Kitchenbar - Providence
Had hopes this place might turn into an alternative to the Ivy now and again for a place with a good bar and solid, inexpensive food. But I just could not get past the awful 70's soft rock playing on the sound system (along with it being too bright in there), and them having no beers on tap. After one beer I just left, didn't even try the food.
I had a somewhat different experience. The music didn't bother us and wasn't noticable (unlike, say, the similar Avenue N in East Providence, with its loud gym-ready rock and huge TV screens that almost ruined our evening there).
We also (there for brunch) didn't think it was too bright (?) at all. In fact, at 12:30 PM, we felt it was a tad dark, and we were sitting by a window. The interior is attractive and well done, though, and our server was great.
We didn't have alcohol so I can't comment on their selection or quality.
Regarding the food, which we did have, the menu is clearly mainstream comfort food. No twists here, especially when comparing, again, to Avenue N, which has a delightful and imaginative New American menu. This is far more like Trinity Brewhouse, much less like the neighboring Blaze. Mac and cheese, cheese sticks, salads, portobella primavera, fish and chips, burger and wrap selections, etc. VERY straightforward. I had the fish and chips which were sizable and well done, although I wish the fish batter was a tad tastier (just falling short of my favorite Trinity Brewhouse fish and chips). My friend said his mac and cheese was "excellent" and the cheese sticks were as expected. Prices were reasonable and portions (especially the mac and cheese) were generous.
The exterior makes the place very easy to miss, with almost no identifying adornment at all (why do Providence restaurants do this?). With its dark windows, we weren't even sure they were open. When my friend and I asked, they afterwards went outside to put up a (low class looking) "open" flag. I recommend some classy "Kitchenbar" vertical banners or vertical signage at the entrance corner to be more visible.
It's a solid, affordable, attractive mid-range offering, almost more diner-ish. It feels, in its menu and setting, very family friendly and I'll probably head back with my wife and kids. There aren't actually many such offerings like this on the East Side, which generally seems to have higher priced dining or take out places with little in between.
This is a welcome entry to the middle ground.
Good to hear you had a better experience. There are not many mid-price casual places on the East Side so hopefully they kill the soft rock and add a couple taps. I notice an unusual amount of young parents with toddlers for what is basically a small bar (the Ivy) , so obviously there is a need for a place like this. Which also reminds me I need to hit Trinity again sometime. Went there a few times when I first moved to Providence but thought there beers were underwhelming but by now maybe I'd be a fan.
I tried Kitchenbar a few weeks ago and thought it was pretty awful. Bland, uninspired food all around and not much of a value for what it is. Also really (really, really) dislike the food at Trinity Brewhouse to which this has been compared. I'd love to find excellent pub food in Providence but these options don't cut it in my book.
We went back for our third time recently. After three times ordering it, I *still* think they need to add some flavoring to my preferred dish (the fish and chips). My wife really liked her caprese salad but at, if I recall, $9, she felt it was hugely overpriced. And, as others have brought up, they need to find a different music balance (Frank Sinata and Brat Pack theme seemingly the night we were last there... Yuck!). It feels off balance. Overall, the food feels underdeveloped, like someone forgot an ingredient to everything.
The role it could play in the local culinary world is as neighborhood meeting spot. In fact, that's what were were doing there 2 of the 3 times, just meeting up with folks who live nearby. I never do that at the Ivy (which is crowded and you can't know you'll get a table just dropping in) and the other spots are either too pricy (Braze and Pizzico) or too, um, grimey (Hope St Pizza) to fill that role.
As someone once said on Top Chef, it's OK to do comfort food, but if you're going to go simple like that, you really need to absolutely nail the dishes and flavors. They're not there yet, they just need to refine the thinks a bit and they'll probably be fine.