Rhode Island’s Hottest Al Fresco Dining Spots
We've compiled eighteen dining adventures, from city patios and hidden gardens to oceanfront lawns and harborside decks.
Jamie Coelho, Grace Kelly, Jen McCaffery and Casey Nilsson
100 Dorrance St., Providence,
The Menu: Eat as light or as hearty as you wish with a locally sourced selection of raw bar options, housemade charcuterie, snacks and entrees like the crisp, thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas. There’s also the renowned beet- root gnocchi from corporate executive chef Robert Sisca, a Johnson and Wales University alumnus who spent time cooking in the kitchens of New York City’s Le Bernardin and Boston’s Bistro du Midi.
The Vibe: This is Providence’s only rooftop lounge and restaurant, a place where the stylish set goes for a meal and drinks that are on another level. Early evenings are chill, with live music Monday through Thursday starting at 6 p.m., while Friday through Sunday nights there’s a deejay lounge vibe. The glass-enclosed roof is retractable and works in all weather, opening up in the summer while fire pits keep guests warm as temps drop into the night.
The View: Head seven stories up to the rooftop that overlooks the whole city, including a spectacular view of the iconic Superman Building. Depending on the hour, visitors soak in the sunshine for Sunday Funday, bask in the sunset or gaze at the stars while feasting and sipping the day or night away.
Get: The wood-fired pizzas feature ingredients like whipped ricotta, parmesan and preserved lemon, or try a New England favorite recreated as pizza, the Chowdah. It includes smoked bacon, native clams, potato and crunchy oyster crackers. Chef Sisca’s famous beetroot gnocchi is another must — light pillows of pink pasta dough served with aged goat cheese, pine nuts and fresh basil.
The Price: Pizzas and entrees $13–$32.
The Details: You won’t have to worry about parking here. Complimentary valet is available at the adjacent Narragansett Hotel Garage Monday through Saturday. Be sure to apply sunscreen since the sun shines brighter up on the roof.
227 Schooner Dr., Tiverton,
The menu: Your server will present you with an anthology of refined seafood dishes, whether they’re locally inspired — native oysters, Point Judith calamari, baked stuffed lobster — or more exotic, like the seafood paella or the coriander crusted swordfish. But bring your friend who doesn’t eat fish, just to prove a seafood restaurant can make the meanest Cubano around.
The vibe: This place is a well-oiled machine. The parking is ample, the service is prompt and the food is served hot. But if you’re looking for a little more spontaneity, head in Sundays through Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. during the off-season (from late fall to mid-May) for half off appetizers in the bar.
The view: There’s hardly a bad seat on the waterside deck. Time it right and catch one of the prettiest sunsets over Narragansett Bay. On chilly days, grab a table by the wide windows for a just-as-nice view.
Get: The Maine lobster roll. It’s got all the standard stuff — grilled, buttered bun; herbed mayo — but what sets this version apart is the abundance of claw meat. The bun bursts with thick pieces of lobster. You may need to eat it with a knife and fork, lest you wind up with it in your lap. The sandwich comes with the requisite fries and ketchup, but order a side of avocado for a bright interlude between bites.
The price: Entrees $12–$39.
The details: Serious imbibers will laud the lengthy wine and liquor lists, but the cocktail selection breathes life into a polished seafood dinner. The New Orleans-style House of the Rising Sun, with rum, ruby port, bourbon, citrus and clarified milk, was a warming nightcap to send us on our way.
590 Ocean Dr., Newport,
The menu: Casual cuisine gone upscale is the main idea at the Lawn at Castle Hill Inn, where the atmosphere is much more relaxed than the inn’s more refined dining room. Clam chowder and lobster rolls are glammed up on sparkling white bowls and plates with accents like tarragon-creme fraiche, onion straws and kettle cooked chips.
The vibe: The Champagne-worthy scene includes romantic couples, groups and families making sweet summertime memories while kids roll around on the grassy oceanfront hill. Depending on the day, securing a no-reservations Adirondack chair on the lawn requires stealth dexterity. Once you settle into your spot, don’t leave your seat…at least, until your table is ready. Someone is always waiting in the wings to snag it.
The view: Sit back and watch sailboats glide by on the tranquil bay while the sun dips into the ocean. It’s the best spot in all of Newport to take in the sunset. Start the afternoon or evening on the grounds, then head up to the Lawn for a meal with the same panoramic views. Evenings can get chilly, even during summer, so bring a jacket or wrap to stay warm as the breeze kicks up. Castle Hill also loans guests blankets to wrap up in at your table. Just ask.
