Neighborhood Kitchens

A visit to Tallulah on Thames in Newport, Rhode Island

By Margarita Martinez

Margarita Martinez in Newport, Rhode IslandLike so many other New Englanders, Newport is a favorite destination of mine in the Spring, Summer, and Fall months. I love heading down to Southern Rhode Island to walk along the water on Newport's Cliff Walk. Where else can you walk close to the water and view the backyards of beautiful mansion estates for free!
The purchase of a ticket provides a tour of the luxurious interiors and grounds of the “summer cottages” along Bellevue Avenue, such as The Breakers, Rosecliff, or The Elms. And by “summer cottages,” I mean gigantic, gorgeous mansions of the families of wealthy business tycoons like Vanderbilt and Berwind. A visit to the mansions is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era and the Gilded Age, complete with gorgeously maintained landscaping and incredible views of the water.


Speaking of stepping back in time and gorgeous architecture and landscaping, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum on Bellevue Avenue is an absolute treat to visit in Newport. The Hall of Fame & Museum is housed in the historic Newport Casino built in 1880 during the Victorian era. Here there are thirteen grass courts and lots of information on the history of tennis and the inductees of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Running parallel to Bellevue Avenue a few blocks west is the popular Thames Street, named after the River Thames in England, but pronounced THAYMZ here in the States. Here there are lots of historic buildings and homes complete with boutiques, ice cream shops, and restaurants. What you may not know about Newport is that chefs are doing more than just serving up well-prepared seafood. One chef who is doing truly innovative and creative preparations is Chef Jake Rojas of Tallulah on Thames.

During my visit to Tallulah on Thames, I got to use a food dehydrator in order to make a blueberry merengue. The vibrant purple-colored wafers were artfully placed on top of a lemon curd and sprinkled with a shortbread crumble. This dish was more than a dessert. This dish was a work of art. I almost felt bad eating it, but not that bad as I consumed that deliciousness right away.

Another work of art was the pork two ways dish we prepared. It's as if Chef Rojas gets bored with just preparing food that tastes amazing, he needs to challenge himself creatively on a fantastic preparation, which includes texture, color, and taste. An additional challenge that Chef Rojas eagerly takes on in his restaurant is sourcing the best tasting and most local ingredients available. He purchases ingredients from over twenty local farms to supply his kitchen. Lucky for him Rhode Island is chock full of great farms with diverse offerings. If sourcing from local farms wasn't enough, Chef Rojas has utilized Tallulah on Thames's backyard as a garden and greenhouse space for fresh herbs and edible flowers to flavor and beautify his artfully inspired dishes.

Margarita and Chef Jake Rojas enjoying lobster tacos in Dutch Harbor, Rhode Island In addition to the upscale Tallulah on Thames, Chef Rojas has gotten in touch with his El Paso, Texas and Mexican roots and opened a taco shack in Southern Rhode Island. While Tallulah on hames is beautifully decorated with antique chandeliers, wood work, tables, and lovely upholstered chairs, diners can order two barbacoa tacos with guacamoleand an agua fresca for less than eight dollars at The Shack at Dutch Harbor, five miles away in Jamestown, RI.

The line winds out the door of this tiny, spotless shack where artistic food pictures taken by Chef Rojas hang on the walls. Taco and burrito eaters can take their dishes to the nearby picnic tables to enjoy their lunch and dinner during the week and even breakfast on the weekends. While at The Shack, Chef Rojas insisted that we make his lobster taco as he wanted to share a dish that incorporated his El Paso roots with his New England home. I started with a Mexican shrimp cocktail, lunched on a lobster taco with fresh guacamole, and got to wash it all down with a refreshing agua fresca. Between Newport and Dutch Harbor, I can't think of a better way to spend a summer day in southern Rhode Island.


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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44

About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

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In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Find a Neigbhorhood Kitchen
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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi


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