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Providence - decent place for a group near the Convention Center

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I am taking a few employees out to lunch after visitng a conference at the convention center this week. There should be about 6-8 of us. Mind you I am not a high level executive, so I don't have a ton of money to spend on this, but still want to do something better than just sandwiches. As we will have a couple of cars, it either has to be a) within walking distance of the convention center or b) easy to get to and with decent parking (and most of these people have not spent any time in providence). While I would love to go to Il Forno, I don't think it will be an easy feat for all of us to get there. Any suggestions? I hate to be stuck with a chain if I can avoid it.

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Il Forno Restaurant
765 W Main St, Branford, CT 06405

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  1. There is the Capitol Grille a couple of blocks away. There are no prices on their online menus if that's any indication. Federal Hill is not hard to get to from the Convention area. There are a couple of parking lots and side streets that you can park on as long as you have nice weather for a little walk. Also, I think you mean Al Forno, not Il Forno on S. Main St.

    11 Replies
    1. re: awm922

      Capital Grille is a) a chain and b) for people with a larger expense account than the OP seems to have. It doesn't sound like he/she wants to spend $50pp for lunch.

      Federal Hill is a fairly easy walk from the Convention Center. I would definitely leave the cars in the garage there and walk over. You gain nothing by driving three blocks and then searching for a spot for a half-hour (or paying for valet parking.) There are many places to choose from; I'd recommend searching the board and asking back. Siena wouldn''t be a bad choice.

      Al Forno has its fans, but not many of them -- mostly it's for out-of-towners who remember reading about it 15 years ago.

      1. re: Gin n Tonic

        I agree on all points. Skip Capitol Grille- it's way out of your budget. Head to the Hill- Sienna is a board favorite. Al Forno is a dinosaur. Locals don't go there- it's a tourist mecca.

        1. re: Gin n Tonic

          i don't mean to nit-pick but i feel it's important to let people coming into town know that all valet parking on federal hill is free. that's always been one of my favorite features of providence dining, although some corporate places like flemings are now charging for it.

          1. re: sarabean

            It's not free. There is no charge for the parking itself (like you mentioned - most places), however, there is still the matter of tipping, etc. And since in this case would be a few different vehicles (we are dispersing after this) that would mean a couple of cars to park. Walking might be possible - it is turning out better conditions than expected tomorrow, but I would not expect any of them to be able to navigate that area never having been in the city before.

            Touristy is not necessarily bad in all cases - these are not foddie people so I think Al Forno or simmilar would be alright. Definitely not in the Capital GRille price range.

            1. re: cloudship

              Al Forno is close, if not more, to the Capitol Grille price range than you'd think. Also, not open for lunch.

              1. re: cloudship

                Not sure what you mean by the navigating comment, but walking from the Convention Center to Federal Hill could hardly be easier. Walk southwest (toward I-95) on Sabin, hang a right on Atwells (where the Hilton is) and walk across the highway. It's probably a half-mile. Driving that would turn into a pain.

                Eat at Siena or Angelo's (a more family-style vibe), skip dessert and go to Pastiche for pastries and coffee.

                1. re: Gin n Tonic

                  I heartily agree with a dessert visit to Pastiche! Yummy pastries! My son is in school at Brown and I send him his birthday cake from there every year!!

            2. re: Gin n Tonic

              I don't believe that just because there are more than a couple of Capitol Grilles that they are justified in being labeled a "chain" like a fast food joint. The same with Ruth's Chris and the Max's in the Hartford area. All are very good restaurants with excellent food and service. Also, I am not a high level executive, but have taken my people to lunch at very nice restaurants, including Capitol Grille. It did not cost $50pp. Walking to Federal Hill, then to the restaurants might be fine in jeans and sneakers, but if these people are at a conference, chances are good, they will not be too comfortable walking over a half mile in dress shoes or heels. I take customers to Federal Hill on a regular basis and never had an issue parking.

              One more place on Federal Hill is Andino's. There is a parking lot right next door or you can park on the side street next to the lot.

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              Andino's
              171 Atwells Ave, Providence, RI 02903

              1. re: awm922

                Sorry, but with 40+ locations from Boston to Tampa to Seattle, with the same menu in each, Capital Grille is the textbook definition of a chain. Just because the menu is more expensive than Applebee's doesn't make it not a chain. Once you're inside, you can't tell if you're in Providence or Dallas -- which, frankly, is part of the point. If you're an out-of-town visitor here on business, you don't know if Siena, say, is bad or good, but you know Capital Grille will at least be the same as the one you were at last month in Pittsburgh. The point of this board is to steer people away from that, and to tell them that yes, Siena is good, and will be something you won't find next month in Cleveland.

                At the Capital Grille in PVD, the lunch menu shows appetizers from $7-15 and entrees from $15-30. Take the mid-point of each, add one drink and a tip and you're tickling $45.

