Right on the bay-front, with windows overlooking the active fishing port, Saffron Salmon (859 SW Bay Blvd., 541/265-8921, 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m. and 5–8:30 p.m. Thurs.–Tues., $12–22) is one of Newport ’s finest choices for expertly prepared, sophisticated seafood. The restaurant’s namesake dish is pan-seared chinook salmon with saffron cream sauce, while calamari are sautéed with olive oil and red cabbage. There’s also a selection of organic steaks and rack of lamb.
Also in the old-town harbor area, Sharks Seafood Bar & Steamer Co. (852 SW Bay Blvd., 541/574-0590, 4–9 p.m. Sun.–Wed., 4–9:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $11–25) specializes in steaming seafood. But don’t worry—this isn’t tasteless health food. The Catalina bouillabaisse packs a wallop—1.5 pounds of seafood in every spice-filled bowl. You’ll also find a savory seafood gumbo, oyster stew, and a mix of stewed and sautéed fish called a pan roast. Fresh fish gets the steam treatment—in season, try halibut, salmon, and rockfish steamed and served with the chef’s special sauces. Shark’s is also a fun quirky place with the proprietors providing not just dinner but also a show; be sure to sidle up to the bar in front of the cooking area to watch the chef in action.
If you’re hankering for a broad selection of fresh local seafood but don’t need a fancy dining room to enjoy it in, Local Ocean Seafoods (213 SE Bay Blvd., 541/574-7959, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $7–25) is the place for you. Part fish market, part seafood grill, this bright and bustling restaurant spotlights sustainably caught fish, offering impeccably fresh fish and a lively atmosphere. Each item in the fish case is identified by name, where it was caught, how it was harvested, and who caught it. The menu items change depending on what’s fresh, and though you can count on great fish-and-chips here, go ahead and order the house-specialty fish tacos or albacore tuna kebabs.
Another solid choice for those who crave fresh seafood is the Whale’s Tale (452 SW Bay Blvd., 541/265-8660, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., breakfast $6–10, dinner $12–27). A Newport institution, the Whale’s Tale is a venerable and friendly seafood restaurant that perfectly captures a moment of early 1970s charm, when even loggers and fishermen wanted to be hippies. The woodsy maritime decor creates a gastronomic time capsule that’s well suited to a plate of grilled local oysters or a succulent Dungeness crab. This is excellent food in a fun atmosphere.
The Newport Bayfront  is where Mohava Niemi first opened the original Mo’s (622 SW Bay Blvd., 541/265-2979, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $4–16) several decades ago. When word got out about the good food and low prices, Mo’s small homey place soon had more business than it could handle. In response to the overflow, Mo’s Annex (657 SW Bay Blvd., 541/265-7512, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $4–16) was created across the street. While both establishments feature such favorites as oyster stew and peanut butter cream pie, the Annex bay windows have the best view. Note that most discerning seafood lovers steer away from Mo’s, except when moved by loyalty to a local institution.
There are ample opportunities to buy fresh fish or crab along the bay-front in Newport . About a half-mile south of the bridge, the South Beach Fish Market (3640 S. U.S. 101, 541/867-6800, 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $8–12) sells fresh fish, cooked and uncooked; 90 percent of what they sell comes from the Newport fishing fleet. It’s a good place for the family to stop for fish-and-chips after a visit to the aquarium.