Get: Consistent New England fare with a twist, like fried Point Judith calamari topped with banana peppers, olives and tangy lemon-parsley aioli. The grilled chicken “Al Matonne” is a heartier version of a Caprese salad with a grilled breast, creamy burrata and meaty heirloom tomatoes the color of the rainbow. Grilled fish tacos are a lighter take on Mexican cuisine with fresh cilantro and radishes along with pico de gallo and a side of chimichurri-grilled corn.
The price: Entrees $17-$45.
The details: The Lawn doesn’t take reservations, so it’s best to go early, put your name on the list, and enjoy the scene over cocktails on the sprawling oceanfront property. Bring a blanket to spread out on the grass before dinner. Taking your time is part of the experience.
378 Main St., East Greenwich, 398-8855, besoskitchenandcocktails.com
The menu: There’s a reason drinks are included in the restaurant’s name. Besos is proud of its history as a former tavern, its handcrafted cocktails and its onyx indoor bar. The menu changes with the seasons, and the restaurant sources from locals like Narragansett Creamery, Farm Fresh Rhode Island and Daniele charcuterie. You’ll find plenty of casual favorites like grilled pizza, small plates and burgers (at lunchtime). Meanwhile, the wine list is a carefully curated international selection.
The vibe: A place for EG to congregate on a summer night, whether it’s old friends meeting for dinner or coworkers getting together for drinks. The historic Old Elms building is welcoming, and inside, the decor is bistro meets rustic barn for a quiet dinner. But the outdoor patio is where the action happens in an atmosphere surrounded by romantic string lights hanging from the trees and fences. With a landscaped exterior and a small outdoor bar made of antique doors, it’s full and festive even at 6 p.m. on a weeknight.
The view: Located right in the middle of town on Main Street, a table on Besos’s wrap-around porch provides prime people watching on a summer night. Looking for a more social experience? Head to the cheery patio, where if you’re from EG, you’re likely to see someone you know.
Get: For drinks, the blueberry lemonade and sangria are popular warm weather picks. To start, try the beef carpaccio with house made sea salt ricotta, cara cara orange and pistachio followed by the tuna udon with scallion and sesame pesto and lime aioli. The surf and turf ($34) will satisfy diners looking for a bigger meal.
The price: Entrees $19–$34.
The details: Bartenders at Besos make their own ingredients for the cocktails, including shrubs, bitters and simple syrups as well as infusing their own vodka.
312 Wickenden St., Providence, 270-3300, theduckandbunny.com
The menu: Sweet and savory crepes are stuffed with ingredients that you might put in a sandwich, but taste even better folded into a whisper thin eggy blanket. Go with brunch or lunch versions that include everything from bacon, egg and fontina cheese to the Ultimate New York System Crepe that crams in four wieners all the way. Sweet versions focus on fruit, chocolate and cheeses like the Angelina with blueberries, cloumage and raspberry chocolate jam, best served with a Champagne-style cocktail.
The vibe: An unexpected little hideaway exists behind the historic blush pink Colonial where salads, crepes and cupcakes are served under sunny skies. Evenings turn on the twinkle lights and candlelit lanterns illuminate tables when the stars come out to play.
The view: There’s a sun-dappled, tree-covered terrace with elegant tables equipped with umbrellas that keep the area cool in hot summer months. The shady lounge-like area boasts cushioned patio furniture and seating that works well for larger groups.
Get: Go adventurous with a creative crepe take on pasta (the crepeccini involves thin strips of crepe cut like fettuccini), burritos (the creperito stows beans, rice, salsa and more) and pizzas (crepzza is spread with sauce, cheese and other toppings). Or you can request afternoon high tea service with a spread of dainty sandwiches, housemade scones, mini cupcakes and cookies, plus a pot of tea.
The price: Entrees $10–$14.
The details: In case that wasn’t enough crepe action for you, the Duck and Bunny also has sundae crepes like the banana split crepe rolled with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, walnuts and more.
32 Barton Ave., Barrington, 247-0017, bluewatergrillri.com
The menu: The locally sourced, seafood- and farm-driven menu appeals to seafarers, landlubbers and vegetarians alike. From casual fare like burgers and sandwiches to upscale choices like sea scallops and top sirloin, entrees take a creative spin on the norm; sea scallops might be served with a citrus gremolata and lobster risotto and steak comes with smoked bacon potato au gratin. Even the kids will clean their plates with a children’s menu that aims to please.