                1. re: awm922

                  Ruth's Chris has 120+ stores. Isn't that the exact definition of a chain? Max only has 10 or 11 spots, I believe. Those are two way different ballparks.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Noun 1. restaurant chain - a chain of restaurants
                    eatery, eating house, eating place, restaurant - a building where people go to eat
                    chain - (business) a number of similar establishments (stores or restaurants or banks or hotels or theaters) under one ownership.

                    Never said Ruth's Chris wasn't a chain. It just happens to be a very good one. A lot of what some people think is an upscale restaurant, can't even come close to the level of food quality, preparation an service of a Capitol Grille or a Ruth's Chris.

            3. Agree w/the others...Al Forno sucks.

              Check out the menu at Cafe Nuovo - an easy walk: http://www.cafenuovo.com/cafenuovo/me...

              I believe Mediterreano & Camille's are both still serving lunch...they cater to businesspeople and i've never had an issue w/them taking an eternity at lunchtime. They are also at the beginning of Federal Hill....if someone asked me to walk a 1/2 mile in heels I'd be bullshit.

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              Cafe Nuovo
              1 Citizens Plz Ste 1B, Providence, RI 02903

              18 Replies
              1. re: JaneRI

                Google Maps is wonderful. Did you know that Camille's, Mediterraneo, even Angelo's, are a shorter walk from the Convention Center's main entrance than Cafe Nuovo?

                1. re: Gin n Tonic

                  ....and that is why I included Med & Camille's in my post, noting that they are at the beginning of Federal Hill. My comment about walking in heels was in reference to some places that are even further. I don't think Angelo's is what the OP has in mind.

                  1. re: JaneRI

                    I have never been there, but Angelos is probably closer to what I was looking for than something like Mediterraneo. These were some of my support staff, I was not entertaining clients. As it turned out we ended up at Fire and Ice, as a few of them were looking forward to going there. In the end that was a better idea, as I think the atmosphere was more to everyone having a good time. I personally wasn't crazy about the food (much drier and overcooked compared to their Boston counterparts) but everyone else really liked it.

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                    Mediterraneo
                    134 Atwells Ave, Providence, RI 02903

                    1. re: cloudship

                      From a social/business point of view, I guess I'm glad that "everyone really liked it." From a culinary point of view, you managed to find what may be the worst food within walking distance of the Convention Center.

                      1. re: Gin n Tonic

                        "May be"= "is".

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Worst in RI in my opinion... but I guess we now have insight into how they stay open.

                          1. re: Garris

                            I think I may have learned something in this. All tastes are not alike. Some people get into the details of the food - the texture, how well it is cooked, the layers of flavors. But not everyone really enjoys that. I think for some people it less about the distinction of the food, than it is about sustenance. Who's right?

                            The more I think about it, the happier I am with our choice. I think most of the people I was with would have found the food at some of those other places too precious formtheir tastes.

                            1. re: cloudship

                              Glad it all worked out for you, then.

                              1. re: cloudship

                                No offense intended, but Chowhound is for those people you described.....people who live to eat, not eat to live. It's the whole point of the website.

                                1. re: JaneRI

                                  This is a very interesting thread. The OP found CH, and asked for recs, but ended up going to the place that unquestionably gets slagged on this board more than any other place in RI.

                                  That's may or not be ironic, but it is something. 8<D

                                  And FWIW, I think the OP and her colleagues would have enjoyed Al Forno. The food may or may not be all that, but it certainly isn't precious.

                                2. re: cloudship

                                  "for some people it less about the distinction of the food, than it is about sustenance. Who's right?"

                                  Neither is "right", of course, but the entire purpose of this site and all the discussions on each of the regional boards is "about the distinction of the food." While some of the restaurants mentioned here in other threads could for some tastes be considered "precious", none that were recommended to you would fall in that category. I'm glad things worked out for you. I'm sorry you didn't open your employees' horizons.

                                  1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                    "Some people get into the details of the food - the texture, how well it is cooked, the layers of flavors. But not everyone really enjoys that. I think for some people it less about the distinction of the food, than it is about sustenance. Who's right?"

                                    i for one take exception to this kind of language on this site. i am not simply "into" food, it is my passion and my livelihood. chowhound is a safe place i can go to, AWAY from the mall to find like-minded folks with whom, while i may not always agree, i can still engage in informed discourse. i don't go to the Gap and question your lifestyle...

                                    1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                      "I'm sorry you didn't open your employees' horizons."

                                      Perhaps a lot of people's horizons need to be opened up. Just because you may not like it does not mean other people won't. Let's get back to being a place about enjoying food and stop trying to be dining missionaries.

                                      Contrary to what some of the people on this board think, there IS a place for Fire and Ice. If someone else is ther elooking for a place to eat in Providence, keep in mind there are going to be some (maybe quite a few) who are not going to like the food, but for an entertainment restaurant, where you find something that will please most people in your group, and will have a fun, not overly pretentious atmosphere, it does very nicely.

