The Best Food and Drink in Rhode Island for 2018 from The Best Food and Drink in Rhode Island for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Rhode Island for 2018 Gallery
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The Best Food and Drink in Rhode Island for 2018
In just 1,500 square miles of land, Rhode Island has packed tons of iconic food and refreshing drinks. It’s got the crispiest calamari and the creamiest coffee milk, and features a surprising number of impressive restaurants for harboring so little space. We’ve rounded up the best of the state’s eats as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Like much of New England, Rhode Island is famous for its seafood. It’s called the Ocean State for a reason — featuring 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island attracts fishermen and seafood chefs from far and wide. Its vibrant foodie scene has transformed Little Rhody into a big personality. Nicknames for food such as Awful Awfuls, Del's lemonade, stuffies, cabinets, johnnycakes, doughboys, and clam cakes are all part of the local vernacular. Never heard of them? You must not be from New England.
The many food traditions of Rhode Island have baffled many with their ability to thrive there and stay there — despite the limited room for expansion. Few foods invented and perfected in Rhode Island have stretched past the state’s borders, instead concentrating into a vibrant food culture that’s filled with pride.
Rhode Island certainly has a lot to be proud of. Their many methods of cooking clams, hot wieners (a food they refuse to call by to the more popular term “hot dog”), and unexpected delicacies like stuffed quahogs are all alarmingly underrated parts of the American food scene.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and farmers markets to its best dive bar and craft brewery in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state.
Facebook/Cook & Brown Public House
Best Bar: Cook & Brown Public House (Providence)
Cook and Brown Public House is a modern New England-inspired take on a European gastropub. The bar, which has a separate restaurant area, is well known for its extensive selection of spirits with a predominant focus on whiskeys. The back bar is crammed with 200 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and bitters. The seasonally changing drink menu is populated with a rotating punch, a hot drink, and a barrel-aged cocktail along with 10 cleverly named concoctions along the lines of Port-Tea Like It’s 1999 (Mellow Corn, Six Grapes port, Meletti amaro, lemon, and black tea) and the Vieux From the Flor (Tequila Ocho Reposado, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry, St. George NOLA Coffee liqueur, Cardamaro, and orange bitters). The seasonally changing food menu, curated by proprietor and head chef Nemo Bolin (who previously worked at L’Etoile on Martha’s Vineyard), pairs well with the drinks. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken liver pâté built up with beef bone marrow and served with a rotating selection of mustard, house-made jam, house-made pickles, and crusty country toast.
Brad Smith Photography
Best Beer: Proclamation Ale Company
Proclamation Ale Company’s Derivative: Galaxy pale ale is milky and hazy — it isn’t just another IPA. With scents of peaches and oranges and a distinctive creaminess, this beer is like a hopped-up creamsicle. Lightly sweet, lightly bitter, and plenty juicy, this beer is all you could ever want.
Best Casual Restaurant: Olneyville N.Y. System, North Providence
Olneyville N.Y. System, with two locations in Providence, claims to serve "Rhode Island’s Best Hot Wieners," and while that will always remain a point of contention, they’re certainly the most legendary. The New York System dog is a regional specialty: Small franks (in this case, from Little Rhody) are steamed, placed atop a steamed bun, and topped with a cumin-heavy meat sauce, yellow mustard, diced onions, and celery salt. You’re going to want to order a few of these, because they’re little and addictive (see how many of them the counterman can balance on his arm). The "wiener sauce" is so popular that people have been requesting the recipe for years; you can purchase a packet of seasoning online and make it yourself at home. The dogs here are the best in the state and, unsurprisingly, one of The Daily Meal’s choices for the best hot dogs in America.
Photo by Jack C. via Yelp
Best Chinese Restaurant: New Wing Kee Barbecue and Poultry, Providence
Hidden in a quiet residential neighborhood of Providence, New Wing Kee is the place for real-deal Chinese-style roast meat. Duck, chicken, pork, boneless ribs, and turkeys are roasted throughout the day, and one glimpse of them hanging on display will let you know you’ve come to the right place. They also sell stewed pork and beef as well as dumplings, pork and beef meatballs, and even duck tongues.
