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Apr 19, 2012 05:25 AM

Downtown Providence and Federal Hill area

My wife and i will be spending alomost a week at the Westin in Providence. Been a number of years since I have been there and my wife has never been. Looking for ethinic places that are considered outstanding by foodees. We like hole in the wall type places with great food. I have been to a number of places on federal hill in the past, and an Italian friend of mine has mentioned Romas Trattoria in addition to a couple of the more upscale places on federal hill. We also like ethinic groceries,bakeries, cheese shops and such. I feel federal hill calling.

Any input out there? Thanks.

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  1. There's much more to PVD than the Hill, but the number one question - will you have a car? The immediate downtown area has some restaurants, but groceries, bakeries and cheesemongers are a bit further afield.

    That said, more of the interesting action in PVD in the last couple of years is in what you can loosely call Modern American, or locavore, or farm-to-table, of which there are a number of great examples. Hole in the wall ethnic with great food, not so much. This isn't NYC.

    For example, there is only one currently operating African restaurant that I'm aware of, which is Abyssinia (Ethiopian/Eritrean) on Wickenden St., which has gotten somewhat mixed reviews here, although I found the food very tasty. There may be only two Vietnamese places, Pho Horn in a little plaza off North Main St. and Pho Paradise on Broad St., both very good in my view. There are maybe three (?) Korean places, but the best, in my view, is fairly far, Sura on Geo Waterman Rd near the Johnston/North Providence line. Chinese is weak, mostly Americanized, no Sichuan or Hunan, let alone Xinjiang. For Japanese, Haruki is the best sushi you'll find, and it's nothing to write home about; for non-sushi, Ebisu is quite good. Mostly you'll find a lot of mediocre "pan-Asian." I think there may be two worthwhile Indian places, Rasoi and India, but I don't know much about Indian. There's one tapas place in the city, Flan y Ajo right downtown, but it's kind of a mixed bag. I know nothing about Mexican, but some people have mentioned a few places in CF or in the Valley St. area. Oh, and the best Italian, oddly, isn't on the Hill.

    Broad St. has a few good Asian markets and one bakery (which is invariably closed whenever I go there.) Seven Stars bakery on Broadway and Lasalle Bakery near the PVD/N Prov line are different, but both good. Farmstead/La Laiterie in Wayland Square is the place for cheese (and charcuterie.)

    If you want to spend a bit more, though, you really owe it to yourself to try some of the newer-wave restaurants: New Rivers, Farmstead, Nick's, Gracie's, Chez Pascal, The Dorrance are all very good, each in their own way, and are all mentioned here if you run a search.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Gin n Tonic

      Wow, that was quite an opus summary of the Providence scene. Very complete. I have essentially nothing to add.

      It's funny you mention NYC in your post. My family just returned from the Upper West Side of Manhattan this past weekend (we try to go one or two weekends per month) and it's always fun to compare. I find the big Providence area dining deficits vs the UWS of NYC to be in sushi (we have no really ethereal higher end places and, for places of equal cost, most of the NYC restaurants blow PVD away) and especially Chinese. Even the UWS, not strong with Chinese restaurants at all, destroys what we have here.

      For a city of its size, I still find restaurants in the PVD area amazingly satisfying. I'd still like to see a bit more creativity here and fewer Italian and New American options but, overall, aside from sushi and Chinese I rarely feel deprived.

      1. re: Gin n Tonic

        I would also add TINI. It is not ethnic, but, it IS newer wave, and, it certainly IS a hole in the wall.

        1. re: Gin n Tonic

          Thank you for the comprehensive summary of the scene. We are quite intereted in exploring the locavore scene. We are also looking for good seafood along with Portuguese. I know the Foxpoint neighborhood used to have a heavy Portuguese influence but is now changed somewhat.

          1. re: JPR

            Will you have a car? It matters.

              1. re: JPR

                Since you'll have a car, how about some place like Mike's Kitchen at the Tabor-Franchi VFW. Excellent "old-school" Italian food in a unique environment. Don't miss the polenta. My brothers and I grew up in RI, ate a ton of this sort of food growing up, and now make Mike's a regular stop on our infrequent visits to RI.

                Since you mentioned seafood, Mike's does an excellent job in this area. On my last visit I got a piece of swordfish that must have weighed a pound and was cooked perfectly. Fried squid, snail salad -- it's all homey and good.

                Don't fill up on the bread, it's excellent but you'll need lots of stomach room for this meal.

          2. re: Gin n Tonic

            I'd hate to dissagree with someone on my first post here, but thats a pretty weird list I don't know what types of food you're thinking of because the federal hill of today is super different than the federal hill of even 5 years ago. If you want good Italian food i agree with whoever said Mike's kitchen but honestly the wait at this point isn't worth it. Italian food is boring anyways. Go to Al Forno.

            New american BS cuisine is very prevalent here, but it is everywhere. So whats the point.

            Hole in the wall tasty places with culture:

            La Hacienda on Plainfield (not olneyville square) has the best mexican breakfast in town. Those MFers know how to cook an egg period. huevos rancheros Super small, Tasty.

            Hortons in East Providence isn't near downtown or fed hill, but worth it. And it's closer than going down to Narragansett and honestly they make better whole belly clams than anyone in the state. Super city/salty dog culture shock but very well cooked fried food.

            On the hill for meats/cheese Tony Colonial's all day long. Stay away from Roma, Venda is alright, but this place is the florescent light, sausage on the counter real deal Italian deli. It outta be it's been there longer than anyone else over there.

            I agree with Pho Paradise, but you probably wont make it there or Pho Horns, but who travels for Pho? You can get it anywhere.

            La Lupita in Olneyville Sq is a pretty good hole in the wall although they have expanded a little bit.

            And last but not least Flan Y Ajo on westminster is worth a visit since you are staying so close. Super small, super traditional tapas NO Neo-american-james beard-BS only solid food.

            Have fun over here.

            1. re: greatscott11

              I'm sorry to continue this but i have completely forgotten about the following:

              Sals Bakery Chalkstone Ave. the BEST RI style bakery pizza hands down. The calzones aren't bad either grandma italian food real deal style. but for calzones:

              Jeanettes Bakery Charles st. You want a chicken parm? get it in some dough over here. seriously no joke do it. Better than andinos or wherever on atwells.

              Regular hot pizza with cheese Tommy's also on chalkstone. eat there. small super tasty.

          3. Since you have a car, Not Just Snacks (on upper hope) is good for flavorful Indian food.

            If you don't mind delicious, highly-local, really inexpensive Modern American, try AS220. The space is wonderful: on late Saturday afternoons, a folk music group jams (think sea shanties with fiddles and flutes) there.


            eta: Pulled pork sandwich and crispy chickpeas, from my last meal there: