A Weekender’s Food Guide to Providence
Providence, Rhode Island is a picturesque New England town located near award-winning beaches and palatial residences where students from around the globe attend world-class universities, namely Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. Most travelers may not immediately link Providence with noteworthy restaurants and bars, but a long weekend is all it takes to change their perception.
Following is a concise list of top restaurants, bars and places to enjoy snacks in between meals. I want to add this disclaimer that this truly is a “concise” list as Providence is a foodie’s paradise with many other options worthy of their own lists.
Brunch or Breakfast
A visit to Providence would not be complete without brunch at Nick’s on Broadway. Brunch is served Wednesday through Sunday on a first-come-first-served basis. While the eggs benedict, or light and fluffy pancakes are quality options, it is the dishes featuring seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients that change daily that are the real must-haves. Blackbird Farm corned beef terrine with pesto grilled bread, the polenta of Geer Farm heirloom cornmeal with Vermont cheddar served with two fried eggs, and the chicken tartine featuring sesame grilled Baffoni Farm chicken with peach jam and whipped blue cheese are just a few options that will certainly make your mouth water. Note that all entrées on the menu are priced below $15 and most are less than $10.
The Duck Bunny is an adorable restaurant and Snuggery, a place where folks can come to relax and unwind in a quiet environment. Brunch is served daily from 10 AM to 4 PM and features both breakfast standards like eggs Benedict and out-of-the-box dishes like potato latkes topped with homemade cinnamon applesauce, sour cream, scallions, and a long list of crêpes with interesting fillings and toppings. They also serve their special ““Snuggery” cakes
Ellie’s Bakery is popular for both its grab-and-go breakfast options and for its cozy, welcoming space where Parisian-style food is served. Must-try breakfast options are the now-famous Signature Breakfast Sandwich featuring a Baffoni Farm egg, Cabot cheddar cheese, tomato jam on an Ellie’s English muffin, or the Peach Tartine with whipped Narragansett ricotta, local peach, Del Duca Prosciutto, black pepper, honey, and mint. Guests should not leave Ellie’s and its buttery/baked goods-aromas without an order of macarons to-go.
Reminiscent of a speakeasy with its dark and discreet look-and-feel, The Eddy is known for its warm and friendly service, its inventive, well-made cocktails, abridged but interesting beer and wine list and its tasty food bites. A must-order drink is the “Siesta” – chinaco blanco tequila, campari, lime and grapefruit.
During warm months, the ultra-popular Rooftop at Providence G offers gorgeous skyline views, fun cocktails, and a creative menu of small plate food options. My favorite drink was the “Roosevelt” – rosé, Tito’s Vodka, simple syrup, fresh lemon, mint and strawberry. While there is a party/club scene later at night, the space is ideal to watch a sunset in a fun-yet-tranquil atmosphere earlier in the evening.
Lunch, Snacks, and Bites
While this is a full-fledged restaurant, many visitors come to the Providence Oyster Bar for happy hour, or rather Appy Hour. Appy Hour happens Tuesday through Sunday from 3 PM to 6:30 PM and on Monday from 4 PM to 6:30 PM at the bar and adjacent high top tables. Obvious popular choices are the oysters, cherrystone/littleneck clams for $1, the $2 shrimp cocktail and the $12 sushi menu.
Using locally-sourced and ultra-fresh ingredients, PVDONUTS hand makes each 24-hour-raised brioche yeasted doughnuts and old-fashioned doughnuts it serves. Providence’s first specialty doughnut shop is known for having fans lining up and down the block for the brioche-based, ever-changing concoctions owner Lori Kettelle creates. Churro Nutella, brown butter pecan, or honey sea salt doughnuts anyone?
The Slow Rhode is a Southern-inspired, small-plates restaurant and bar serving bar-friendly foods categorized as Toast, Veg, Small Things, With Fries and Bigger Things. Popular dishes are the French fries with gravy and duck confit, the melted pimento toast, the uber-hot fried chicken and the duck drumettes with white BBQ sauce. Cocktails are creative and delicious and the beer list features local brews.
Al Forno, likely the most well-known restaurant in Providence, was made famous because of its grilled pizza – voted one of the country’s best pizzas by many experts. Opened in 1980 by chef-owners Johanne Killeen & George Germon, Al Forno recreates simple versions of food from various regions of Italy to reflect the products of New England’s farms and waters. Beyond the pizza, specialties include the dirty steak with hot fanny sauce, clams Al Forno, and pasta like handmade bread gnocchi with spicy wild boar sausage ragu, and the baked pasta with fresh native corn.
BIRCH offers a very intimate dining experience with its horseshoe-shaped counter where Chef Benjamin Sukle expertly-prepares a four-course menu for a mere $49 (beverage pairing is an additional but very affordable $35). The food is a work-of-art and features the best of New England’s seasonal ingredients. Dinner at BIRCH requires a bit of planning as the restaurant seats 18 diners, make sure to call ahead for a reservation.
At Persimmon, Chef Champe Speidel serves “ingredient and technique-driven American cuisine”. The menu at Persimmon changes daily and is divided into five sections – Vegetables, Meat + Poultry + Game, Pasta + Grains, Fish + Shellfish and Dessert. The non-standard format allows Guests to try a variety of dishes that are all the same portion size.
Where to Stay
The Providence Biltmore is the grande dame hotel located in the heart of downtown Providence, Rhode Island, debuted to widespread acclaim in 1922. Designed by the renowned firm Warren and Wetmore, the architects behind New York City’s Grand Central Station, the Biltmore is beloved by many generations of Guests.
The hotel offers a full-service spa, popular steakhouse and seafood restaurant, McCormick & Schmick’s and a Starbucks.
Cheers and happy travels!