In Newport, as in other high-priced resort towns, there are restaurants that the tourists go to, ones favored by tourists and locals, and places that locals tend to keep to themselves. At the risk of lengthening the wait for their piña coladas, let me tell you about the out-of-the-way Pineapples On the Bay.
|Pinepples On the Bay | 1 Goat Island, Newport | Daily, 11:30 am-9 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access | 401.851.1234|
It’s completely outdoors — poolside, actually — so it’s only for rainless occasions. But that’s just the point: the best table-side view of the Newport Bridge is here, since its Goat Island location makes it the closest dining spot. (If it’s wet, you’ll be ushered into the Hyatt Regency’s Auld Mug, the pub indoors, or the more formal Windward Restaurant.)
The area is separated by a fence from squealing children and belly flop splashes. At canopied patio tables, you can sit and sample resort ambience without the expense, that rectangle of turquoise water on one side and the gull-gliding expanse of Newport Harbor on the other, complete with sea breeze.
We dropped by for lunch. To get into the vacation mood, we first surveyed the drinks. The list of specialty drinks, $8 each, includes the familiar mojito and a dark & stormy, but the menu touted their pineapple passion as signature cocktail, so I gave that a go. Nah. It was weak with not much more than the featured fruit coming through, though only half a buck more than the wines by the glass. Johnnie had more success with her Maui Mash smoothie ($4.75), which was tarted up with tropical fruit. Beers on tap include Newport Storm Amber and Samuel Adams Summer Brew.
There is a raw bar, as well. You can assemble a plate with littlenecks at $1.15, Blue Point oysters $1.75, and shrimp $2.75. You can snack chips and salsa ($5.95) over a beer, or have a bowl of clam chowder ($7).
Amounts are unspecified for the “bucket” of steamers ($17.75) or the peel ’n’ eat gulf shrimp ($13.75). Both the grilled beef teriyaki and the chicken satay are only $10.50, and we tried the latter. Nice. A half-dozen skewers of moist chicken were smoky from the grill and charred just enough. The mango dipping sauce was too thin to stick like the traditional peanut sauce but got points for being a fresh variation, good for dipping the accompanying fried wonton skins.
The lunch menu, with its $17.95 lobster roll, also has a few $9.95 sandwich items: Jamaican jerk chicken, barbecued pulled pork, and a burger. (All come with chips, rather than fries, which are not available as sides.) There is a grilled rib eye steak sandwich for $14.50, topped with caramelized Vidalia onions and Swiss cheese. For the other end of the appetite spectrum there are several salads ($10-$15).
I had the swordfish sandwich ($13.75), which was grilled with restraint and served on a fresh, soft roll with a tangy aioli on the side and plentiful potato chips. By mistake, there was no dressing on Johnnie’s grilled “vegan salad,” though when she pointed that out, she was offered a choice of the salad’s usual soy or citrus vinaigrette. She pronounced them “amazingly good veggies,” and my sampling of intensive smoky zucchini reminded me of what a transformation a grill can accomplish.
Menu items are available until 9 pm, and on Friday nights there is a dinner special tied in with the liquor promotion of the evening. For the kids there is a “Little Minnow’s Menu” of hotdog, burger, and chicken fingers. Besides ice cream bars, desserts are berries with vanilla yogurt and New York cheesecake, each $6.
The place is open from the end of May through mid-September. As for parking, that annoying inhibition to Newport summer dining, officially it’s $10 — just drive through the garage and into the lot next to the pool — but sometimes the fee is waived. If you want to play it safe, parking spots are often available on the causeway leading to Goat Island.
As the menu explains, the pineapple became the symbol for Newport hospitality because 19th-century ship captains would bring them home as exotic souvenirs and gifts, placing them at their doors to indicate when they were welcoming visitors. Pineapples the eatery continues the tradition.
There is live entertainment Fridays through Mondays from 6 to 9 pm, and every night complimentary champagne toasts, complete with a cannon salute, are raised to the sunset. Wear a Hawaiian shirt if you don’t want to be taken for one of the locals.