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Mar 19, 2012 08:40 PM

Artisanal, Hidden Gems, Hole in the wall Providence, RI

Hello All,
My wife and I are going to be in Providence for a long weekend and we're looking for some advice. The only thing I have ever eaten there is pizza at Al Forno. Loved it so much I was thinking of going back. But I want to branch out and taste what is on offer at other places:
I'm looking for Artisanal, homey, local, just all around good places. Also any good Vegetarian places? We're on a bit of a budget, so I don't want to break the bank,
Also looking for a great bakery/pastry shop. What's the best in town?
How would you rate: Pastiche, Broadway Bistro, Julians, Red Fez, 7 Stars, Liberty Elm?
What is a can't miss?
Thanks for all your help!

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  1. Artisanal, homey, and local:

    La Laiterie
    New Rivers
    Nick's on Broadway
    Cook & Brown

    All of the others you listed are also top-notch. Pastiche for dessert, Seven Stars for coffee and baked goods, Red Fez for dinner or late-night, Julian's for any time of the day, Liberty Elm good for breakfast. I also think Broadway Bistro is a hidden treasure (dinner only).

    1. LMWW nails it. While I haven't been to Cook & Brown, I eat often at the other three on the list and can't recommend them enough. Budget is relative, so unless you toss out exact numbers it's hard to say, but for the quality of the food and the inventiveness and skills of the chefs I think they are all very fairly priced.

      Pastiche is *the* place for dessert.

      I like Broadway Bistro (and prefer it to Julian's in that neighborhood), but it's not quite on the same level; as noted, dinner only, and beer/wine only (no distilled spirits).

      I don't want to shortchange Nick's on the dinner front, as they are excellent, but they serve hands-down the best brunch in Providence, so if you only want to go there once in the weekend, go for Sunday brunch.

      Skip Al Forno.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Gin n Tonic

        Pretty much top advice, with some of my own modifications:

        - Agree on Pastiche, Broadway Bistro, Nicks, La Laiterie, New Rivers, Red Fez, Julian's, Cook and Brown. I'd add Avenue N in East Providence as well. None of those will disappoint at all...

        - Agree to skip Al Forno. Pizza is great, but you've done it and the scene has moved on...

        - Personally, I wouldn't do 7 Stars. It's VERY good, don't get me wrong, but for one local bakery to visit I'd go to LaSalle near Providence College. I've had some stuff they've done that's blown me away, which 7 Stars has never done...

        - Also, I'd bypass Liberty Elm unless you're really into the historic diner car thing. Don't get me wrong again, I respect what they do, how they do it, and the food, but I've had several lunches and brunches there and never had a dish I'd rank better than "average" and several that have missed the mark. Their mission and vibe buy them a lot of good will, including with me, but for a food trip, there are so many good brunch options around (including the superior Modern Diner in Pawtucket, IMHO) that I'd save Liberty Elm for another trip.

        That's it. Let us know what you do!

        1. re: Garris

          Totally agree on Liberty Elm! It's good, and I support their aims. But the food itself is not outstanding (though certainly fine).

          LaSalle and Seven Stars are like apples and oranges in my book. We go to LaSalle for great cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other more classic Italian pastries. Seven Stars? Breads, muffins, scones, etc. I do love both!

          1. re: LMWW

            Garden Grille Cafe is a great vegetarian place....continue down Hope Street in Providence into Pawtucket. There is also a vegan bakery, Wildflour right next door! Enjoy!
            Garden Grille Cafe:
            727 East Avenue # 7 Pawtucket, RI 02860
            (401) 726-2826
            Wildflour Bakery:
            727 East Ave # 11 Pawtucket, RI 02860
            (401) 475-4718
            **Broadway Bistro is a hidden gem for sure...also LOVE Nick's for brunch!**

            1. re: elle bee

              If I found myself in the strip mall where Garden Grill is located, I'd much prefer to go next door to Rasoi Indian restaurant. They have an excellent vegan buffet on Saturday for around $10pp, or plenty of veggie options off the menu.

          2. re: Garris

            Second every Garris said especially LaSalle.

