stuffed lobster and more. Those who prefer land-based meals can opt for an Angus sirloin or even a juicy burger. This South County hotspot gears up during the summer thanks to its water views and outdoor dining options (patio or dockside deck) and live entertainment every Thursday through Sunday. —Jennifer Sperry