By Phoebe Gallo
There is something magical about the Newport Folk Festival. Every year, thousands of people pack their lawn chairs, wide-brimmed hats and Birkenstocks, and make the trek to Fort Adams State Park for three days of fabulous folk music. There is so much focus on the Fest itself—and rightfully so. We are tried and true fans of the best music festival of the summer, but we are also tried and true fans of Newport, particularly its delicious options for pre- and post-Fest food.
Here are seven picks for dining in Newport—these local spots will keep you coming back for more.
Empire Tea & Coffee
Empire Tea & Coffee is a Newport favorite, and its swanky newer location on William Street is hard to miss (adjacent to the corner of Bellevue and Memorial Boulevard). It sports a large open space with plenty of seating (indoor and out), a relaxed atmosphere and a super friendly staff. Stop by before the Fest for some morning coffee and baked goods (special shout out to the iced chai—it’s spicy and refreshing, an ideal way to start the morning), and follow up your morning treats by ordering up some salads and sandwiches to pack for a picnic at the Fest. The food options are quite numerous, and a great choice if you want to avoid the longer lines and higher prices on the grounds. Sit out on the large front patio and relax before you hit the Fest—you won’t regret it!
While there is limited parking near both locations, both Empire locations are conveniently located on or near major thoroughfares in Newport.
11 William Street, Newport; Daily 6 am–8 pm; 401.519.1388 (ext. # 4); EmpireTeaAndCoffee.com
22 Broadway, Newport; Daily 6 am–10 pm; 401.619.1388 (ext. # 1); EmpireTeaAndCoffee.com
If you want to venture to bustling Thames Street before you head over to Fort Adams, Mokka is a must-try. Smaller than Empire Tea & Coffee, they make up for their size with an eclectic and rustic feel that is undeniably local. Especially if you’ve got a thing for camels—they’re everywhere—photos, statues, little drawings, and camel imagery are abound at Mokka. It’s cash-only here (but don’t fear, they have an ATM inside), and Mokka offers a wide array of coffee and coffee drinks, fresh pastries, and tasty desserts. Pro tip: give the Lebanese Lemonade a try. Homemade and flavored with some secret herbs and spices it is undeniably unique and refreshing. There’s nothing better to start your hot, summer folk-filled day.
476 Thames Street, Newport; M–S 8 am–4 pm, Su 8 am–3 pm; 401.619.1530; Facebook.com/mokkacoffeehouse
Willy’s Burger Bar
Relative newcomer (they opened last year), Willy’s knows how to do a burger. They use freshly ground black angus beef, in addition to locally sourced veggies, creating an incredibly juicy and flavorful patty. (Another plus: the place gives back to the local Aquidneck Island community, including ‘community night’ with donations!) Take the Texas Burger—piled high with homemade chili, cheddar and tortilla chips, there is nothing better to fill up after a long day of dancing and grooving in the hot sun. The Bach Burger is also a local favorite. The fresh mushrooms and pesto, combined with the angus beef patty, all make up for a fabulous summertime bite. Their cocktail, beer and wine list is also extensive (as in you’d be hard-pressed to find a beer or cocktail they don’t serve). A great stop on your stroll down Lower Thames for a yummy dinner, and even better for late-night at their funky bar, eclectic and fun-loving atmosphere.
599 Thames Street, Newport; Kitchen open Su–Thu 11:30 am–10:30 pm, F & Sa 11:30 am –11:00 pm; Bar open Su–Th 11:30 am–12 am, F & Sa 11:30 am–1 am; 401.841.8898; WillysNewport.com
Your one-stop shop for summer barbecue, Smoke House is a must-go for your time in Newport. Like Willy’s, Smoke House knows meat. Their ribs are fall-off-the-bone juicy, with sweet or tangy sauce to top it off and some cornbread to soak up all of the excess juice. Not to mention the extensive cocktail list (hello mason jar cocktails!). Right near Thames Street and the water, catch a whiff of the salty breeze as you chow down on slow-cooked BBQ and sip on a craft cocktail or cold brew. Head over for dinner or for a fun nightcap, and even better, after 10 pm the food menu is half-off! Count us in!
31 Scotts Wharf, Newport; Su–Th 12 pm–10 pm, F & Sa 12 pm–12 am; 401.848.9800; SmokeHouseNewport.com
Say hello to a familiar face, Perro Salado! One of favorite digs in Newport, Perro Salado is a vibrant local restaurant, serving only fresh and authentic Mexican cuisine. Tucked away in an old colonial house off of Washington Square—they bring it all up to date with bold and delicious flavors. Plus, their Clinatro-Jalapeño Margarita is not one to miss! Sip and munch on chips and guac on their sweet terrace area, while you rest your weary and folked-out feet for the day.
19 Charles Street, Newport; M–Sa 5 pm–10 pm; 401.619.4777; PerroSalado.com
Thames Street Kitchen
If you’re looking for your fix of locally sourced, simple and delicious food, look no further. tsk is past the major hustle and bustle of Thames, and most importantly, is BYOB. The place offers locally a farm-to-table attitude, aesthetic and taste, and patrons constantly leave happy. Worth noting, however, tsk fills up quickly and recommends reservations. Not surprising, considering their fresh, contemporary and effortless take on farm-to-table goodies for which Rhode Island is so well-known.
677 Thames Street, Newport; Tu–Su 5:30 pm–late; 401.846.9100; ThamesStreetKitchen.com
Cold Fusion Gelato
What better way to wrap up your folky weekend than with some delicious gelato? Also on Thames, Cold Fusion Gelato offers a variety of delicious flavors, all with an authentic Italian gelato feel. The staff is extremely kind and accommodating, and for us indecisive gelato patrons, their willingness to let us sample every flavor is much appreciated. Grab an affogato while you’re in there (espresso and ice cream) to wake up and prepare for a fun night out in Newport.
389 Thames Street, Newport; Su–Thu 11 am–10:30 pm, F–Sa 12 pm–11 pm; 401.849.6777; Facebook.com/coldfusiongelatostore
It’s hard to imagine the Folk Festival getting any better—but hopefully with this quick roundup, you can explore Newport a little further. Say hi on any of our social medias, and snap a picture while you’re at it. Let us know what you try and how you like (or love) the Newport food scene!