HOME > Chowhound > All New England Archive >


Spending a few months in Providence - help me look like a local

My husband is going to be working in Providence for the next few months, and we want to make sure we make the most of the time we have there. So, what are some of your recommendations? He'll be living in the Elmwood area but will have a car, so daytripping will be planned.

We'll be spending a lot on plane tickets, so cheaper is better than fancier. Quality of the food is more important than the decor -- white tablecloths aren't needed, but nothing roachy, please. Interested in beer more than cocktails. Extra points for extra spicy. And we'd like to make sure that we get in some good seafood, good Portugese, and anything else that we can only get in Providence.

Thanks in advance for all your help.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi Heather!

    My suggestions...

    Angelo's Civita Farnese (Atwells Ave), good old-fashioned red sauce Italian at rock bottom prices.

    Mexico (also on Atwells, but further down, past the trendy areas) for authentic mexican food.

    I'll post again as I think of more.

    1. Providence has a ton of great restaurants! The previous post mentioned Mexico... I've had so-so results there, but on Federal hill I love Bob & Timmy's wood grilled pizza and check out Pastiche for dessert... Dolce Vita also good for dessert and drinks. Over on Broadway is Julians... hipster feel with great food, especially brunch and just down the street in Nick's on Broadway. Both good and pretty affordable. Downcity there's a cool Cuban place called Cuban Revolution... cheap and good. Around the corner is AS220, an artsy place with burritos and a great bar. A bit further into the city is Red Fez... dark again artsy, with the best mac and cheese around. I live on the east side and our two favorites are La Laterie (a cheese shop with a great little restaurant next to it... very little) a bit more pricey, but worth it and on Hope Street Aspara Restaurant... a small Thai, noodle place, no atmosphere but great food (spicy) . Just down the road from there crossing over into Pawtucket is LJ's BBQ... really good and Rasoi Indian food... a bit pricier than others but good, for cheap Indian food go to Wickenden Street and stop at A Taste of India and for good all around regular food stop by Paragon on Thayer Street.
      Hope that helps!

      11 Replies
      1. re: jenluxy

        we just went lili marlenes on atwells st cheap food and its really good too.and a good beer list also,theres no sign out front,and the place is completely dark inside,its awesome.422 atwells enjoy

        1. re: im hungry

          No one in Providence should miss Seven Stars Bakery on the East Side on Hope Street at the Fourth St. corner. Best bread and pastries of all eastern seaboard cities as far as I'm concerned. Amazing spinach calzone for lunch, and wonderful iced cofffee made with coffee ice cubes so none of that annoying weakening of your drink as the ice melts. Sheer genius.

          1. re: Baltimomma

            Seven Stars has been serving coffee (no lattes and other stuff, just coffee) under a tent, along w/some breads and baked goods, for about a month now, and basically gutting the entire interior and remodeling. They should reopen within weeks. BUT. (and hope this doesn't make them either jump the shark or just go into a bad direction that sometimes comes from not just Doing What One Does Well) I went to the tent specifically for some calzones to take to my Dad about two weeks ago, and was told that they no longer will be making calzones. That when they reopen, there will be no calzones, but instead a full sandwich menu.

            So. Still best coffee and breads and baked stuff, but no more calzones and here's hoping on the sandwiches. I love them overall and will err on the side of liking them unless something is truly no good. Worth a visit there when you first get to Providence----you'll be a regular before you know it.

            1. re: Moonpie1

              The tent seems to be gone, but they're not done with renovations yet. It looks like construction is in high gear. So no Seven Stars on the East Side for a bit, but their West Side location is up and running.

              Thanks for the heads up on the sandwiches! Something to look forward to while we go through withdrawal.

              1. re: Tartinet

                I was waiting for someone to say something about the West Side location. Its 342 Broadway.

                Come on over for the full service while their east side location is being renovated. Cross 95, its okay, you might like it! :)

                1. re: Tartinet

                  They reopened this morning, and I'm still nursing the best cafe au lait that I've had in a long time. I only noticed it from driving by---didn't know when exactly they'd reopen. Menu is all the same for now---I didn't see any sandwich menu---the breads and other stuff is all there. The huge-ass oven over to the right is gone. The place has a cleaner, darker, different look. Yay that they're back.

                  1. re: Moonpie1

                    By the time I was there today, they had the sandwiches in the case next to the pastries. There were a few different kinds, all on baguettes. Looked really good. I almost got one just so I could report back, but I had just had lunch. I guess I need to turn in my 'hound credentials now. :-)

                    1. re: Tartinet

                      So the sandwiches were pre-made? I guess that's okay----a calzone is pre-made, right? Will have to try one in the next week or so.

