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Providence RI

We're going to be in Providence at mid-April. Any recommendations on excellent food, fun restaurants for "foodies"?

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  1. For fun, you might consider visiting the Johnson & Wales Culinary Museum. A guided tour is a must, very interesting. http://www.culinary.org/ Cassarino's on Federal Hill is a popular Italian restaurant. You'll also want to visit a bakery and maybe the grocer for imported ingredients. Since we roamed Federal Hill with a friend, I don't remember the names of the places we visited.

    1. 10 Steak and Sushi is damn good and right downtown. In Federal Hill get to Venda Ravioli for lunch. http://www.vendaravioli.com/
      You'll have a blast there.

      1. For foodies I'd suggest Nick's on Broadway (b/l/d). I can't say enough about this place - had lunch there today.....a sandwich of herb-crusted tofu w/baby spinach, roasted red peppers, black olive tapanade and goat cheese on grilled french bread. W/a side of home fries....mixed white & sweet potatoes.

        Agree w/Venda for lunch. Also La Laiterie on Wayland Ave. I'm probably in the minority but I'm not a fan of Cassarino's OR 10 Steak & Sushi. I don't think either is bad, but uninspired (Cassarino's) and overrated (10).

        1 Reply
        1. re: JaneRI

          I agree with JaneRI on 10 Steak and Sushi. I've been there twice and wasn't thrilled either time. Very lackluster food with exorbitant prices. I also agree with Nick's on Broadway. That place is delicious! For brunch, though, expect a very long wait.

          on the Hill, I prefer Pane E Vino. Downtown I prefer the Red Fez or Pot au Feu!

        2. Foodies looking for fun? Gotta go to Venda.

          1. Apsara's on public street (not the one on hope st in east side). Theres a thread somewhere with recommended dishes. Someone who knows apsara better than I do might recommend some. Im ussually lost when I order t here because of the pan-asian big menu but I ahve had some really great stuff and other things that are just ok.

            For other asian food you might also want to check out Solomon's market (korean).

            If the idea of pork with littleneck clams sounds good to you go to east providence for some portugese, estrella do mar or madeira.

            I have heard good things about chez pascal but a lot of the so called finer restaurants in providence are pretty mediocre so be cautious.

            Nick's on broadway is a must and venda's ravioli is also very good.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Sambossanova

              True enough about "so called finer restaurants" coasting into mediocrity but do you know this for a fact about Chez Pascal? If so, that was quick - Only a few months ago I thought dinner for 2 was was well worth the 3 digits and I'm a cheapskate!

              1. re: atheorist

                I have not been yet. But the menu looks very good and I have heard from other people that it is good. I actually had a good salad at Bravo Brasserie the other day, which was surprisingly good.

              2. re: Sambossanova

                Chez Pascal is not one of the many "so called finer restaurants" in town. it belongs to a small contingent of places that are really doing it, and it's worth every penny. Matt, the chef, buys whole animals and processes them himself, all the way down to terrines, sausages, cured meats and the like. he makes a amazing true duck confit as well. if you don't mind dropping a few dollars, it's pretty much my favorite place in town.

                La Laiterie at Farmstead Cheese is also quite good--much more casual and not so elaborate, but delicious and very fun.

                Give us more direction if you want more specific recommendations.

              3. How about Al Forno? It started the food revolution in Providence and is still great. Grilled pizzas, roasted bouillabaise, and on and on. Great wine list, comfy dining room. And, George and Joanne still show up in the dining room and at the bar.

                4 Replies
                1. re: phneale

                  I have to disgaree with Al Forno- VERY long wait, rude host, crowded bar area to wait in, and just okay food- but very expensive. there are much better restaurants in providence to spend your money at.

                  1. re: tomatosoup

                    Just a month ago I took my father to Chez Pascal for his 94th birthday, and it's the real deal! In this day of overpriced, overhyped pretentious nothings, I thought this was a relative bargain. The duck confit was wonderful, and the service was as comfortable as being with an old friend.

