For our August family getaway, this year we headed to Newport, a place equally rich in history and brilliant sunsets. In Newport — like many other New England vacation destinations — it can be challenging to find vegan-friendly spots in the midst of a sea(food)-focused culture, but I found some terrific options to share with you.
Where to Eat
- Lucia Ristorante
Italian restaurants are usually pretty easy on vegans — even if there’s not a whole lot on the menu that is vegan, the kitchen can usually tweak some pasta dishes. We chose this local Italian place because it has a separate vegetarian menu, which made things even easier. I’m particularly discerning about Italian food, having grown up surrounded by some of the best; I was very happy about the food here, as were our non-vegan companions. And as tempting as the Pasta Arrabbiata on the vegetarian menu sounded, Seth and I each ordered one of the two seitan dishes on the menu. Both delicioso! A lively restaurant, Lucia is also is a good choice for larger parties or families with children.
- Perro Salado
What a fantastic Mexican-inspired restaurant, and surprisingly inexpensive. For just $10, a couple of Vegetable Tacos that taste like everything was just picked from the garden; I topped mine with some green salsa. For starters, skip the usual chips and order the Avocado Fries (avocado wedges, breaded and fried), which we had with the homemade red salsa in place of the chipotle mayo usually served with it. On vacation, we can allow for some guilt-free indulgences, right?
- The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn
For a relaxed Sunday afternoon, we settled into a couple of The Lawn’s Adirondack chairs — me with a glass of white wine, Seth with a specialty cocktail — and enjoyed soaking up the scene as much as the sunshine. Couples, families, and even a wedding party, all mingled around us, while in the near distance sailboats glided along the water. Just behind us, the din of the open-air restaurant crowd, hearty food and cheerful conversations. Although the menu at The Lawn is not especially vegan-friendly, Black Bean Falafel sandwiches are on the regular weekday menu; the kitchen was happy to make them for us as a late lunch even though we’d come on a Sunday, not realizing there is a different menu on the weekends. In place of the Tzakiki sauce that the Falafel usually comes with, I drizzled some of the shallot vinaigrette that accompanied the fresh side salad of heirloom tomatoes and garden-fresh cucumbers. Quite possibly the best falafel I’ve ever had… and that’s saying something.
- Tallulah on the Thames
From the setting to the food, I adored almost everything about this cozy bistro. With an open window to the small kitchen where Chef Jake Rojas and his few assistants are hard at work, this intimate restaurant (seats just about thirty people) operates more like a supper club: order the four-course prix fixe and you can select from a few choices for each course; or, order six courses and let the chef choose for you. So here’s the glitch: although there were some vegetarian (and accidentally vegan) courses on the menu, the chef was not at all welcoming when we inquired about one particular course that had no vegetarian/vegan options. After our meal, however, he was pleasant enough and apologized for his initial reaction. I joked with him that for someone who didn’t want us there, he cooked us quite a spectacular meal. And he really did — one of the best meals I’ve had recently, in fact. And, naturally, I encouraged him to incorporate some vegan dishes onto the menu more regularly. But until that happens, I sadly pass along this caveat to my cruelty-free diners: vegans will have a better experience elsewhere.
Where to Stay
As always, for family getaways it’s as much about our pups Otis and Galileo as it is about us. We want a place that welcomes them, pampers them a bit, and a place we feel comfortable letting them take a nap while we do some sightseeing or beach lounging. The Beechtree B & B, just a short drive from the beach or the heart of town, provided the perfect place for us to relax together as a family. Though the Beachtree does not specifically cater to vegans, they were happy to have some almond milk for us to have with our morning cereal.
*During the summer season, dogs are not allowed on beaches during most of the the day. Of the three local beaches (Easton’s, Second, and Third), I think Second Beach offers the nicest stretch of sand and sea where you can bring the pups in the early morning (before 8am) or after 6pm.
With all the historic places, the mansions, the sailing, and the beaches, there’s plenty to do in Newport. However, here are a few local gems that I encourage you to check out if you have the time.
- Green Animals Topiary Garden
About twenty minutes away in Portsmouth, Green Animals is a seven-acre estate of topiaries (animals galore!), vegetable, and herb gardens, orchards, and a Victorian house overlooking Narragansett Bay.
- Norman Bird Sanctuary
We didn’t have time to make it here on this trip, but it’s at the top of our “to do” list the next time we’re in town. Our family friends (and dinner companions at Lucia) had great things to say about this sanctuary and its hiking trails.
- Redwood Library
Are you a bookworm like me? Redwood is the oldest lending library in the nation, so for someone with a graduate degree in Literature, a quick trip here was an absolute must. But no advanced degrees required to enjoy a brief browse of the shelves filled with first editions. SO cool!
Especially if you’re visiting Newport for the first time, I highly recommend Access Tours of Newport. We had owner Ed for a whole afternoon to ourselves. Not only is he a wellspring of information, but he’s also delightful company!