                                      1. re: cloudship

                                        Sorry, but this board is about food, not entertainment, and the food at Fire & Ice is terrible. The restaurant business is very difficult, and every person who goes there is taking dollars away from restaurants that actually care about the food.

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                                        Fire & Ice
                                        48 Providence Pl, Providence, RI 02903

                                        1. re: cloudship

                                          Wow, I couldn't disagree with you (cloundship) more, and I think you're misunderstanding people's recommendations, comments, and the entire board.

                                          Goodness knows there IS a place for "entertaining" settings where perhaps world-beating food quality isn't the #1 priority. We've all gone there ourselves and at other times have taken family and friends, especially ones we think won't like or appreciate more "complex" food. Such places are recommended here all the time, often by me.

                                          And there certainly IS a place for the Mongoloan BBQ concept. I love it done right, like at Kahn's in NY's Hudson Valley where, despite some dowdy settings, you can have heaps of fresh food quickly cooked up quickly by chefs on the large hotplates with tasty sauces, great service, and low prices.

                                          No one is knocking the "fun food" concept or Mongolian BBQ, they are saying that Fire and Ice in particular fails in every phase of what makes a good, or even acceptable, restaurant. Food freshness, service, cleanliness, value... They are all bottom of the barrel there by almost any measure. Entertainment is more relative, but I find the PVD branch only slighty less depressing than its dungeon-located Cambridge counterpart. If you had said you caved and went to Panera I think people would have still wished you chose something local but would have at least recognized you got some standards and quality in return.

                                          I agree with Gin n Tonic here who said that every dollar that goes to a F&I is taken away from a restaurant that cares and, I'll add, has some standards and pride. And this is a board whose existence is to celebrate those places, not the Olive Gardens and TGIFridays of the world...

                                          1. re: Garris

                                            "No one is knocking the "fun food" concept or Mongolian BBQ, they are saying that Fire and Ice in particular fails in every phase of what makes a good, or even acceptable, restaurant. Food freshness, service, cleanliness, value... They are all bottom of the barrel there by almost any measure."

                                            I couldnt have said it any better. I LOVE Mongolian BBQ and have given F&I 3 chances over the years because there really isnt another option in the area. After the 3rd time I wrote a long email to their corporate to tell them how terrible everything was and why. What really shocked me was the lack of proper food handling and sanitation. Long story short they sent me a $50 gift card that was promptly placed into the closest trash receptacle.

                                            Im sorry, but Fire & Ice is literally the WORST restaurant in Rhode Island and really should be closed. This isnt new and developing news, either:

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756465

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                                            Fire & Ice
                                            48 Providence Pl, Providence, RI 02903

                                          2. re: cloudship

                                            "Contrary to what some of the people on this board think, there IS a place for Fire and Ice. If someone else is ther elooking for a place to eat in Providence, keep in mind there are going to be some (maybe quite a few) who are not going to like the food, but for an entertainment restaurant, where you find something that will please most people in your group, and will have a fun, not overly pretentious atmosphere, it does very nicely."

                                            There is a place for F&I, but not on a website devoted to talking about good/edible food (with the exception of the "worst of" posts and the like). I dont know you or your employees, but whatthe people I hang out with are all middle class and I have yet to meet a person who enjoys that place. Entertainment/fun= waiting in line to pick out your food and then standing there watching people cook your food? Sorry im going to have to disagree once again. I would eat at Home Town Buffet before I ever went back there again.

                                3. re: cloudship

                                  When I went to Mediterraneo, I have a lovely house made limoncello for dessert. It was served in a nice frosty shot glass. Two thumbs up.

                                  -----
                                  Mediterraneo
                                  134 Atwells Ave, Providence, RI 02903

                          2. One of my favorite places to visit when i was in Providence was Cuban Revolution. It's casual, fun, and inexpensive. I think it would be perfect for a group and it's an easy walk from the convention center.

                            http://thecubanrevolution.com/locatio...

                            Chow doesn't seem to be picking up the right location so I attached a link.

                            eta If I were in Providence I would also definately stop at a Del's cart for some lemonade.

                            1. Just saw this, and I'm thinking it's too late for you. But I would have suggested Luxe Burger Bar, nice atmosphere, good burgers and other sandwiches, and open for lunch, with reasonable prices.

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                              Luxe Burger
                              5 Memorial Blvd, Providence, RI 02903

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: winedude

                                I have never been to Fire&Ice, but have always been intrigued to go. However, every time I mention it to any friends of mine the response is always the same - "It's Horrible!" Then i read how horrible it is here on the forum as well, so I'm glad I never went. So how does this place stay open, when I have yet to hear a good thing about it in the past ten years?

                                1. re: OOliver

                                  Teenagers and tourists who prefer novelty over quality.

                                  1. re: OOliver

                                    That is exactly how I used to feel about this place. I remember walking by one in Harvard Sq., and thinking how interesting the concept was. But few places get disparaged as roundly as this one.

                                    Hmm, Harvard Sq. Teenagers and tourists. 8<D