The vibe: Patrons dock their boats at the marina then make their way over to fill their bellies with the bounty of the sea — windblown hair, sunscreen-streaked faces and all. Couples, groups of friends, and families with babies, toddlers or teens in tow, all come here to soak up the all-inclusive atmosphere on the patio, where live music is often featured on weekends. If it’s too chilly for al fresco, the renovated nautical chic dining room — all navy and white details with pops of coral — also overlooks the boatyard.
The View: From the patio, located across from the Barrington Yacht Club, you can ogle elaborate vessels or scope out the lot to buy one of your own. The location calls for a post-meal stroll along the water, with a picturesque view of the harbor across the way.
Get: Summer specials feature seasonal ingredients, but the tuna Napoleon starter is a mainstay. Ahi tuna is seared rare with crisp tostada chips accented by the subtle heat of wasabi aioli and sweet soy glaze. Count on perfectly seared jumbo sea scallops prepared with lobster risotto, and highlighting whatever’s growing in the gardens at the moment.
The price: Pizzas and entrees $12–$29.
The details: Head over on Sundays with the little ones when up to two kids eat free with the purchase of one regular entree. There’s also a $1 raw bar Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and during weekday lunch hours.
1175 Succotash Rd., Wakefield, 783-2050
The menu: You know you’re dining at a true seafood joint when “market price” is listed on the menu eight times. Don’t be stingy; you’ll regret it if you don’t order that lobster you saw snapping in a saltwater tank by the entry. (RIP, lobster. You did not die in vain.)
The vibe: As laid back as it gets. Claim a table on the dock, put in an order, crack open your BYOB stash — that’s right, it’s BYOB; lobster rolls for everyone! — then take the kids to splash around at the shallow micro-beach between the docks. We’ve sat down to eat with sandy bare feet and wet shorts on more than one occasion. Real Rhode Islandahs can handle it, and so can Jim’s.
The view: Docked boats teeter in the harbor, a treat for the marine types. If you look beyond the skiffs and trawlers, you’ll catch the Block Island Ferry coasting in and out of the harbor. Wave hi to the ferry boaters.
Get: Here’s the secret to a successful evening at Jim’s: Order everything and share. Clam cakes, calamari, stuffies, the fisherman’s platter, freedom fries (yes, freedom fries) to dunk in creamy, rich lobster bisque: You’re there for a taste of the sea, so taste it all.
The price: Entrees $15–$32 (market prices fluctuate).
The details: The restaurant is only open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and reservations are not accepted. The parking situation is a little tricky — the lot is tandem-style — but leave your license plate number with the hostess and forget about it.
74 S. Main St., Woonsocket,
The menu: Seafood is king at River Falls, with the lobster lover’s feast during the summer, including options like a Portuguese clam boil and various lobster dishes. Apps like wings are also big, washed down with a pick from the extensive craft beer menu.
The vibe: Located in the midst of Woonsocket’s revitalized Market Square, River Falls seems to attract half the city, especially during the summer. The outdoor patio has a twenty-five-seat bar where there’s live acoustic music on Saturday nights. They also recently added a tavern out front. Bartenders and waitstaff know many of the customers, and even if they don’t know you, they’re all very friendly.
The view: Head down to the patio and settle in for a front-row view of the rapids of the Blackstone River. The restaurant is right next door to the Museum of Work and Culture, which highlights the French Canadian historical influence on the area.
Get: The prime rib has its devotees Thursdays through Sundays, and you can go old school with traditional combo platters like surf and turf. Burgers are also inventive, and the namesake River Falls burger with applewood bacon doesn’t disappoint.
The price: Entrees $11–$36.
The details: For some down-home cooking, don’t miss Ma Glockner’s Chicken Dinner on Sundays, complete with cranberry sauce and cinnamon rolls made from scratch for $12.49. On Wednesday nights from 3 to 9 p.m., enjoy dinner for two with a bottle of wine for $35.
134 Atwells Ave., Providence, 273-0650, massimori.com
The menu: Longtime Federal Hill mainstays Joe and Esther DeQuattro are at the helm, and their second restaurant is more rustic Italian than upscale Pane e Vino. Described as “Italy to Table,” the menu ranges from classics like veal chop Milanese to the littleneck clams with beans, white wine, garlic and tomato served with crusty bread.
The vibe: On Friday nights, you’ll find everyone from young couples gazing at each other across the table to a long table full of old friends celebrating a birthday to young professionals in town for a convention getting dropped off by the hotel van.
The view: Taking over the space where Mediterraneo used to be, Massimo may not have the ambience of DePasquale Plaza, but with open-air doors and a hospitable atmosphere, you won’t forget you’re on Federal Hill.