Photo by Brian S. via Yelp
Best Cupcake: Cupcake Charlie's, Newport
With its loveable mascot and company motto (“Life is short... Eat a cupcake”), Cupcake Charlie’s delivers fresh, frosted cupcakes that will make your day. The Grammy’s Carrot Cake and Charlie’s Chocolate Chip are both shining examples of a perfect cupcake. Make sure you pop by to check out the cupcake of the day, chosen from more than 137 varieties, in addition to the decadent daily flavor specials. For more chocolate chip inspiration read Beyond the Cookie: 21 Irresistible Chocolate Chip Desserts.
Best Dive Bar: Nick-A-Nees
With a laid-back ambiance and dog-friendly atmosphere, Nick-A-Nees is a charming dive bar in the middle of Providence. On any given night, you’ll find a local band playing some tunes, a good selection of draft beers, and communal tables that help strangers to become friends throughout the course of an evening.
Best Doughnut: Allie’s Donuts, North Kingstown
People often drive over from Connecticut or Massachusetts to get a taste of one of Allie’s doughnuts or to pick up a doughnut cake for an upcoming party. If you like your doughnuts to be bright, colorful, and sugar-filled, then these sprinkle doughnuts will be your idea of heaven; and if you’re more of a traditionalist, then make sure you sample one of the renowned Boston creams. For more information on Allie’s Donuts, click here.
Best Farmers Market: South Kingston Farmers Market, Kingston
Ye Olde English Fish and Chips
Best Fish and Chips: Ye Olde English Fish and Chips, Woonsocket
This spacious downtown Woonsocket institution has been going strong since 1922, when Yorkshire natives Harry and Ethel Sowden opened this waterfront eatery, and today it’s still in the family, with the fifth generation in training. The unique English-style batter recipe, which results in a slightly heavier crust around the fresh-caught pollock or cod, hasn’t changed since the day they opened, and the fries are hand-cut and pair perfectly with a shake of malt vinegar.
Best Food Truck: Plouf Plouf Gastronomie, Providence
This self-described “rustic French mobile bistro” is unique, creating from-scratch dishes on the spot with “the highest quality [ingredients] from New England farms with a commitment to organic, humane, and sustainable practices.” Plouf Plouf Gastronomie has a lunch and dinner menu that changes seasonally, with gourmet offerings such as Canard Confit (a leg of duck with green peppercorn brandy sauce, and fresh hand-cut frites), Plouf Plouf duck burger (ground duck with Applewood-smoked bacon, shiitake mushrooms, demi-glace sauce, and fresh frites), and of course desserts like the vanilla bean crème brûlée.
Facebook/ Eastside Marketplace
Best Grocery Store: Eastside Marketplace
Best Italian Restaurant: Al Forno, Providence
On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, Al Forno offers quintessential Italian dining for those who can’t afford the flight across the Atlantic. Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza. They also, though, aim the culinary spotlight on Rhode Island's defining vegetables — corn, squash, beans, and tomatoes — prepared simply, with the authentic Italian panache one would expect of multiple James Beard honorees. Sadly, George passed away a few years ago, but his flagship invention, grilled pizza, is still influencing chefs around the world, and Al Forno still serves the definitive version.
Yelp/ Amy I.
