South County at a glance: Beaches. Small towns. Food. Folks around here love to eat. We like pizza and barbecue. We want burgers and tacos, pasta and salad, and we want them well-made. If it swims in the ocean, we want it fresh; if it comes in a shell, we’ll slurp it raw. South County is a land of farmers and fishermen – with cutting-edge local restaurants in-between – and there are infinite ways to treat your tastebuds.
Indeed, new eateries are always popping up, and we sometimes struggle to keep track of their names and shticks. As summer hits its zenith, consider a visit to any of these fine new establishments. Some have replaced older haunts; others have switched addresses; and a few have emerged out of nowhere, surprising locals with their bold new menus.
John Martin had already made a name for himself with Johnny Angel’s Clam Shack in Charlestown, where beachy snacks aren’t just deep-fried and thrown in a basket, but artfully assembled. Angel’s Kitchen takes that tasteful presentation even farther, with its date-ready restaurant in a Cape Cod-style building. Here you’ll find masterful seafood and pasta dishes, plus a cozy atmosphere just a block from the Jamestown waterfront and Newport ferry. Jamestown
Bapsang is your one-stop-shop for Korean classics, such as Kimchi Ramen, Barbecue Beef, and Grilled Eel. True to its rich culinary culture, East Greenwich has one of the few authentic Korean restaurants in the state, showcasing the creations of 24-year veteran Andrew Park. “Bapsang” is an upbeat Korean word for “table setting,” and it makes a lot of sense: Every dish is precisely presented, even the noodle bowls, and you won’t find a single boiled egg or drizzle of sauce out of place. Aficionados will especially appreciate Bapsang, but rookies can learn Korean cooking from the best. East Greenwich
There isn’t a wealth of Indian cuisine in South County, so any old tandoor would probably suffice. But luckily, Bombay Flame is a really nice restaurant, and aside from the usual curries and daals, you’ll find such delicacies as Lamb Pepper Fry, Palak Kofta dumplings, and the Flame Meat Sampler. The lunch buffet is perfect for newbies, so you can figure out what you like; and if you don’t have time for the full spread, you can walk out with a “lunch box” for less than $10. Wakefield
What started as an authentic Mexican restaurant on Block Island soon became a tiny satellite place in Peace Dale. Not long after, the second Calaveras moved into a picturesque waterfront building in Narragansett, where multi-colored picnic tables and shrimp burritos await the hungry beachgoer. Julio Mendoza grew up in Mexico City, and he co-owns the place with his wife Iliana. The name means “skull,” a cheeky reference to Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Regulars may also catch occasional live music. Narragansett
Everything’s bigger at Cantina del Rio: The dining room is vast, the ovular bar can serve two dozen patrons, and the Cadillac Margarita is, truly, the Cadillac of margaritas. The menu includes some Mexican favorites, like the spicy “Michelada” beer-cocktail and the chocolate-y Mole Burrito, and the portions could stuff even the hungriest campesino. The kitchen also accommodates takeout and catering. A couple of businesses have occupied the same roadside restaurant in the past year, but hopefully Cantina del Rio is here to stay. Warwick
True to its name, Gino’s is located near Misquamicut Beach. The place is almost always open, and the kitchen serves both a hearty breakfast (omelettes, pancakes, Belgian waffles) and equally hearty dinners (pork chops, lobster, fish and chips). Whether you’re fueling up for a swim or just returning from the waves, Gino’s is a family-friendly destination that will feed you well. Bonus: Steven Polumbo sings Sinatra every Friday night. Westerly
Named after the impish Mark Twain character, Huck’s opens this month, and it promises a worldly menu with locally sourced ingredients. If that sounds vague, Huck’s is part of a new restaurant group, Dig In Dining, which includes Milk Money in Providence and Pink Pig in Jamestown, which set a high standard. Why a “filling station,” you ask? Because this trailblazing kitchen is based in a former service station, just over the Warwick line. Find out what’s cooking at Huck’s when the restaurant finally opens its industrial-sized garage doors. Warwick
Wickford is a great place to walk around. You can browse the antique shops and art galleries, crossing the whole village in 15 minutes. But if it’s warm out, you might consider taking your stroll with a foldable slice of White Pizza in your hands. Micky’s is situated in the exact center of town, so it’s equidistant to anywhere you’d want to be. You can also find other pizzeria standbys, including Garlic Knots and whole New York-style pizzas in a range of styles and toppings.
