Heading out for lunch in Newport evokes all kinds of wonderful sunny images. Sun-bleached boardwalks bordered by clinking, moored yachts. The odd blinding glimmer of sun from the calm harbor waters, and a lot of people who look as if they’ve just stepped from the pages of a Tommy Hilfiger catalog.
My Newport lunch date, however, was awash with grey skies, the odd downpour and a lot of people clad in disposable, see-through windbreakers.
Not deterred by the unseasonably mizzly weather, our date with The Port Grill and Raw Bar was calling.
After struggling to actually find the place, which is tucked into Anne Street Pier and sheltered on each side by weather-boarded wooden buildings, the calm reprieve from the stormy summer weather was most welcome.
The Port offers live entertainment Thursday to Sunday and, as such, on the afternoon we dined a very talented chap with a guitar was playing in the bar area. It could have been that the volume felt a little excessive because there were fewer people than on a normal sunny day, but having to shout to the host felt a little like being in a busy bar on a Friday night rather than a marina side restaurant on Sunday afternoon.
We were seated on the covered patio, which gave us a great view of the framed portion of marina The Port commands. Had the weather been better, the bistro tables on the brick path out front would have been the prime spot to soak up this calm little corner of Newport.
The one great thing about a damp, windy day is that it gives you carte blanche to order a pie. Creamy, puff pastry topped pies are usually not a summer staple, but today I thanked the rain gods as my eyes skimmed the menu and locked immediately on the Lobster Pie entrée.
Wanting to enjoy the full Port experience (and being incredibly greedy) we ordered up a storm of appetizers and washed it down with some chilled white wine. The wine list had a good selection of red, white and sparkling wines. Most red and white were available by the glass at a reasonable price, our glasses of Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay were crisp, light and not overly sweet. Beer-wise there was a good selection of local drafts plus imported and domestic bottles. My only gripe was that water was served in disposable plastic cups, which, when sitting within the confines of the restaurant rather than dockside and enjoying (what would be) a $100 lunch, felt a little disappointing.
We shared a delicious Lobster Bisque, which though more of a chowder than bisque, was flavorful, creamy, piping hot and completely welcome as the rain started thundering down again. Half a dozen Prince Edward Island Oysters arrived on a platter of ice and were quickly topped with horseradish and slid from their shells. The meaty Maryland Style Crab Cake, that was impressively crabby rather than potatoey, lighted up the appetizer round with its ginger sesame seaweed and sweet chili garnish.
Service was quick and attentive from the team of plentiful staff who were all very friendly and well informed about the locality of the regional oysters and draft beers.
A short lull between courses gave time for some sneaky people watching. Though its numbers were clearly affected by the weather, the clientele included young families, a table of ladies at lunch and a number of couples in the informally divided ‘restaurant ‘ side of The Port. The bar side, with the live music, was busier with groups of friends drinking and snacking on apps or perched on stools looking out over the choppy waters of the harbor.
My people watching was cut short by the arrival of our entrees; a Port Burger, a 8oz Angus patty topped with cheddar and fried onion strings, in a Portuguese bolo. And, my pie.
From the first moment of Googling up the menu (yes I am one of those), I knew this pie and I were going to be having a moment. Beautiful coral red hunks of lobster tail, claw and knuckle meat, tucked up in a mushroom and sherry cream sauce and topped with a golden crisp puff pastry lid. Go get in the car now. Go order the pie.
Though the burger held its own in the grill stakes, the Lobster Pie and seafood appetizers were the stars of the show, and what with the harbor side location this should not have come as a surprise.
While not located on the busier stretch of America’s Cup Ave. or its connecting piers and wharfs, The Port’s location is not a detriment to enjoying a ‘Jack Wills catalog photo’ shoot day out in Newport. With a menu bursting with fresh seafood, friendly staff and a beautiful view of the harbor waters lapping at the rocky shoreline beneath your feet, The Port should certainly be a contender for your appetite when visiting Newport.
359 Thames St, Newport, 401-619-5892, www.theportnewport.com