                      1. re: Moonpie1

                        They were pre-made, but I was kind of glad to see that. I know they have super-high standards, so I'm not afraid of getting a stale or soggy sandwich. And I had been apprehensive about how they would deal with the complexity of "pick a bread, pick a meat, choose your cheese, you want mayo, chips with that?" I'm happy to see them keeping it simple, so they can really shine at what they do best.

              2. re: Baltimomma

                I strongly disagree. I was passing there store on Broadway and needed some pastry for company that night. Very deceiving. That is not a bakery. It is a coffee house that has a few muffins and cookies. They have bread but when I see bakery I want pastry, cakes etc... That is a bakery. I did get some bread for dinner and was very disappointed it had no taste and was full of holes. I suggest you try some other bakeries like Scialo's, Palmieri's and La Sallle and then you'll see a bakery.

                1. re: Tammy

                  I'm not a huge fan of Seven Stars' bread myself but first off, they have their bakery up in Pawtucket. it's not baked in the very building, but it's baked that day. Tomy mind they are certainly a "bakery." They make loads of pastries, which are far better than their breads in my opinion. They don't do cakes that I know of, but that doesn't make them not a bakery.

                  But I'm mostly replying because to complain about bread being "full of holes" is the silliest thing I've ever heard. Bread has to have holes. That's what leavens it. Without holes, it would be rock hard and inedibly dense. Now, you may not LIKE big air holes in your bread, but it's not a mistake. That's just a type of bread, a particular "hole structure."

          2. Also on Thayer (or just off of it, right next to the Ben and Jerry's on Meeting Street) is Providence Byblos, for some of the best falafel etc anywhere.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Whippet

              Not that I think eating on Thayer St does anything to help anyone "eat like a local," but that notwithstanding, wouldn't East Side Pocket be the choice for falafel? I've never even bother to try the johnny-come-lately Byblos given how great that long-standing institution of Eastside Pockets is. is Byblos really that good?

              Heather, I'd go with Taqueria Lupita in Central Falls (although maybe you'd find that "roachy," i don't know--I don't, but I'd never worry about that either.) or Chilangos on Manton for great mexican in slightly "nicer" surroundings.

              MuMu on Atwells for great, reasonably priced Chinese.

              Not Just Snacks for great, no frills Indian.

              There are interesting Laotian/Northern Thai places around town too, generally in Smith Hill, but I don't really have one to recommend. There are some good Asian place sin Elmwood too, like the above-mentioned Apsara.

              (also, not to hate, but I'd pass on Cuban Revolution too. I think that place sucks and is overpriced.)

              1. re: celeriac

                Thanks for the suggestions. When I say "roachy," I just mean that there is a certain class of foodie that equates "autheniticity" with "not so clean." I don't mind if people are touching food with their bare hands (horrors!), but I'd like to think they have washed them ;)

            2. Just develop a taste for red, white, or pink clam sauce to go on your linguine, vinegar on your fries, and coffee cabinets. You'll do okay.

              3 Replies
              1. re: RIChowderhead

                So, I looked up "coffee cabinet" in Wikipedia, and I have to admit I'm intrigued. Where should I go to get a good one?

                1. re: heatherkay

                  Heather: try this site. They will help you really eat like a local, which means getting to know -- in addition to coffee cabinets -- pizza strips, clamcakes, weiners, stuffies, and other delights. And since it's summertime, don't forget the frozen lemonade!


                  Anyone visiting RI should print out their lists of local eateries specializing in various treats.

                  1. re: heatherkay

                    If you want a great coffee cabinet, get thee to Gray's Ice Cream in Tiverton Four Corners. It's about a 40 minute drive from Providence in the East Bay, but it's a very picturesque drive.

                2. A few of my favorites:

                  --729 Hope Cafe on the East Side of Providence for excellent soups, sandwiches, and desserts.

                  --Mexico on Atwells Avenue for good, solid authentic Mexican cuisine in a charming little place.

                  --Apsara on the SW side of Providence (get a good map!) for outstanding Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai food.

                  --Camille's Roman Garden on Federal Hill (just off Atwells Avenue) for decent Italian food in an old-school environment that feels more like Brooklyn than Providence.

                  --Modern Diner in Pawtucket for good diner food in an historic diner car.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    I can't agree about 729 Hope. I've tried them a couple times, and the food has been stale and/or overpriced every time. Maybe they've gotten better recently, though. I haven't been there in a year or so.

                  2. Thanks for all these great restaurant suggestions. Keep them coming!

                    Of course, the other half of eating like a local is cooking it yourself. I can find a Whole Foods myself -- is there a local grocery store I should definitely use/definitely avoid? An excellent farmer's market or greengrocer? Where's a good place to buy fresh fish? An Italian deli or market in Federal Hill that stands out? Any other home cooking resources you couldn't live without?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: heatherkay

                      a great Italian market/fancy deli on Atwells-- Venda Ravioli-- will give you all the antipasti, fresh pasta, sauces, eggplant parm (a personal fave) you want. There are other good food shopping places in that neighborhood-- across the street and down a bit there is a produce market that has some of the better fresh produce on the West side (though pretty basic/slim selection), and there is a butcher down there too (I'm veg so I am not as familiar).

