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Jul 10, 2012 10:18 AM

3 Moms turned loose in Providence, RI- dinner, etc?

Hi, hounds-
I'm looking for some suggestions for a moms' weekend (well, okay a day and a half) in Providence. We'll be driving down from Boston Saturday and need a quick lunch before some sight-seeing (also open to suggestions on sights to see). We're checking in to the Hotel Providence downtown for one night, and would love to keep everything close by although we will have a car. After some searching, I was thinking dinner at Gracie's- opinions? Any opinions on Aspire, in our hotel, as far as Sunday brunch the next morning? We're all adventurous eaters, love seafood, and would like to keep entrees below $30 for dinner and below $15-ish for lunch and brunch. Since we live near Boston, we have access to Chinatown, the North End, etc, and are especially interested in anything unique to Providence or that might be convenient to a museum and still chow-worthy.
Thanks & I promise to report back-

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  1. Is it a specific Saturday, or in general? I ask because next Saturday, the 21st, is a Waterfire night, which has its advantages and disadvantages. It's a great way to spend an evening, but it brings lots of people into town and makes accommodations more difficult.

    That said, Gracie's is a great choice but you'll have difficulty with your price range. In fact, with most of the top choices in the city you'll be bumping up against your limit.

    For Sunday brunch, hop in your car early and head out to Nick's, the best brunch in town. "Early" because it gets crowded, and as good as it is, I won't stand and wait for 45 minutes for brunch.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gin n Tonic

      Oh, yeah- I should have specified-- it's a non-Waterfire night, 7/28. Actually, Gracie's entrees have plenty of options in the $25-28 range if their menu is accurate online, plus they have a $35 prix fixe 3 courses for the month of July.

      What's early for brunch? This is going to be my first night in 20 months without my toddler, so the entire plan was to not have to get up early, but given we've all got little ones who've got us trained, I doubt we'll will be able to sleep later than 9am anyways!

      1. re: Parsnipity

        Another option is to eat outside in DePasquale Square, on Federal Hill. It is a great cobblestone courtyard area with water fountain, lots of people, hanging flower baskets, etc. Probably the best food option is at either Constantino's or Venda Ravioli (sister restaurants owned by the same people, with Venda being less expensive but probably less menu options). I second Nick's for breakfast, and would guess if you are there by 9:30 during the summer you will beat the crowd. As for site seeing check out Prospect Park - a neat little area on College Hill with views of the entire city.

        1. re: Jenkins

          For a neat tour of College Hill, you might want to check out Providence Ghost tours. It starts at sunset from Prospect Park. I didn't find it very scary, but it was an interesting way to have a guided tour.

    2. Gracies is a wonderful choice. Other good options within walking distance are the Dorrance and New Rivers.

      Head over to Local 121 for a night cap after your meal. While the restaurant itself is uneven, the bar is magnificent.


      1. One more vote for Gracie's! I actually prefer the prix fixe, as you can choose within each course and it is a great value.

        The Dorrance may be too pricey for dinner (plates can be small) but it might also be fun for drinks. I couldn't find any listing for events, but there tends to be something going on.

        1. Honestly, gracies is not what you are looking for. Unless you want to snooze out and get a shitty boring vibe with tasty food and not understanding providence. You ladies need to have fun.

          The current exhibit at the RISD museum by Spencer Finch is pretty good if you are looking for some "contemporary art stuff". Thats probably a good place to start and a very pretty walk from the hotel providence (straight down westminster over the river and to the left on south main). Lunch in that area is pretty rough and i'd probably just try to end up over at Olga's. Walk back chill out and hear the sounds of the crazies downtown listen to the bells at the church have a coffee or something (although if you're ice coffee drinkers Olga"s is better than Small Point or tazza),

          I don't know what your plans are from there, but your options are getting more limited.

          The food at the Dorrance is super good and honestly not that expensive although the portions are small, but considering the quality, totally worth it.

          Flan Y Ajo is BYOB (wine shop next door) and is also a super good bargain for the money and also funky, you'll probably have to stand, but it's not as bad as you think (it's super high quality as well and honestly a bargain). Young people Nice clientele.

          Side Bar usually has a live Jazz band and has a total hodge podge of weirdo people and could maybe be a lot of fun for after dinner.

          The Red Fez is also a good dinner bet and a good time also quality food reasonable prices

          Don't bother with federal hill unless you want to get ripped off with fake boring italian food.

          Brunch at aspire is probably fine, hopefully you'll be too hung over to care that much about brunch. Isn't that the point of brunch?

          -scott out

          4 Replies
          1. re: greatscott11

            Maybe "turned loose" gave the wrong idea... more like a relaxing, cultural jaunt where nobody has to change a diaper in between courses. Actually, the thought of being able to order multiple courses is about as much as it takes to get me excited. Plus, I maybe should have mentioned that I'm pregnant, and one of us is still nursing, so standing room only and alcohol-focused events are not in the cards.

            So far, we have: check in to hotel, lunch at Olga's (unless someone can come up with something better), hit RISD museum, rest at hotel or walk around downtown, dinner at Gracies, maybe live music somewhere, then brunch at Nick's and back to Boston/reality! Given the additional information, is that an agenda you can get behind?

            1. re: Parsnipity

              There's a great "36 Hours in Providence" in the NYT Travel Section this week. Lots of good recommendations, some of which overlap with your agenda. And I think you made some great choices!

              1. re: LMWW

                Awesome! Thanks. Now my only worry is that all of metro NYC will be rushing to Providence next weekend and crowding it up. For what it's worth, I read over the 36 hours in Cambridge MA a little while back and found most of the recommendations to be on target.

