Outdoor Dining Destination Spots

Casual and Formal Outdoor Eateries in Rhode Island

If you choose to dine outside, you choose to dine with insects alighting on your lips and in your wine, and you choose to be too hot or too cold but rarely anywhere in between. You choose to permit the wind to toss your hair into your mouth while you’re trying to take a bite of chowder, of all things, and, if it’s feeling particularly gusty, to knock over your glass. But dine outside you must, because summer in Rhode Island is explosively gorgeous and devastatingly brief, and every hour that you waste in a carpeted, air-conditioned tomb — work, school, the DMV — is an hour funneled down the poop drain of your stinking mortality. You long for the sun to bless you with blistering kisses and for the wind to avidly caress your pasty skin, while the elements in turn yearn to beat your troglodyte butt for living a puling half-life in the manmade shade. Fortunately, when it comes to outdoor dining in Rhode Island, opportunity does a thing it hardly ever does: it abounds.

Salty Brine State Beach in Galilee is my favorite Rhode Island beach. There, I said it. Free parking is ample, it’s kept clean, there are accessible public restrooms, it tends to have noticeably less red tide than other nearby beaches, and the breakers are refreshingly nonviolent. Great Island Road is peppered with dining options, all with outdoor seating, and most with decks. Champlin’s and George’s are well-known standbys offering all the classics from fish and chips to lobster dinners. Buster Krab’s Burger Shack and Beach Bar offers a patio with a tropical vibe, replete with two bright plastic palm trees whose fronds sway convincingly in the wind. Clam Jammers (yep) has a great seafood menu and a deck overlooking the commercial fishing dock, where one can contemplate socioeconomics while viewing seagulls fighting over scraps of detritus. But the real gem of this thoroughfare is also the most unlikely. Salty’s Landing is a barely noticeable concession stand tucked into the side of the small building that houses the public restroom facilities. Their menu hits all the important points — fish and chips, chowder, fried clams and scallops, burgers and hot dogs, lemonade, and a handful of other offerings for a few bucks less than their neighbors. Their clam cakes are perfectly fluffy, light, and moist with thin, crispy skins and a generous smattering of diced clams. They have a small seating area on the dock, or you can carry your food to your spot on the beach next to that wonderful patch of welcoming ocean. Eat your fish at the edge of the sea and then carry it in your belly back to the waters where its life began. It’s deliciously epic.

Salty’s Landing, Salty Brine’s State Beach at Point Judith Landing; Open Memorial Day through Columbus Day until 5pm; saltyslanding.com

If you prefer something a little less profound and slightly more formal, be sure to head to Crazy Burger. This is one of those places that offers something for everyone: beef burgers, salmon burgers, bean burgers, nut burgers, nut-free burgers, vegan burgers, gluten-free burgers, salads, breakfast and entrees, all with the sauce on the side. The food is legitimately tasty and their back patio area is a secret garden bursting with flora and cloistered with walls of hanging vines, and in the evening it is softly and magically lit with Christmas lights. It’s close enough to Narragansett Town Beach to smell the salt in the air and hear the surf in the distance.

Crazy Burger,144 Boon St., Narragansett, Sunday – Thursday 8am – 9pm, Friday and Saturday 8am – 9:30pm, 401-783-1810, crazyburger.com

The Beehive Café in downtown Bristol is set like a small diamond brooch on Franklin Street. Walking in, one is embraced by the warm sensation of just having arrived at a casual and intimate party being thrown in one’s honor. The menu emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients from area farms prepared simply and well. Their main patio sits just outside the main entrance, recessed from the sidewalk and colorfully decorated with eclectic sculpture, but the real treat is the upstairs balcony. Seating just three small tables, those who are lucky enough to score this perch will be treated to an aerial view of Bristol Harbor, which lies just one block Northwest. Wherever you sit, get a lemon square. I’m serious.

The Beehive Cafe, 10 Franklin St., Bristol, Sunday – Wednesday 7am – 4pm, Thursday – Saturday 7am – 9pm, 401-396-9994, thebeehivecafe.com

Head west on route 44 for a scenic drive, against intuition, away from the coast. This is an excellent Sunday path, a path that takes you to the marvelous Stillwater Antiques in Greenville, past the lovely trails at George Washington Campgrounds, and ultimately leads you on to Putnam, CT. Powder Mill Creamery at 777 Putnam Pike in Greenville is an absolutely wonderful year-round roadside establishment that sells breakfast, sandwiches, ice cream, coffee and apple cider donuts. The ice cream and donuts are made fresh on premises, and the burgers are char-grilled to smoky, juicy perfection and served on soft, toasted buns. The building sits neatly in front of a spectacular view of Waterman Lake, and guests are invited to dine at a cluster of pleasantly shaded wood picnic tables that border a picturesque pond. Keep this place in your pocket for autumn; their seasonal gingersnap molasses ice cream is ridiculous, especially paired with a scoop of chocolate.

Powder Mill Creamery, 777 Putnam Pike, 5am – 10pm; Call to confirm hours during winter months; Cash only; 401-949-3040, powdermillcreamery.webs.com

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