                    When the weather was nice last fall, we ate outside at Venda, and I must say I've become more and more disenchanted. The veal dish was twice the price, half the size, and about a tenth as flavorful as Mike's Kitchen at the VFW in Cranston. I thought the service was awful. And am I the only one who thinks the olive oil tastes rancid? For a place filled with shelves of fancy olive oil, I'm a bit turned off when they pretentiously pour olive oil from a fancy glass pitcher onto your plate for dipping bread,when the pitcher is refilled from the large tin of their cheapest olive oil! If your definition of "fun" is pretentious, don't bother with Mike's. If you're a real foodie, I think you'll love both Chez Pascal and Mike's Kitchen.

                    I recently enjoyed Solomon's Market, although the beef dish I had was a bowl of not much beef, and mostly the stuff that normally comes free in six different small side dishes at most of the Korean restaurants I've been to. It was good, but I haven't decided yet if it's better than Sun and Moon in East Providence.

                    And at the risk of heresy, not everything at Apsara is great. My brain has escaped me at the moment, but the pancake or omelet like dish made with rice flour I believe, and filled with shrimp and pork and sprouts and stuff is way better than at most other places in town. Their soups are all made from the same precooked stock, and have way too much sugar for me to handle. YMMV.

                    We also went to the hole in the wall in Olneyville Square called La Lupita, and I do believe it has about the best Pozole I've had anywhere, including all my favorites in San Antonio!

                    And has anyone mentioned the Monday night lobster deal at Spumoni's? Is it $11.95, for a boiled lobster with soup or salad, and spaghetti or baked potato?

                    1. re: photorc

                      I agree about Apsara in Providence, didn't think it was good at all. Certainly not good enough to go back to waste another hour of my life.

                    2. re: tomatosoup

                      Al Forno on a Saturday evening is way too busy. Have to agree, the host they have is very rude (we have eaten there too many times to count and he still pretends not to recognise us). Suffice it to say , you have to pick and choose what you order, their Bolognase is one of the better dishes anywhere, the Crispy Chicken or Crispy Pork is excellent, the pizzas in a word great. We always stay away from the Ceasar Salad. We love sitting out on the patio in the nicer weather. All in all, we feel it is a worthwhile restaurant to visit.

                  2. Make sure to include Nick's on Broadway. You will not be disappointed....

                    1. i always would add new rivers to this list, but unfortunately they are going to be closed approx a month for repairs from the fire (according to the projo)

                      As for al forno....i agree---you need to go on a weeknight, when the wait and host are out of play.

                        1. Fantastic responses! Maybe I also need to say for focus that we'll be staying at the Westin? Are these walking distance? Nights from Wed-Sat. I'm hearing Mill's Tavern, Chez Pascal, Nicks on Broadway, & Vin & Pane. Vende looks like a fascinating store or deli. ?????? (But then it was recommended for lunch.) For dinner we enjoy at least a bit of atmosphere. I appreciate the input!!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: mbooth

                            Go to Nick's On Broadway for breakfast/lunch (just not on Sat cause the wait is an hour or more almost always).

                            If I were you, I would skip out on Mill's Tavern, which in my opinion is quite ordinary (another one of these high end providence new american or whatever restaurants). Instead try Apsara's on public street or Sawadee (Thai) or Solomons Market (Korean). If your willing to drive to central falls i really recommend taqueria lupita. On Federal Hill, Meditarranneo is very good Italian (in my opinion the best) albeit pricey.

                            1. re: Sambossanova

                              I somewhat disagree. I have found sawadee to be great some nights and average other nights (i think it depends on the chef of the night). There are much better thai places (siam square or rim nahm) if one is willing to drive a bit. Also, apsara's is always a good time, but not really a destination in my opinion as much as a quick place to go for a dependable meal.

                            2. re: mbooth

                              How many nights/dinners? For atmosphere, I'd go w/Chez Pascal and I agree w/Sambossanova's rec of Mediterraneo....I much prefer it to Pane e Vino. I only ate there once but was underwhelmed. To be fair, it was one of those mid-week specials, two dinners plus wine for $XX, you know? Not that I think that is an excuse for lackluster food, but it often tends to be.

