Where to Find the Best Restaurants for a Weekend in Providence, Rhode Island
This isn’t an old-fashioned donut shop. While you can find that classic style here every so often, PVDonuts is best known for its over-the-top brioche creations adorned with everything from pieces of Pop-Tarts to waffles and bacon. Husband-and-wife owners Paul and Lori Kettelle also offer wheat-free and vegan varieties on their menu, which changes monthly and sometimes features savory flavors, too (think eggs benedict and fried chicken). Take me there.
A few years ago, 20-something entrepreneurs Sam Lancaster and Audrey Finocchiaro got their start selling nitro cold brew coffee out of a hand-built cart made with scrap wood. Since then, they’ve installed their taps in some 50 Rhode Island and Massachusetts restaurants and have opened one of the hippest coffee shops in town, The Nitro Bar. Located within Dash Bicycle Shop, their whitewashed cafe serves hot and iced espresso drinks, as well as the signature, ultra-smooth nitro coffee. Try it incorporated into creative concoctions, like The Wilbur with coconut and cinnamon, or a dirty chai. Take me there.
Wurst Kitchen at Chez Pascal
The cohabitation of Chez Pascal and The Wurst Kitchen is like dissimilar siblings living harmoniously in the same house. The restaurants’ “parents,” chef Matt and Kristin Gennuso, met while working at the now-shuttered Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston before opening Chez Pascal in Providence. It was Matt’s obsession with sausage-making that ultimately spurred their second-born: The Wurst Kitchen. First a food truck, it now lives within Chez Pascal as an open kitchen and the built-in Wurst Window for lunch takeout. The sausage choices rotate regularly, but are always accompanied by condiments like pickle relish and sauerkraut. The menu also includes some sandwiches worth exploring (think Bacon Wrapped Pork Meatloaf and Pork Butt Pastrami). Take me there.
Follow your nose to Figidini, where the menu is centered on a wood-fired grill and oven. Expertly crafted Neapolitan pizza is the main attraction, with toppings ranging from ‘nduja to rosemary and pistachios. The restaurant’s chewy, charred pies are presented with scissors for dividing up the wealth—so much easier than trying to go at the tender crust with a knife. Instead of ordering that second (or, more likely, third) pizza, balance out the carbs with a few vegetable- or protein-based side dishes. The crowd-pleasing Boneless Chicken Thighs, tinged with smoke and fragrant with paprika and topped with a caper-onion salsa, are delivered to the table seconds after being pulled off the grill. Take me there.
From acclaimed chef Benjamin Sukle, Oberlin shows off local catch at its finest in the form of sharable small- and large-format dishes—from the Raw Black Bass lightly adorned with olive oil and lemon to the day’s Piri Piri Whole Grilled Fish. Hearty pastas like eggy Chitarra Cacio e Pepe and rustic shards of Fazzoletti with leek confit and prosciutto broth are dreamy, and the wine list favors funky, natural picks. Bring friends and fork into as many things as you can fit on the table. Take me there.
When Johanne Killeen and the late George Germon opened Al Forno in 1980, they helped put Providence on the map as a food destination. Now their rustic Italian spot is, in many eyes, the matriarch of the city’s modern restaurant scene—but the James Beard Award-winning couple’s menu won’t fall out of fashion anytime soon. On it, you’ll find expertly grilled meats, handmade pastas with seasonal flourishes, and buttery fruit tarts served in pools of crème anglaise. And while its name references the oven (and you shouldn’t miss the Baked Pasta with Tomato, Cream, and Five Cheeses), Al Forno is best known for its grilled pizza, which Germon is credited with inventing. Take me there.
Brothers Omar, Cesin, and Diego Curi have created a South American dining destination in an unassuming building in a somewhat out-of-the-way area of Providence. Step inside Los Andes and you’ll find a party fueled by Latin music, pisco sours, and heaping portions of citrusy ceviche. The menu includes both Bolivian and Peruvian classics, as well as riffs; try the Lomo Saltado, a bold beef stir-fry with fries and rice to soak up all the sauce, or the dramatically plated Lobster Paella, with a whole baked Maine lobster. Take me there.
Olneyville New York System
For the past 70 years, this no-frills institution has been serving the masses of Providence—from the college kid to working folks and anyone who wanders through the door—with a smile and some snark. In 2014, the James Beard Foundation honored Olneyville N.Y. System with an America’s Classics Award, recognizing it as essential to the fabric of Providence’s food culture. On your next visit to Providence, cozy up to the counter and order a wiener (not a hotdog) “all the way,” which arrives replete with mustard, meat sauce, chopped white onions, and a sprinkle of celery salt. You’ll want to get some French fries (to be topped with cheese, chili, ketchup, or all of the above), and the essential Rhode Island element: coffee milk (coffee syrup + milk = joy). Best of all, Olneyville is open well past midnight—till 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Take me there.
Bayberry Beer Hall
While a year-round beer garden is not feasible in often-chilly Rhody, Bayberry Beer Hall owners Tom and Natalie Dennen created the next best thing indoors by installing a massive live plant wall in their spacious restaurant. (They have also since followed it up with Bayberry Garden, a coastal restaurant that doubles down on greenery.) New England-made brews from the likes of Fox Farm, Vitamin Sea, Schilling, and Rhode Island’s own Proclamation Ale Company dominate the taps in this modern, Scandinavian-feeling beer hall filled with communal tables. Pair your pint (or glass of wine or kombucha on tap) with comforting snacks like a Sourdough Pretzel with beer cheese or Fried Delicata Squash and Parsnips with mint chutney. Take me there.
Fortnight Wine Bar
Here’s a chill indie alternative to the many rowdy sports bars that dot downtown Providence. The dimly lit bar at Fortnight, operated by a workers’ cooperative, pours an enticing roster of natural, small-production wines. Bottles from Vermont’s Oyster River Winegrowers share shelf space with limited-production Oregon pinots and sparkling rosés from the Baja peninsula. Serious beer drinkers will be happy here, too; it’s one of the few bars in the area where you can sip brews from the likes of Oxbow, Dieu du Ciel, and Mikkeller. Take me there.
Ogie’s Trailer Park
Take one step into Ogie’s and you’ll know you’re about to have a good time. The mid-century modern, trailer park-themed bar is outfitted with AstroTurf, lava lamps, and even the sides of several vintage mobile homes. With a focus on throwbacks (think Sazerac, Hemingway Daiquiri, Hurricane), the cocktail list builds upon the retro thought line, while the Route 66-inspired beer list is all about canned domestic brews. Pair your drink with a nostalgic snack, like ranch-dusted tater tots or the Grilled PB & J. Take me there.
Jacqueline Cain updated this guide and Bethany Graber contributed reporting.