As Winnie the Pooh once said, “It’s the first day of autumn! A time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!” Like Pooh, we feel the exhilaration that comes with autumn, too. Maybe it’s evocative of our back-to-school days, when each September brought an opportunity to reinvent ourselves through the simple purchase of new shoes and school supplies. While we Rhode Islanders are always sorry to see summer go, our palates change too, and lobster rolls and clam cakes give way to hearty soups and comfort food classics made with the best ingredients Rhode Island has to offer. We’ve rounded up a bunch of our favorite places and picked a dish or two that we can’t wait to cozy up with.
Bywater is such an easy restaurant to like. Husband and wife team Brian and Katie O’Donnell dreamed of opening their own place, bringing it to fruition several years ago with significant cooking (Brian) and bartending (Katie) experience. The menu is balanced by familial roots (Brian’s Irish mum’s brown bread) and their shared love of travel and local sources. Their adjacent bakery ensures great baked goods. Oysters are always a staple; other menu items are casual but rich in flavor: rock crab and onions in rhubarb brown butter vinaigrette, or a Wild Harmony pork chop with salted blackberry, green coriander, corn, and shishito peppers. The “local partners” tab on their website is a who’s who of talent. 54 State Street, Warren; BywaterRestaurant.com
The west coast has the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego; the east coast has The Dining Room at Castle Hill Inn in Newport – two iconic and historic ocean-front hotels with exceptional dining. The Dining Room is part of the Agassiz mansion, built in 1875, with sweeping views of the lawn (in September, still sprawled with dozens of Adirondack chairs) and a nightly six-course tasting menu. Though it changes constantly, chef Andy Taur’s menu is sure to highlight local seafood, poultry, shellfish, beef, pork, and produce. In the coming months you might expect salmon, albacore tuna, crab, corn, squashes, artichokes, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes. Know whatever the menu features, the dining experience will be memorable.
590 Ocean Drive, Newport; CastleHillInn.com
It’s no exaggeration to say that La Forge Casino Restaurant is one of the most unique eateries in the state. This Stanford White-designed cafe overlooking the historic grass courts at the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame has fed visitors and locals alike since the 1880s, and had a starring role in HBO’s series The Gilded Age. While it’s probably most famous food-wise for its lobster roll, which the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis deemed “so rich and meaty,” the surf and turf – a six-ounce tenderloin and three baked stuffed shrimp with red wine demi-glace, chive mashed potatoes, and broccolini – is nothing short of legendary. 186 Bellevue Avenue, Newport; LaForgeNewport.com
Chef Richard Allaire of Metacom Kitchen is hands down
one of Rhode Island’s most creative chefs, known for
ever-evolving menus, modern cooking techniques, and intriguing flavor combinations. The fine dining spot is also home to Mystery Monday, a three-course prix fixe menu where diners only know what they’ll be eating at the moment it’s placed in front of them. (Sometimes, Allaire says, dining out is too predictable.) In fall, he particularly likes adding local tautog to the menu, a delicate fish that he says pairs well with a Mediterranean za’atar spice blend, a flavor profile that includes lemony sumac, sesame, thyme, and salt.
322 Metacom Avenue, Warren; MetacomKitchen.com
Chef Aaron DeRego opened The Red Dory a couple of years ago just down the street from where he lives, motivated by wanting to be close to his growing family. Now it’s become the neighborhood restaurant everyone wishes they had within walking distance. The menu is heavy on Mediterranean flavors interpreted in local seafood and produce. An ideal autumnal dinner might start with the smoked haddock and clam chowder, followed by the rich, cassoulet-style pan-roasted cod with white beans, house-made sausage, littlenecks, and fresh herbs. 1848 Main Road, Tiverton; RedDoryRestaurant.com
If you’re loving the recent “girl dinner” trend – where you graze on charcuterie, bread, and cheese – then you’ve likely indulged in one of the killer dip-and-bread baskets or their cheese, Mediterranean, or burrata slates at The Revival Craft Kitchen & Bar. This restaurant, with a sister location in East Greenwich, does composed dishes oh so well, too. North Atlantic Faroe Islands salmon is in season through October, and Revival brightens up its sweet fattiness with a Greek salad-style treatment including cucumbers, olives, feta, and a red wine vinaigrette. 219 Main Street, Warren;
Stoneacre Brasserie is an authentic French bistro, classically beautiful and comfortable, featuring a menu packed with local fresh takes on classic fare, such as moules frites, croque monsieur and madame, quiche, and salade niçoise. While everything here is perfectly executed (including brunch), there’s nothing quite so satisfyingly French on a cool evening as a roasted chicken. Unless, that is, it’s a roasted chicken preceded by a toasty bowl of French onion soup. Washington Square, Newport; StoneacreBrasserie.com
While you don’t necessarily associate Newport with Italian bistros, Tony Lorusso’s Vieste has quietly become a go-to for excellent Italian food in the City by the Sea. You’ll find simple, modern takes on all the best classics, from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken parm, bolognese to penne with sausage and rabe. The richest dish on the menu, perfect for a cozy night, is their Osso Bucco – succulent braised pork with a cognac mushroom sauce, served on a bed of spaghetti and topped with truffle oil. 580 Thames Street, Newport; ViesteSimplyItalian.com
The Wharf has maritime cred dating back to the 1700s before becoming a fancy restaurant in the 1950s. Today it’s been streamlined on all fronts, from its name (no more “Tavern”) to its design – big windows, light colors, a gorgeous open-air rooftop deck – to the menu. There’s tons of shellfish, of course, along with chowders and bisques, lobster rolls and fish tacos, baked stuffed lobster and filet, flatbreads and charcuterie and cheese boards. On cool evenings, warm up with the spicy Seafood ara Diavolo, featuring lobster tail, scallops, shrimp, and mussels, served atop linguini in a fiery marinara sauce. 215 Water Street, Bristol; TheWharfTavernRI.com
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