            Setting aside the merits of Seven Stars baked goods, I think most would agree that it is not distinctly Providence or Rhode Island. Based on my travels, very similar establishments exist in the affluent, left leaning, neighborhoods of most coastal cities. YMMV, but I think LaSalle has more of a sense of place.

            In full disclosure, LaSalle is a short walk from my front door, so I am probably biased.

        2. Would not go far as to call it can't miss, but if you are looking for a cheap lunch check out Jeanette's Bakery on Branch Avenue for calzones.

          The name is slightly misleading. It is not really a bakery. They have a few small display counters but they are always empty. In fact the place is really not much to look at it and might even scare the uninitiated away.

          All the action is in the back of the shop where they make delicious and huge calzones from scratch every day. They have a menu, but you need to wait your turn to talk with the guy manning the counter to find out what they have available at any given moment. He'll give you an idea of what they have left, what's in the oven and what the ETA is. The line often stretches out the door. Everything is good, but I am partial to the spinach, pepperoni and olives.

          1. Hi All! I'm the aforementioned wife, and have to say THANK YOU SO MUCH! We had an incredible time and are having a hard time remembering when we've eaten so consistently fabulously in a place neither of us have lived. Or ever, really!

            La Laiterie was the first stop, and it was amazing (our fridge and pantry at home are now stocked as well). The cupcakes from there may be the best I have ever had. We went back again the next day to pick up more treats from the shop.

            We did Nick's for our first dinner and just went crazy for it--we're not strict, but we are mostly vegetarian, and it's so rare that a non-vegetarian restaurant seems to put so much attention into the complexity of the veggie dishes--they were truly spectacular. Everything was so fresh and multidimensional. Also, just really friendly, fun, perfect service. Awesome.

            I was suspicious about brunch, I have to say--we live in New York and it tends to so sceney here that I've started to avoid it, but Nick's blew us away again! Everything was absolutely perfect. Incredible biscuits, incredible pancakes, terrific hollandaise, great savory options. If we had had time to go back I would have had the apple crumble for breakfast the next day--genius. Also: everyone is so nice!

            The same goes for Julian's! Just perfect. I think I would pretty much live there in particular if we lived in town. So creative and delicious and felt just like home. And definitely the best onion rings and kale (!!!!!) that I have ever eaten. Loved all the possible veggie modifications! Such a treat.

            Also totally blown away by the pastries across the board! It's taken me years to find places I like so much elsewhere, and there were so many great ones. In terms of classics, I can't think of anything offhand that beats the Coconut cake at Pastiche, and everything we tried from there was delicious. And the cheddar scone and gingerbread muffin at Seven Stars were super as well! We didn't make it out to LaSalle, as I was at a conference, but next time!

            So...New Rivers, Broadway Bistro, and Cook & Brown also for next time, absolutely! Jeanette's, Wildflour, and Rasoi sound right up our alley, too! We are so glad we live close enough to come back soon! Thank you again! We are now Providence's biggest fans!

            1 Reply
            1. re: woodlawn

              Thanks for coming back with your report - I'm jealous of your agenda, and I live here!

              I'm also happy to see that you hit up Nick's for dinner and brunch. Because the brunch is so amazing, it often gets overlooked for dinner. And really, Derek's dinners are out of this world. Very wise choice to hit him up for both!

              You won't be disappointed on your return, either. Enjoy!

            2. Such great info here. Can I throw out this question? I will be traveling alone on business and would love a great vegetarian meal. I am staying at Hotel Providence and would like to be able to walk from the hotel.

              2 Replies
              1. re: 3catsnh

                You could try Local 121:


                It's not a pure vegetarian restaurant, but there are options ... should be easy to put something together. The food is quite good and it's a great space — especially in the bar. It's a very easy walk from your hotel; just up Mathewson Street one block.

                1. re: Dave S

                  Local 121 was fabulous! I had a delicious roasted beet salad with toasted hazelnuts. And the waitress, Emma -- who was kind and genuinely happy when I was happy-- recommended the vegetable strudel. It was cooked perfectly and full of roasted squash, kale, and almond cheese and served on a pool of a red pepper walnut hummus. I rarely order dessert but spoiled myself with a light delicious mocha sherbet--a perfect ending. The selection of wines by the glass was nice as well. I will be back.