The new Phoenix is geared toward evening fun: The calendar is already packed with bands, tribute bands, line dancing, and karaoke. Combine your entertainment with dinner at the Phoenix restaurant, where you can enjoy such platters as Lobster Ravioli and “Phish & Chips.” Phoenix is technically in our neighboring state, and its lineup favors Connecticut talent. But if you’re anywhere near Westerly, it is just across the river. Pawcatuck
The logo for Rachel’s Cafe shows palm fronds, which may surprise visitors to Rhode Island, even in the summer. But Rachel’s maintains a tropical cheerfulness, thanks to a lime-green color scheme and sunlit tables. The cafe specializes in breakfast and brunch; here, the omelettes are well stuffed, the pancakes are thick, and you’ll find happy surprises, like the Breakfast Tostada. Rachel’s stands just down the road from historic Wakefield Village, making it a great stop on the way to town or in the middle of a statewide road trip. South Kingstown
The original Tavern on Main in Wakefield has one of the sweetest stories in South County history: Years ago, Christian D’Agostino landed a job at an Italian restaurant in Wakefield. After a decorated career as a chef in North Dakota, he returned to Rhode Island and opened Tavern on Main – in the same building. The second location, in East Greenwich, can’t claim the same sentimental origins, but it serves equally delicious comfort food, craft beers, and cocktails. Whether you crave Scotch Eggs or a Scallops Roll, you’ll walk away happy, and you could spend multiple brunches sampling the expansive Bloody Mary Bar. East Greenwich
Until now, anyone living in East Greenwich would have to drive around half of Narragansett Bay (about 26 miles) for a forkful of Revival’s Eggplant Involtini or Pan-Roasted Monkfish. Frankly, even the foodiest foodie in EG may never have heard of The Revival, despite its local fame in Warren. Well, all that has changed: The Revival opened a second location on Main Street, and now South County diners can try the same Carbonara Pizza and flights of rye whiskey that all the East Bayers have been raving about. East Greenwich
“Pub food” means different things to different people, but you’re likely to find any kind of pub food you want – and of very high quality – at The Thirsty Gull. Chef Joey Madeiros has been cooking for 25 years, and the diversity of his menu spans the globe: Ahi Bahn Mi, Fig & Prosciutto Flatbread, Thai Chili Mussels, and the Nashville Chicken & Waffle all await the cosmopolitan visitor. Pretty much all ingredients are sourced from New England suppliers, and then there’s the beer and wine menu, which is equally eclectic. So yes, you may like your pub food casual with a lot of hot sauce, but this place still ups the ante. Westerly
Do you bleed blue and white? Do you make monthly trips to the Green Monster? Do you take your Celtics games with a side of build-your-own-burger? If so, 241 Main is probably your kind of sports bar, where the IPAs flow and the chicken sandwiches are deep-fried in buttermilk. Brought to you by the same owners as Kai Bar, 241 Main also offers an impressive range of salads and vegetarian fare, and happy hour includes two hours of half-priced food.
You can’t beat the location: Wickford on the Water is smack dab in the middle of Wickford, and it overlooks that iconic harbor. You can see the small bridge from your table, especially if you sit on the waterfront deck. The mussels, lobster rolls, and decadent breakfasts are the perfect bookend to a stroll through the village, and you can even spend a full evening here, thanks to the well-stocked bar. Newly remodeled and under new ownership, this venue is worth a drive. Wickford