                              Venda is just that - a combo store & deli.....they have packaged imported foods, kitchen hardgoods, gelato, a HUGE deli counter w/prepared foods to go by the pound, and a nice selection of cheeses and meats. They also have tables scattered throughout the back and sides serving prefpared meals. In warm weather, they have great outdoor seating.

                              I'll say it again tho.....don't miss Nick's on Broadway.

                              1. re: mbooth

                                If the weather is nice (which it's supposed to become over the wkend of the 21st) it'd be a pleasant walk to Mediterraneo and Venda, maybe Nick's if you're ambitious. I'm not, and would take a cab. Chez Pascal is a short taxi ride away. Also, see www.ripta.com, for trolley schedules....nice way to see the city, w/lots of jumping off points along the way.

                              2. Here are three more options, two casual and one a little snazzier:

                                SWEETS: While you're in Federal Hill, stop at Palmieri's Bakery (147 Ridge Street) and pick up some desserts (zeppoles!) and definitely try a Rhode Island favorite - pizza strips! YUM. You'll get a great taste of the little family-run bakery at Palmieri's--the family that runs it is sooo friendly and you'll soak up some RI flavor in there!

                                SANDWICHES/LUNCH: I like Olga's Cup and Saucer on Point Street (jewelry district) for brunch/lunch, snazzy sandwiches. They've won best sourdough in RI though I find their pastries on the high side in terms of price (get sweets at Palmieris instead). Sometimes on Saturday mornings there's a little string band that plays at Olga's. Their pizzas are really fantastic and I love the Cuban-style pork sandwich. I really enjoy the ambiance - low-key, it's like a little cottage, very pretty artsy funky, lots of local color/flavor.

                                BRUNCH/DINNER: Another delicious and beautiful spot with spectacular atmosphere is CAV (also in jewelry district), fantastic food in a lovely old loft dotted with antiques. The space always feels so enchanting/romantic to me, twinkly-lit, gorgeous. Fantastic for dinner or brunch - I've never tried lunch there.

                                All are a quick cab ride from your hotel. Enjoy!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: foxy fairy

                                  Good call - CAV is just so beautiful to walk into....I've only had brunch there (delicious) and just haven't made it back for dinner.

                                  Olga's is at its best in warm weather when you can sit outside - what a great spot.

                                  1. re: JaneRI

                                    I have had spotty times at CAV, but overall, I really love it for dinner.

                                    Most recently, about a year ago, we were going to have daughter's 1st communion brunch there. All I wanted was a reservation for 15 or so, but the guy I spoke with talked about a special menu, one price, pre-ordering people's entree choices, etc. It all sounded good, and was more than I was even looking for in terms of service. He was going to email me "our" menu, so that I could email it to our guests and they could get back to me w/their choices. Then---nothing. I called him once and left a message, and nothing. Two days before our party, he called, just following up, thinking we were still coming.
                                    I said, Dude. You never emailed me or returned my subsequent phone call. We're all set elsewhere. He was shocked! And I got a little bit pissed off and very chirpily told him that it was okay, it was no problem, this is Providence, after all, and there are so many great restaurants to choose from.

                                    But I'd still try it again for dinner----I've had a few memorably good dinners there.

                                2. You can walk to Bravo, across from Trinity Rep, from the Westin. It is a nice, reliable bistro with good wine and service. New Rivers is a walk too, but probably closed. Avoid Al Forno unless you want to say you've been there. I personally am a big fan of Fellini's pizza on Wickenden; great place to stop for a slice.

                                  1. Just want to thank everyone for the recommendations! We loved Providence. Had wonderful dinners at Mill's Tavern (great calimari appetizer), fantastic dinner at Chez Pascal, & fabulous dinner at Cafe Nuovo. Pan e Vine was disappointing, but since it was our 4th night we were also "fooded out". Next time Mediterrano. We thoroughly enjoyed the city & the people everywhere were friendly, helpful, & wonderful ambassadors for their city.