                1. re: Parsnipity

                  Inspired by this thread,we went to gracie's tonight for the first time, at the end of a 102 degree scorcher day, on our way back to Boston! I bet youall would really like Gracie's. I cannot imagine what causes the other poster to call it a 'shitty boring vibe'. The room is very handsome and comfortable and from the maitre d' to all our servers, people were friendly, welcoming and very professional. Our only problem was pretty significant for us: not enough food. We both had a 3 course for $35 (plus additional charges for certain items. )The food was beautifully presented, flavorful and well prepared ,but the portion size was meant for small women with small appetites. That might be just fine for you, but we left knowing full well we would be hungry before long.

                  p.s. we had brunch at olga's a few wks ago. What a beautiful garden patio! It was too hot outside that day, so we ate inside(nice and cool) at a table looking out at the garden-perfect! Friendly young servers, tatoos everywhere. We were not impressed w/ the many baked goods we tried, but our eggs breakfasts were delicious.I don't know of any patio in Boston as pretty as Olga's.

                  Examples: Rainier cherry salad was an artful arrangement of 3 cherries and 2 wisps of greens, something else, and a few sprinkles of misc. Honest. And my duck 'entree' was one small duck leg/confit, w/ about 1/2 ounce of turnip, 1/2 ounce of peach cubes and 2 tiny onions. It was a really delicious confit but puhleese- an a la carte price of $28??? There were no starches on either of our entree plates (My Love had the sweet Scallops). Actually, the only portions that were good were our foie gras app and the apricot dessert(such an interesting plate.)The assortment of 4 different in-house baked breads- was terrific, so yes, that could be a starch...but not what I had in mind.

                  Again, I liked everything about gracie's except the portions, and that may not concern you if you are a light eater. It is a 'hard surface' room so gets very loud. I would suggest you request a table in the left corner as you enter the din rm.- where it is quieter and you can have an audible and leisurely conversation. That's where we sat and it was lovely.

          2. Reporting back-
            We had a fun weekend, although a lot of our sitting around outside eating leisurely on patios plans were derailed by the torrential downpours. Hotel Providence was an excellent place to stay, plenty within walking distance to do, see and eat. I also thought it was a really good value.

            We ended up at Tazza right near our hotel for a late lunch/brunch on Saturday. We did squeeze in a few minutes outside before it started raining. They were serving their brunch, but also had some lunchy options. We each ordered a beignet side, as for $2 we were expecting it to be one piece of pastry, but each order was actually 3 beignets so we ended up with 9 for the table. Would have been nice for our server to mention how many came with the order when each of said "me too." They were really good, but not at all like most I've had-- more a cake-type fritter with crispy outside and crumbly inside instead of the yeasty dough I usually think of. Lemon curd, orange butter and candied ginger were delicious accompaniments. I think we managed to eat 8 out of 9. I had a breakfast sandwich of 2 eggs on a croissant with chorizo. Again, excellent value for $6 even though they forgot the basil pesto topping and I didn't notice til most of the way through. An iced latte was mellow, smooth and intense. Delicious.

            Dinner at Gracies was luckily only "45 second drive" according to someone's smart phone. We walked of course, but still got pretty drenched. I thought the atmosphere was lovely- soothing, elegant, slightly on the dark side in a nice way. We all did 3 course price fixe menus-- they have a $35 regular option and then had a subset of options that were on a $29 restaurant week menu. I found courses to my liking on the $29 menu- the cherry salad described above- agreed, not a ton of food on the plate but really interesting. The snapper was nice, nothing earth shattering but a decent portion and delicious potato puree, and for dessert I had a wonderful semifreddo with almonds and a chocolate mousse which I would not have had room for had I not had a smallish app. My friend had gnocci as an app, and was too full to finish her snapper. My other friend had the cherry salad, and did not finish her chicken ballotine although she said the crispy skin was delicious. I say this because none of us are light eaters (we did put away 8 beignets plus meals at lunch!) and we all felt the portions were fine. We did have bread as well- I particularly liked the onion foccacia. I would definitely eat here again, and thought the pricing was very reasonable which seemed to hold true across the board so maybe Providence is just a bit cheaper than Boston/Cambridge/Somerville.

            Our hotel included a $30/room voucher for breakfast at Aspire, their restaurant, which with $60 to spend kind of derailed our planned brunch at Nicks. Pretty unremarkable for a restaurant, but definitely better than average for a free hotel breakfast. Eggs, sausage, potato/sweet potato- would have been good in a diner, fair in a nicer establishment. One friend got eggs benedict which looked pretty good. Again, great value on the hotel.

            Sunday am we went to the RISD museum- nice facility, disappointing that the garden was closed due to the weather. Totally off topic, but I really hated the lack of signage and guides in the grand gallery hall and was a bit underwhelmed in general with the collection. Their curators need to go the Isabella Stewart Gardner to see how to hang art in a restored/residential setting.

            Ended up walking uphill to Thayer street and with clouds rolling back in and our phones beginning to go nuts with dads sending SOS texts about toddlers, settled for salads at a restaurant on a corner of Thayer near the Brown store whose name escapes me. Seemed like an old-school fixture. They were serving a buffet, which seemed wise to avoid, and we were all pretty full from the full breakfast at the hotel so we all got salads from the "salad" pages of the giant menu and they were a pleasant surprise- arugula, beet, grilled asparagus, goat cheese, pistachios. No complaints. Finished with delicious coffee at Blue State, and hit the road back to Somerville.

            I'd love to come back and spend a little more time poking around, hopefully in better weather, and would eat at Gracies and Tazza again. Thanks, hounds!