Often overlooked as a dining option for University of Rhode Island students and community members are the many restaurants located on Aquidneck Island in Newport.
Often seen as high brow, and financially out of reach for those of us accustomed to half-priced appetizers and eat-cheap week, this foodie is about to tell you just how you can eat big on a budget at one of “the best things to do and see in Newport,” according to CNN.
Located on Newport’s Memorial Boulevard West, Jo’s American Bistro is a self-proclaimed “classy yet casual” restaurant featuring classic American cuisine with hints of Italian inspiration. I can attest to the establishment’s dignified, yet modest ambiance, allowing patrons maximum comfort while they dine in an elevated setting.
Upon entry, I was greeted by the hostess. After confirming my reservation, I was asked whether I preferred a table on the first floor closer to the live music, or a quieter setting on the second floor of the restaurant. Not wanting to miss out on anything Jo’s had to offer, I elected the first floor where I was pleased to find an acoustic duo, performing their renditions of classics by John Taylor, Otis Redding and more. The music was easily audible, yet not overpowering, allowing for easy conversation amongst table members.
As I began to look over the menu, I was delighted and slightly overwhelmed by the selection. Though my guest and I are diehard burger fans, being so close to the ocean we couldn’t help but indulge ourselves with the appealing seafood options. I decided to partake in the three-course restaurant week menu with the clam chowder, lobster carbonara and apple cranberry crisp as my selections, while my company chose Jo’s dry dock fish and chips.
Our drinks arrived almost immediately after ordering them. I enjoyed a refreshing berry sangria while my guest sipped on a Coca-Cola. Both drinks arrived with already inserted paper straws, a pleasant surprise for my environmentally conscious soul. Along with the drinks came two piping hot rolls, warm to the touch and the perfect host for easily spreadable butter. My chowder arrived soon after.
Topped with freshly ground pepper which was offered and provided by our server, the clam chowder was an excellent prequel to my main entree. The perfect temperature for immediate consumption the soup left me mostly satisfied. My only wish was that it might have contained a bit more clam, but my yearning for more seafood would soon be satisfied by the contents of my main dish.
The main course arrived almost instantaneously after we completed our appetizer and bread. The fish and chips accompanied by french fries and cole slaw, my guest reports, was a high-quality cut of fish and not greasy like most fried seafood options. The dish was no-fuss, but still a high-quality meal. My lobster carbonara was hearty and decadent, forcing me to box and carry out the remainder as leftovers, which made a just as satisfying lunch the next day.
The carbonara featured many lobster claws, peas, tomatoes, bacon, and spaghetti tossed in a delicious parmesan cream sauce. Every time I thought I had devoured the last piece of lobster my dish had to offer, I found another concealed by a pile of perfectly cooked pasta. The sauce was light enough to not overpower the dish’s natural flavor, yet still creamy enough for an avid cheese lover such as myself. If the carbonara had been my only item ordered, I would have been able to consume the plate in its entirety and leave the establishment full and content. Alas, I had elected to participate in multiple courses, so I received my dessert with open arms, and was again not disappointed.
The apple cranberry crisp was an excellent twist on an American classic. Arriving hot, the dish was beautifully plated making it almost as attractive as it was delicious. The added cranberry was an interesting twist, adding some unexpected but deeply enjoyed diversity to the dish’s flavor. It was an excellent closing to a thoroughly enjoyable meal.
The restaurant week menu I partook in will be available until Nov. 12th. The dinner menu includes several other appetizers, entree and dessert options such as beef carpaccio, salad, salmon, surf and turf and tiramisu. The three-course option costs $35, or for lunch, you can select from a separate $20 restaurant week menu with different main course options including but not limited to the fish and chips, bourbon burger, and chicken pasta.
Another price conscious option is Jo’s American Bistro’s Prix Fixe Menu. For only $20.95, Wednesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to close, patrons can enjoy a glass of select wine or beer, a starter soup or salad, and one main entree of pan-roasted salmon, chicken piccata, pork, spaghetti and meatballs or shrimp pasta.
My experience at Jo’s American Bistro was superb and I would highly recommend this establishment to anyone, especially those looking for a quiet and sophisticated meal, without breaking the bank. Service was excellent and free three-hour street parking is available along both sides of Memorial Boulevard West.
Disclaimer: Author was provided a free dinner for two in exchange for coverage. Opinions are entirely the author’s own.