Get: Start with one of the seasonal pizzettes, such as the potato and pear, served up on a rustic wooden board. The seared scallops with cacio pepe risotto had just the right amount of crunch, and you can’t go wrong with the rack of lamb with mint pesto or handmade pastas.
The price: Entrees $19–$38.
The details: Head there for the Sunday jazz brunch, starting at 10:30 a.m. On Mondays, enjoy a bottle of wine and dinner for two for $49. Massimo also offers $16.95 prix-fixe lunches and live entertainment on Fridays.
1094 Centerville Rd., Warwick, 821-1447, thetreehousetavern.com
The menu: A recent dinner offered comfort food with a refined edge — think: moules frites, wild boar corn dogs, meatloaf with corn succotash and lobster bread pudding. Check the website for up-to-date menus, which change with the season.
The vibe: The restaurant is rustic and romantic and always, always busy, with the frenetic energy of a backyard cocktail party. Call ahead for a table in the woodshed, an al fresco seating area that offers the best of both worlds. The breeze floats through the open structure while a post and beam roof provides refuge from the late-setting sun. When dinner’s wrapped up, grab a Twilight Sangria and cozy up by the roaring fire pit.
The view: This might just be one of the prettiest spots in the state that doesn’t boast an ocean view. And no wonder: The restaurant, a stone’s throw from busy Bald Hill Road, first opened as a floral shop and, in time, expanded into food service. The grounds burst with hydrangeas, black eyed Susans, Echinacea and other summer-happy perennials. You’ll be remiss if you don’t kick back in an Adirondack chair with a cocktail, toes wiggling in the dense green grass.
Get: At brunch, the sky-high quiche is a must-try. At dinner, go for the lobster BLT. And for the bottomless pits among us, an intimidating portion of pulled pork nachos will fill you up like never before.
The price: Entrees $14–$32.
The details: This isn’t a quaint hole-in-the-wall; the restaurant is always busy and the service can be spotty, especially if you’re a walk-in. Be sure to make a reservation.
More Old Favorites
Tried and true al fresco dining spots.
Blount Clam Shack
Some of the best views by the bay can be found along the Warren waterfront at Blount Clam Shack. There’s live acoustic music by the picnic tables on Thursdays through Sundays in the summer, and easygoing options like lobster rolls and clam cakes are worth travelling for. 335 Water St., Warren, 245-3210, blountretail.com
Sneak a peek at some of the most luxurious yachts and sailboats bobbing in the harbor in front of this upscale restaurant’s back deck. Indulge in the raw bar or choose menu items from both sea and land. Seafood is sustainable whenever possible and landed by local fishermen. 1 Sayers Wharf, Newport, 846-2260, mooringrestaurant.com
Dead Eye Dick’s
This casual eatery at Block Island’s New Harbor boasts waterside decks with the most gorgeous views, where patrons cut into juicy steaks and seafood options. The family-friendly spot is known for swordfish and lobster dishes, plus elaborate sunsets. Ocean Ave., New Shoreham, 466-2654, deadeyedicksbi.com
Securing a table at Al Forno is always a feat, but warm-weather months double the possibilities. The riverfront restaurant boasts a wisteria-shaded terrace where the grilled pizzas, wood-grilled Georges Bank scallops and hand-churned ice cream taste better outdoors. 577 South Water St., Providence, 273-9760, alforno.com
Luxe Burger Bar
A spacious dog-friendly patio is the place to be in the summer
when guests bite into customizable burgers and the Farmers Market salad while sipping on boozy milk shakes, margaritas and great craft beer options. There’s a doggie menu too! 5 Memorial Blvd., Providence, 621-5893, luxeburgerbar.com
Coast Guard House
The Coast Guard House’s prime location calls for a lazy day at nearby Narragansett Town Beach, followed by a short walk to an upscale dining experience. Sit on the outdoor patio, a glass of rose in hand, gulp down briny oysters and bask in the glow of the Kool-Aid-colored sunset. 40 Ocean Rd., Narragansett, 789-0700, thecoastguardhouse.com
Tucked off of Main Street in Westerly, Bridge provides New England classics (think the three c’s: cod, calamari, chowder), creative vegetarian eats (buffalo tofu bites are a guilty pleasure) and more, all served up with a tranquil waterfront vista as a backdrop. 37 Main St., Westerly, 348-9700, bridgeri.com
The rooftop at Chair 5 has views just as fine as the lifeguards who inhabit its namesake on Narragansett Town Beach. Sip some cocktails or a craft beer alongside fish tacos with mango-cabbage slaw or the timelessly sexy lobster roll. The Break Hotel, 1208 Ocean Rd., Narragansett, 363-9820, dinechair5.com