One night in Pawtucket/Providence: a chow-ish fave? NewRivers, Cafe Nuovo, Gracie's, Bway Bistro, Hemenways, ...?
We're looking for someplace for Saturday night where four people can have fabulous food and a conversation at the same time. Two NYC 'hounds are taking friends (now living in Pawtucket) out for dinner. New Rivers, Cafe Nuovo, Gracie's, Broadway Bistro, Hemenway's, La Laiterie all sound really good, but we don't necessarily need something fancy or upscale. If there's, say, a casual Portuguese place you go to again and again, or that little taverna that's cheaper than the flight to Europe, even better. Any suggestions?
Those are all good choices, but they are very different in terms of vibe and cuisine: New Rivers is delicate, refined, and elegant: their food is incredibly high quality ingredients to which very little is done. When I was there a few months ago, I had perfectly cooked vegetables (each one to ideal doneness) and I remember tiny delicate little cookies at the end. It was lovely and feminine and more refined than I tend to like. It was good; it just didn't move me. La Laiterie is a bit raunchier; and I mean that in a very good way -- it's my favorite restaurant in Rhode Island, by far. The food is exciting: the last time I was there I had an app of chicken cracklins with an aioli malt sauce. The burgers are juicy and the polenta fries eye-rollingly good, and the flavors are huge and bold and vibrant. The desserts are less pristine and delicate than at New Rivers, and more satisfyingly comfort food-y. Broadway Bistro is more like La Laiterie in spirit, and has excellent food (though it's more fusion-y), but you should know it doesn't serve dessert (you end your meal with tiny little bits of something: a complimentary chocolate truffle or a small bite or two of pudding). When I went recently, I was struck by the vibrant flavors (sesame ribs and cheesy grits as an app; yes, it works) and interesting combinations (e.g. fried parsley on chickpeas and cucumbers and ricotta salata in a scallion dressing). Some reviewers say there's too much going on on each plate there, but I really enjoyed our meal. Both La Laiterie and B.Bistro are reasonably priced for the quality of food, and New Rivers is a bit higher (as is Gracie's). Correspondingly, the former are more casual and a bit noisier (esp. La Lait, which doesn't take reservations and fills up quickly and densely); the latter two are more refined, darker lighting, quieter. You'll have good meals at all of them, but it just depends on what you like. Enjoy!