                      Restaurant-wise, I second Apsara's, which has a pan-Asian menu but serves Cambodian best (as that is where the owners are from). It's on your side of town. You'll also be not far from Julian's, which has a nice homey-boho feel, good brunch and decent, if unambitious other meals. To round out your West Side hipster tour, check out White Electric Coffee on Westminster St.

                      1. re: heatherkay

                        Definitely second Venda for italian markets, if only because they have the highest volume of any of the italian places, which equals freshness. Tony's Colonial a block away is way cuter though, and everything i've bought from them has been top notch, so i don;t think you can go wrong with either. Similarly, Gasparro's on Atwells (not the same as the other Gasparro's around) is great for wine/liquor/beer, and they're super-helpful, even if you're not looking to drop a huge amount of money.

                        For fish, we're all waiting with bated breath for the new fish market at atwells and dean to open, because the only other options are really whole foods, eastside marketplace... mekong on broad i guess and then up to north prov or over to east prov.

                        For Farmer's Markets, check out farmfreshri.org to find one close to you. The one at Hope High on Saturdays is the biggest, but totally crazy-busy, maybe more expensive (i wouldn't be surprised anyway) and, if you care about that kind of thing, least in need of support. There's a very small one that i love 3-7 Thursdays on Parade st, right on Dexter Training Ground (armory park). Very mellow and a nice place to stop for a spell. The one on Broad St Sundays opens in July too, not sure exactly when.

                        Farmstead Cheese is crucial for terrific cheese and cured meats too, but definitely not cheap. I have to be very restrained in there.

                        1. re: heatherkay

                          There's a nice farm stand that sets up in a parking lot near Wickenden St. I think they're only there on Tuesday afternoons, so it's not the most convenient, but for that reason, way less crowded than Saturdays at Hope High.

                          It's called Wishing Stone Farm, and I can especially recommend their pickles, eggs, arugula, and strawberries. Perhaps not all at once, but excellent individually!

                        2. I'm from MA, but my daughter goes to summer camp in RI. One thing I would recommend for a day trip is Wickford- it's a quaint little village on the water with some fun shops for browsing. While there, we usually lunch at the Wickford Diner. My husband, a CT transplant, loves the RI chowder- it's lighter, more brothy than what we get in MA. It's a casual, and friendly place. We sometimes stop in Providence for dinner; last summer, we went to Siena twice because we liked it so much the first time. It is a little pricey, but they had a wonderful tomato based soup that was very large. If you didn't want to splurge, you could do a soup and salad type meal. We always go to Pastiche for dessert.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: AnnieP

                            Ditto on the RI chowder (gee, why would I think that?).

                            The nice thing about RI is that you can go all over the state and find good restaurants, AND go all over the state very quickly. Small is beautiful.

                          2. Although you didn't say, looks like you're from KC area. In which case you don't want barbecue (but do try at least one clambake on the shore while you're in the area).
                            Used to live 40 minutes away, but it's been a couple of years so won't give any reviews since things change. Italian is pretty good all over (at least compared to where I'm at in Pittsburgh) and lots of Portuguese (linguinca on pizza) and seafood (quahogs, littlenecks on pasta or steamed - raw always an option too). The one exception is that I was lucky enough to eat at India in Warren during a recent job interview - found it much better than the garden variety Indian I've become accustomed to.

                            Since you're going to be around a bit, explore. New Bedford is seriously Portuguese. The URI campus area has some interesting ethnic.

                            You're also under an hour from Boston, 90 minutes from Provincetown (on a good day), an hour from Mystic and an hour and change from Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun, the two mammoth Connecticut casinos which also boast some terrific restaurants. So you might want to visit posts about those areas as well.

                            1. As parents of a RISD to-be-senior, a good place for breads is (as copied from a website):

                              Olga's Cup and Saucer
                              RISD grads Olga Bravo and Rebecca Wagner create artistic pastries and artisan breads at this Jewelry District cafe. Start your day around Providence here, or enjoy a panini or salad on the patio for lunch.
                              103 Point St., 401/831-6666

                              However, call to find out when they serve food. They're more of a bakery (breads... whole wheat with carmelized onion baguette etc.) and only serve lunch, no breakfast, but you can get coffee and a muffin or brioche in the morning. They do serve "brunch" on the weekend. But call. I never could keep it straight.

                              We had a very nice meal at Beyond India on Dorrance St., but restaurants come and go, so make sure it's still there (Silk Road influence). They had a very nice lassi or tea in a tall glass that was delicious. I think it was just the way they flavored their iced tea.

