A warm and cozy watering hole in Newport that takes you to Ireland
New England is full of small cities that are real food destinations, including Lowell; Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vermont; and Newport, Rhode Island. This last community is a paradise of sorts for lovers of chic hotspots, upscale eateries, and elegant, high-end places while also featuring a number of good seafood restaurants as well. But if you want a true feel for a place, it’s often best to seek out the local hangouts that are just a bit off the beaten path, and Newport certainly has its fair share of those, including the Fastnet Pub, a friendly and comfy bar on an unpretentious strip of Broadway that’s maybe a two-minute walk from busy Thames Street but seems a world away both literally and figuratively, as it has the feel of a traditional pub that you might find in a small Irish village 3,000 miles to the east.
The Fastnet Pub, which gets its name from a lighthouse off the southern coast of Ireland, has the type of nooks and crannies that you’d expect to find in a well-worn Irish pub; to the left of the entrance is an attractive old bar where folks sip on pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson, while to the right is a low-lit dining area with plenty of seating, and just behind it is where the locals shoot some pool. Beyond the bar is a tiny room where people can play darts, and just beyond that is a back patio that first-timers might miss but is actually a huge space with plenty of room for people who may want to catch some rays on a nice day or might be up for some pingpong or foosball. At the far end of the patio is something that you don’t see every day on this side of the pond—a fish and chips window that sits along Court House Street and is lit up by an old-fashioned gas lamp at night. The Fastnet is also a great place to hear live music, including traditional Irish sessions on Sundays.
The atmosphere alone is reason enough to go to the Fastnet Pub, but you don’t want to write off the food here, either, as some of it is outstanding. The menu offers a mix of pub grub, classic American fare, and Irish dishes, with some of the highlights being beer-battered onion rings that could easily end up being your meal if you’re unable to stop eating them (they’re very addictive); a hearty basket of chicken tenders and curry fries; a juicy half-pound angus burger with bacon and cheese; a corned beef and cabbage dinner that you’ll occasionally find on special (including in March); the aforementioned beer-battered fish and chips with tartar sauce and lemon; and a very Irish dish that includes bangers, beans, and pub fries.
Whether you come to the Fastnet for food, drink, or both, the place has a lot of options for those looking to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two, including a beer list where Irish faves such as Guinness, Smithwicks, and Harp share the limelight with local beers from Newport Craft, Whalers, Revival, Ragged Island, and (of course) Narragansett, while plenty of other brews from around the country and overseas are also offered. You can definitely order a shot of Irish whiskey, scotch, and the like as well, or opt for a cocktail such as a dark and stormy, martini, rum punch, or margarita. Wines and ciders are also served, including the ever-popular Magner’s Cider from Ireland.
Some may think that taking a trip to Newport only to end up in an Irish pub might not make much sense with all of the dining and drinking options available in the city. But the Fastnet Pub is a special enough place that if you were somehow able to transport it to Boston, it would likely be one of the most popular bars in the city with its perfect combination of friendliness, old-school charm, excellent food, and extensive drink list. Plus if you love to get a feel for a community by hanging out with locals, you could certainly do a lot worse than this place—and you’ll quickly discover that Newport is much more than lavish mansions and the rich and famous who tend to come here during the warmer months.
The Fastnet Pub, 1 Broadway, Newport, Rhode Island. thefastnetpub.com
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.