Best Lobster Roll: Champlin’s, Narragansett
Since 1944, Champlin’s bas been serving astoundingly simple and delicious lobster rolls from their dockside restaurant. Lobsters come right off the day boat and into the sandwiches, which contain a heaping portion of claw, knuckle, and tail meat, tossed with a little celery and mayo, with a lettuce leaf separating meat from bun. Take a seat on the charmingly ramshackle deck overlooking the water, take in the sea air as you eat your roll, and buy a few live lobsters for dinner on your way out.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Tallulah’s Taqueria, Providence
A breath of fresh air in the Providence culinary scene, Tallulah’s is serving classic Mexican fare prepared with a deft hand in a trendy space. Tacos, burritos, tortas, bowls, and quesadillas can be filled with your choice of 11 fillings (as well as breakfast ingredients), and though you can’t go wrong with al pastor, barbacoa, chipotle braised potato, or grilled shrimp or fish, don’t miss the carnitas: slow-braised pork belly and shoulder, served (like all the tacos) in a corn tortilla with guacamole, onions, cilantro, salsa, radishes, and lime.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Mill’s Tavern, Providence
Yelp/ Alexa D.
Best Pasta Dish: Pasta Ceci at Enoteca Umberto, Providence
At Pasta Ceci, you’ll feel like you’re dining in the home of owners Lia and Umberto Bellini, because with only 18 seats in the restaurant you might as well be. The cuisine at Umberto’s is rustic, homestyle, and prepared with nuance and a lot of love, which is most evident in their most popular dish, Pasta Ceci. It’s a simple combination of chewy house-made pasta with creamy chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, and it’s homey, humble, and supremely comforting.
Photo by Victoria K. via Yelp
Best Pizza: Al Forno, Providence
Legendary Al Forno co-owner and chef George Germon passed away a couple years back, but chef David Reynoso now carries on the restaurant’s proud tradition. Al Forno’s most famous creation is its grilled pizza, a style that celebrity chefs have been noting on TV for a while now and that’s even spawning its own offshoots. The restaurant bakes six pies in wood-burning ovens and on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The Margarita. It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Photo by Jeff M. via Yelp
Best Sandwich: Italian Grinder at Dee’s Deli, Cranston
This tiny, no-frills deli is a lunchtime favorite in Cranston, the state’s third-largest city. It’s most famous for its Italian grinder, loaded with salami, capicola, turkey, hot peppers, lettuce, tomato, and oil and vinegar. It’s the bread that really sets this place apart: It’s baked fresh daily so it’s soft and perfect for a hefty sandwich, and the loaves are so long that half is usually more than enough for one person. A word to the wise: Get there early, because when they run out of bread, they close.
Yelp/ Nadia B.
Best Soup: Scallop Chowder at The Mooring, Newport
Clam chowder may get all the fame, but scallop chowder, especially the one served by The Mooring in tony Newport, definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. Loaded with scallops and kicked up with white wine, plenty of fresh dill, and corn, this creamy soup has kept the crowds coming back since debuting in 1981.
Facebook/Ten Prime Steak & Sushi
Best Steakhouse: Ten Prime Steak & Sushi, Providence
Swanky and sexy, Ten Prime isn’t just Rhode Island’s best steakhouse, it’s also one of Providence’s best restaurants and date spots. Prime corn-fed Certified Angus steaks are complemented by creative sushi rolls and steak toppers including roasted bone marrow with foie gras butter, melted Roquefort with rosemary demi-glace, and grilled lobster tail. Wagyu flat-iron steaks are a welcome option, as is a 40-ounce double porterhouse; it’s slightly out of character for a classy joint like this, but if you eat the whole thing, you get your name on a plaque.
Joseph X. via Yelp
Best Taco: Tallulah’s Taqueria, Providence: Carnitas
A breath of fresh air in the Providence culinary scene, Tallulah’s is serving classic Mexican fare prepared with a deft hand in a trendy space. Tacos, burritos, tortas, bowls, and quesadillas can be filled with your choice of 11 fillings (as well as breakfast ingredients), and though you can’t go wrong with al pastor, barbacoa, chipotle braised potato, or grilled shrimp or fish, don’t miss the carnitas: slow-braised pork belly and shoulder, served (like all the tacos) in a corn tortilla with guacamole, onions, cilantro, salsa, radishes, and lime. To learn about the best eats in other states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.