Chef/co-owners Nick and Tracy Rabar have several things going for them at their Avenue N American Kitchen restaurant: a sense of history in the location — the former Rumford Chemical Works, where Rumford Baking Powder was produced for more than 100 years; opening a pub and dining opportunity in a mostly residential neighborhood; and Rabar's quirky creativity nurtured during his years as corporate executive chef for John Elkhay and as a TV chef on Nick Rabar: Chef 2 Go.
The interior of Avenue N is industrial chic, with open beams and ductwork, plus two loading-gate doors on one wall with a wooden Rumford Chemical Works sign hung above them. There are tall windows across the long side of the L-shaped dining area (seating 33) that wraps around the marble-topped bar, seating 12 (plus another 32 seats on an attractive brick patio behind the building).
Since their opening in March, Avenue N has already developed a following, drawing diners from as far away as South County. On the evening we were there, a pre-teen celebrated her eighth grade graduation with her family; two friends met after work to share a pizza; six retirees gathered for a special dinner out; and a businessman rendezvoused with his wife, who was just coming from the gym and had recommended Avenue N.
Avenue N American Kitchen | 401.270.2836 |20 Newman Ave, Rumford | Mon-Thurs, 4-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 4-11 pm; Sun Brunch 10 am-2 pm, Dinner 2-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
They sounded like native Rhode Islanders, and they were as friendly as could be. When he noticed me eyeing the Block Island black bass as it was set before him, he offered me a bite and, later, he gave me a sample of the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies they chose for dessert. (By then, he knew we were reviewing, but not at first.)
His wife and I agreed that the chicken dumpling and Rumford biscuit soup was a keeper ($6). Bowing to the tradition of biscuits made from Rumford's most famous product, Chef Rabar had perched a fluffy one atop the soup, its broth flavored with carrots, parsnips, onions, and just a bit of tomato. The "dumplings" were more like chicken meatballs, and they were quite tasty. My only quibble was that the prep for the parsnips did not remove the inedible fibrous core — that's definitely an oversight.
Bill began with Avenue N stuffed chicken wings ($9) — butterflied and deboned, with a shrimp and pork sausage stuffing, adorned with black mushrooms, peanuts, and a sweet and sour sauce. He found them finger-lickin' good.
Other starters, relying on local seafood, fruit, veggies, and meat, include rabbit sausage with carrot puree, Point Judith calamari, Matunuck oysters, and corned beef sliders with braised sour cabbage. Bill thought the corn dog with mac 'n' cheese sounded awfully good, too.
The three pizzas — margarita, wild mushroom, or chicken/Gruyere — could act as appetizers, though we were advised by one of our neighboring diners that the crust was "underdone," not as crispy as most Rhode Islanders prefer, including us.