Downtown Westerly’s High Hope Tavern is a Late-Night Escape

A Westerly raw bar and restaurant by day keeps the good times rolling after dark


Though originally from Connecticut, Pete Canny knows that Westerly is a special place. He grew up vacationing in Misquamicut since he was eight years old, and though culinary school brought him to Manhattan, where he and his business partners opened four bars and restaurants in New York City, it wasn’t long before the southern Rhode Island coastlines called him back.

Now in its second summer, High Hope Tavern is a seafood restaurant and cocktail bar that channels Westerly’s proximity to the ocean in interior accents, like sweeping paintings depicting nautical scenes, but most importantly in the fresh-off-the-boat harvests of the sea. New this season is the addition of Sonny’s Clam Bar, which Canny describes as an ode to Goodnight Sonny, one of his NYC restaurants.

“I’m a huge fisherman myself,” says Canny, who happened to be on his way to a fishing tournament as he spoke, “so we incorporate that a lot. High Hope has all the local seafood you can think of: oysters, clams, scallops, local fish that’s available. I have a friend of mine who’s a commercial fisherman – if he says, ‘hey, I just got this tuna in today,’ then I’ll take it.”

The same goes for land-based ingredients. With a focus on sustainability and minimizing waste, Canny explains that many of the ingredients sourced for the dining menu also end up being used in the drink program. Working with a farmers collective, Canny receives a list of what’s available every week and regularly switches up the menu to prioritize fresh, local harvests. Besides the potatoes, he says, “everything we use at High Hope comes from within eight miles of the restaurant.”

From local cuts of beef used in house-made burgers to burrata, risotto, linguine with clams, and more, chef Ned Denton – who was convinced to move to Westerly from New York – is the mastermind behind High Hope’s menu. “He’s literally the most talented chef I’ve ever worked with,” says Canny. “He loves working with fresh ingredients and making magic with it.”

Canny describes the restaurant as a “chameleon,” with raw bar-focused happy hour during the early evening and full dinner service, before transforming into a cocktail bar concept at night. “Our kitchen is open later than anyone in town and we have DJs and live music a couple nights a week,” he explains. “You can come in early with your family and crush some oysters, you can come in for a date night dinner, or you can visit by yourself late-night looking to meet people. We bring down the lights, turn up the music, and light candles.”

On the cocktail menu, expect plenty of seasonal flavors to find their way into new drinks, such as the Weekapaug Groove, a vodka drink with fresh rhubarb, watermelon, lemon, and lavender. A nod to Rhode Island’s state bird, the Red Rooster Margarita incorporates red bell pepper, cucumber, lime, and chili salt with tequila. A natural wine list also complements the tavern’s offerings.

While Canny was once in the keep-Westerly-a-secret camp, he now relishes seeing how it’s grown, and how High Hope Tavern’s mission of sustainable sourcing and good vibes seamlessly fits into the town’s culinary scene. “Westerly’s such a good escape place on the weekends,” he says. “I mean, it’s three hours from Manhattan, two hours from Boston, it’s on the water. How could it not blow up?” Follow @highhopetavern for events, themed nights, live music, and more.


High Hope Tavern

18 High Street, Westerly

401-388-8450 •



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