The crew at the Grange. [Photo by Richard McCaffrey]
BEST RESTAURANT, NEW: THE GRANGE
166 Broadway, Providence | 401.831.0600 | providencegrange.com | It all started back in 1971 when Erna and Bert Yaffe opened the Golden Sheaf Natural Foods Market, one of the first around here. In 1996 the family opened a vegetarian restaurant, Garden Grille, and next door to that four years ago came the Wildflour Vegan Bakery, Café and Juice Bar. The Grange — a “vegetable restaurant,” cafe, and bar — was the natural next step, where you can enjoy a heart of palm sandwich, “carrot dog,” or pretzel bread French toast. Phoenix readers think it’s a welcome addition.
BEST RESTAURANT, NEWPORT: BRICK ALLEY PUB
140 Thames St, Newport | 401.849.6334 | brickalley.com | For more than three decades, they’ve been operating in the style of British pubs, which emphasize comfort food. With that in mind, you can get comfortable with Mike’s Portuguese clam pasta, maybe with a side of Nancy’s creamed spinach or broccoli Hollandaise. Arrange a perfect ending to the meal with Tina’s bread pudding.
BEST RESTAURANT, NORTHERN RHODE ISLAND: BELLA RESTAURANT AND BANQUET
1992 Victory Hwy, Glendale | 401.568.6996 | bellarestaurantandbanquet.com | Restaurants run by families tend to be good with service as well as the food — prideful. So the black-clad waitstaff out front here are as attentive as Chef Gio Calapai is in the kitchen. Perhaps start out with the grilled Portobello Sardinia, which includes Tuscan sausage among its toppings, moving on to, say, the fresh-basil pesto al Genovese, or the cognac-infused Vitella Courvoisier. Tutti bellissima!
BEST RESTAURANT, ON THE WATER: MATUNUCK OYSTER BAR
629 Succotash Rd, South Kingstown | 401.783.4202 | rhodyoysters.com | No wonder the farm-raised and wild-caught seafood here is fresh, since this place was an outgrowth of the Matunuck Oyster Farm, where they harvest shellfish out of the adjoining Potter’s Pond. So you won’t be disappointed with the raw bar, or with Chef Jeff Cruff’s littlenecks and linguine, or his jambalaya. In a little quality bonus, the produce comes from owner Perry Raso’s vegetable farm.
BEST RESTAURANT, PROVIDENCE + TAPAS/SPANISH: LOS ANDES
903 Chalkstone Ave, Providence | 401.649.4911 | losandesri.com | This place transcends ethnicity and genre. You can trust Chef Cesin to offer tastes you won’t find everywhere, like moon fish, skewered pieces of beef heart, and exotic seasonings such as spicy kion. His chicharron (confit pork spare ribs) combines accents of cinnamon, bay leaf, and lime for ineffable goodness. Causa limena, chilled whipped potatoes with avocado puree inside and shredded chicken on top, is Peruvian style, as is his ceviche clasico, with the seafood accompanying sweet potatoes, cancha, and choclo. Bolivian specialties include the salteña, a chicken pie, and the cuñapé, a yucca flour and cheese pastry.
BEST RESTAURANT, ROMANTIC: LOIE FULLER’S
1455 Westminster St, Providence | 401.273.4375 | loiefullers.com | If the lyrical, butterfly-filled wall painting by Kyra Coburn doesn’t get your sweetheart in the mood, maybe a bottle of Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape will. Romance is an occasion to splurge: maybe start out with the escargots de Bourgogne, perhaps moving on to the rendered duck breast with sautéed mustard greens and sunchoke chips, and ending with the pot au crème for dessert. The after-dinner romance is up to you.
BEST RESTAURANT, SEAFOOD: HEMENWAY’S SEAFOOD GRILL & OYSTER BAR
121 South Main St, Providence | 401.351.8570 | hemenwaysrestaurant.com | You know that a restaurant’s raw bar is a hit with regulars when they offer both a shellfish platter ($54) and an even more heaping shellfish tower ($99). But people don’t neglect chef Lee Sonsky’s carefully prepared dishes either, such as seafood casserole, or its spicier relative, paella. For vegetarians at the table there’s a daily local farm plate.
BEST RESTAURANT, SOUTH COUNTY: MEWS TAVERN
456 Main St, Wakefield | 401.783.9370 | mewstavern.com | Their menu has only starters, soups, salads, and burgers, but the place is mega-popular — there’s a choice of 69 beers, after all. Some of the appetizers are out of the ordinary, such as braised pork belly tacos and Thai-style calamari. And those burgers inventively include a tzatziki turkey variation and the Goober, with both (gulp!) peanut butter and a fried egg on an English muffin.