                              There's also Big Fish over by Olga's which was fine for a large party we had (24 people), and they have a large selection of raw oysters etc. Not a GREAT restaurant, but it was fun for a party.

                              We also have had very decent brunches on the Hill at Red Stripe on Angell St. but no other meals.

                              Of course, we went to Julian's since it's popular with the college kids, and it's okay. I guess it depends on what you order. Yes, they make their own ketchup, and homefries (but I've had much better seasoned ones), and I guess we pretty much went there for breakfast also. You'll see lots of artsy tattooed waitstaff.

                              My daughter and her friends also like to get dessert at Pastiche. And their favorite pizza was over on Wickenden.

                              1. I have made a little map of my current favorite spots in Providence, and NY System Hot Weiners are on it:

                                1. Dont forget about sitting on the pier at the hot club during the afternoon and having a couple of beers & sausage sandwichs...mmmm

                                  1. Thanks for all these great ideas! We definitely have a starting point. One thing I haven't seen much about here is beer. I'm sure there are a number of local breweries (ones you can eat at and ones you can't). What the local draw?

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: heatherkay

                                      I'm a big fan of Trinity's IPA, and they have a brewpub downtown, but I've never actually been there for food.

                                      1. re: heatherkay

                                        I've always liked Trinity's food at lunchtime (and of course their beer). I can't speak to their dinners.

                                        Union Station is also worthwhile (and downtown). If you're in Newport, there's Coddington Brewery. I also like Aidan's in Bristol (haven't been to the Newport branch). Aidan's is not a brew pub, but they usually had "Old Thumper" on cask (you won't always find cask conditioned ale, even at brew pubs). If you don't know about cask conditioned ale, or have been wondering what's so special about it, visit these sites http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=a... and http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=a...

                                        1. re: RIChowderhead

                                          I am not a fan of Trinity's beer. IMHO Union Station makes far superior brew. And I am a big fan of craft beer. For a fun and cheap way to drink head down to Newport Storms brewery (in Portsmouth?) for their free tours on Friday nights. You get to drink up to 4 (yes 4) beers for free! But get there early, they limit the size of the crowd that can get in.

                                          1. re: Jenkins

                                            I agree, I don't like Trinity's beer at all. Or their food. Even their nachos. And it's like, come on, they're freaking nachos.

                                            1. re: celeriac

                                              Go to the APSARA (the one on public street- need Navi for that but it's WORTH IT)- YUM- everyone loves it there!!!!!

                                              Tokyo for sushi (on wickenden)

                                              if you're here next week it's restaurant week in providence, great way to try places for a little less $ than usual

                                              I agree w/ dessert at Pastiche

                                              Good Luck!

                                              1. re: celeriac

                                                oh also there is CAV- they have brunch which was pretty good and not so expensive ...

                                                1. re: pcktbks

                                                  one more: RED STRIPE>
                                                  really fun vibe in there- you can drink 40's (40 ounce beers) out of paper bags... .never done that but it looks fun.
                                                  Lunch is a good option there - but dinner isn't too expensive- ... it's in wayland square which is really happening on saturday afternoons- fun to walk around etc...

                                          2. re: heatherkay

                                            heather, if you're into wine take a drive to Sakonnet Vineyards in bucolic Little Compton (to look like a local, don't ask where Big Compton is 8<)).

                                            After that, go to nearby Tiverton Four Corners. Stop in at Provender, a wonderful gourmet store. Then walk across the street to legendary Gray's Ice Cream; try a locally favored flavor like black raspberry, frozen pudding, or grapenut.

                                            Then, after your afternoon nap (LOL), have dinner at the Back Eddy in nearby Westport, Mass. Incredibly fresh local seafood in a classy, casual atmosphere. From the boat to your plate, essentially. Make sure you get there in time for the sunset.

                                            1. re: Bob W

                                              I had a ginger ice cream at Gray's over the weekend. Loved it! Also, if you're in that area, check out Young Farm and Walker's Roadside Stand, which are across the street from each other on a particularly scenic stretch of Route 77, a few minutes south of Gray's. Walker's has sandwiches and desserts as well as lots of produce.

                                          3. Welcome to our city. You will be able to try some of our legendary foods. I recommend Federal Hill's Italian history. Venda, Roma, Tony's, Old Canteen, Palmieris' Bakery and Caserta Pizza. All of these place have been around combined for 200 years. A must see. Eastside has some great restaurants like The Rue. You will not be disappointed or go hungry.

                                            1. Well, thanks for all the great recommendations. As it turns out, the Providence job fell through (the day after he drove all the way from KC to RI!), so I won't get to experience a coffee cabinet. Maybe some future vacation!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: heatherkay

                                                Bummer, Heatherkay. Be sure to come in the summer so you can go swimming at the Pier, and have some clam cakes with the coffee cabinet.