A Squared: Smoke House Cafe & Great Chowder Cook Off in Newport, RI

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Smoke House Cafe & Great Chowder Cook Off in Newport, RI

In the midst of this moving madness, I have totally forgotten to fill you in on my first trip of the summer!

Earlier this month, Alex and I flew back to Rhode Island to watch my little sister Megan graduate from high school. The weekend flew by too quickly, but it was so fun to spend a little time with all my siblings to celebrate a big milestone in one of our lives-- it's not often that we're all together!

We had some great quality family time at my parents' house, but we also managed to sneak a few food-centric activities too. On Saturday Alex and I headed out to Newport and spent the day there with my parents. We ventured into Newport to attend the annual Polar Seltzer Great Chowder Cook Off. I don't think I have attended the Chowder Cook Off since I was in high school, so as a lover of all things food and street festivals I was definitely pumped for this one.

Once there though, I have to say I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it was a really fun festival. There were tons of vendors and live music and the location right on the wharf in Newport is great. However, I remember there being dozens of chowder cook off participants the last time that I was here and and the festival was really light on entries this time around. We tasted our way through all of them in about an hour. I definitely wish there would have been more for us to taste!

Personally, I think that they were just marketing the whole thing wrong. This is more of a summer festival featuring a chowder cook off, but the chowder definitely did not feel like the main event this time around. That said though, there were a couple of real standout chowders for us:

  • I loved Trio's entry in the Creative Category: A stuffie chowder. Trio is located in Narragansett, RI and their chowder was a riff on the traditional Rhode Island stuffie (a stuffed quahog). The chowder included cheese, sweet pepper flavor, and was topped with seasoned breadcrumbs.
  • I also loved the chowder that Fat Face Fenner's Fishack in Hermosa Beach, CA was serving up. It had almost a sweet and sour flavor that was refreshing and different.
  • Alex and my dad both favored the classic white clam chowder from reigning champion Stefano's Restaurant in Long Beach Island, NJ.

While we did have a great time at the festival, we powered through the chowder tastings pretty quickly and were still looking feeling a little hungry. My parents were totally on the same page as me and suggested we head over to Smoke House Cafe, one of our favorite restaurants in Newport which is also conveniently located just down the block from the Newport Yachting Center where the Chowder Cook Off was taking place.

Smoke House is a great little open air restaurant and bar specializing in barbecue and cocktails. In other words, our kind of place. It's a small place and the food is good, so there is typically a long wait here. We showed up mid-afternoon and were able to get seated right away-- which was amazing-- but plan accordingly if you're going during peak lunch or dinner hours.

We started with cocktails and I was immediately drawn to the Cojito that I spied on the menu: Mom and I both ordered this mason jar cocktail is a spin on the classic mojito with fresh coconut-infused rum, elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice, soda water, and mint. It was delicious!

Alex may have been even more excited than me for cocktail hour when he found out that Smoke House Cafe was serving the elusive Narragansett Shandy. This shandy is a collaboration of two of Rhode Island's favorite beverages: Narragansett Brewing Company beer and Del's Lemonade. Even back in Chicago we had heard about this limited edition drink so Alex was itching to try it and disappointed to find that it's not widely available in RI liquor stores. It was a happy moment to find that drink on the menu at Smoke House!

You may recall from previous posts that my husband has an inexplicable love for deviled eggs. He really enjoyed Smoke House's version that incorporated smoked bacon for a little barbecue-inspired kick.

My favorite item on Smoke House's menu is by far the nachos. I love nachos at most restaurants, but these are particularly special. Tortilla chips are topped with fresh tomatoes, corn, sliced jalapenos, and red onion along with melty cheese and Smoke House's signature BBQ pulled pork. They finish it off with a little sour cream and guacamole and it is SO good! It has been a few years since I have been here too (I actually told Alex that I think the last time I was there was on a date with someone else-- guess it has been a while!) and the food and atmosphere was just as good as I remembered.

If you're in Newport and looking for a place for a casual meal or drink-- or if you just need a break from seafood (although, who are we kidding?)-- add Smoke House to your dining itinerary for your next trip!
Smoke House Cafe on Urbanspoon

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