BEST RESTAURANT, SPLURGE: AL FORNO
577 South Main St, Providence | 401.273.9760 | alforno.com | Al Forno has been a splurge destination since it opened in 1980. Besides their free-form wood-oven grilled pizza, which earned them an international reputation, they offer an inventive high-heat roasted veggie entrée, for well-browned accents, and an unusual fresh horseradish and parsley sauce on the New York strip loin steak. Pasta? How about linguine with creamy egg, duck bacon and arugula? Clever menu.
BEST RESTAURANT, SUSHI/SASHIMI: SAKURA
231 Wickenden St, Providence | 401.331.6861 | sakuraprovidence.com | No secret to having an excellent sushi and sashimi place — just get enough customers to nearly sell out by closing, so the seafood is fresh daily (and solve the chicken/egg problem). And it’s ultra-affordable: sushi dinners from only $14. If for no other reason, give these guys your business because of their policy of no annoying corking fee for BYOB.
BEST RESTAURANT, THAI: APSARA PALACE
783B Hope St, Providence | 401.831.5225 | apsara-palace.com | No fewer than seven Thai soups are proffered, including kaing kai, so you can have the tastes of both lemongrass and coconut milk in one bowl without ordering their tom yum and coconut soups and pouring them together. Try the spicy Thai shrimp-paste string bean stir fry for its jalapeño kick and Thai basil perfume. Being pan-Asian, they offer Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Chinese dishes too.
BEST RESTAURANT, VEGETARIAN/VEGAN-FRIENDLY: GARDEN GRILLE
727 East Ave, Pawtucket | 401.726.2826 | gardengrillecafe.com | Opened in 1996 by Uschi and Rob Yaffe, of the same family that ran the Golden Sheaf natural foods market, this place wants you to leave healthy as well as well-fed. At lunch maybe try their mushroom and walnut pâté on grilled ciabatta. For dinner perhaps the farmer’s pie with roasted root vegetables. And, what the heck, why not come back for Sunday brunch and the oyster mushroom frittata?
BEST RESTAURANT, VIETNAMESE: PHO HORN’S
50 Ann Mary St, Pawtucket | 401.365.6278 | phohorns.com | If you know that the Vietnamese soup called pho is pronounced “fuh” rather than “foe,” then you know enough to appreciate this place. They have nearly a dozen different beef noodle soups, plus one so thick they call it stew. And entrées — where else are you going to get a weird and wonderful Vietnamese specialty like salmon or catfish with caramel sauce?
BEST RESTAURANT, WEST BAY: SPAIN RESTAURANT
1073 Reservoir Ave, Cranston | 401.946.8686 | spainrestaurantri.com + 1144 Ocean Rd, Narragansett | 401.783.9770 | spainri.com | Felix Rodriguez opened the original in Narragansett in 1987, and seven years later the second location proved even more popular. The focus is on traditional Spanish dining, in preparation and presentation, but most importantly in flavors. Seafood includes Basque-style filet of sole and, of course, paella Valenciana. The signature veal dish is a Provimi loin chop stuffed with lobster, crab, smoked ham, and Castilian cheese.
BEST SANDWICH SHOP: GEOFF’S SUPERLATIVE SANDWICHES
163 Benefit St, Providence | 401.751.2248 | facebook.com/GeoffsSuperlativeSandwiches | A sandwich should have personality, but these even have characters. Like the Kevorkian (hot pastrami, bacon, cheddar, Frank’s Hot Sauce), the Godzilla (hot corned beef, this and that and, of course, Dragon’s Breath), or the Buddy’s Return (lots of ham, etc.). If you think that towering Dagwood in your hands won’t fill you up, help yourself to some free half-sour pickles from the big bucket.
BEST STEAKHOUSE: TEN PRIME STEAK & SUSHI
55 Pine St, Providence | 401.453.2233 | tenprimesteakandsushi.com | Have an extra-marbleized Wagyu flat iron steak or prime Angus, aged at least 28 days to increase flavor and tenderness, hand-cut for every size appetite, whether you’re up for an eight-ounce bacon-wrapped filet mignon or a 40-ounce double porterhouse. Or, once in a while for variety, maybe a lamb loin or veal porterhouse chop? Chef Lou Cruz and his crew aim to please.
BEST WINE LIST: LOCAL 121121 Washington St, Providence | 401.274.2121 | local121.com | There are three dozen whites and nearly four dozen reds, heavy on the West Coast vineyards, with a couple dozen French and Italians thrown in. The labels are chosen for quality and price-worthiness rather than, necessarily, country of origin: the two Gewürtztraminers are from Sakonnet and North Stonington; there’s a Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut from Reims, but also a Chandon Brut Classic from California. At Local 121, the sipping is sublime.