For fresh seafood, few places satisfy quite like Hemenway’s, whether you’re in the mood for raw Rhode Island oysters, buttery clams casino, or Maine lobster stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and crab. Be sure to try the Rhode Island clam chowder, a clear-broth style chowder that’s often overshadowed by its New England and Manhattan cousins.
Even if the service weren’t outstanding, patrons would still flock to this Peruvian and Bolivian restaurant for the spicy ceviche, lobster paella, and short rib empanadas. Luckily, the service is impeccable, making this one of the best restaurants in Providence for both food and hospitality.
Few Providence restaurants have more Instagram-worthy dishes than Birch, but there’s substance to go with those good looks too. Chef Benjamin Sukle has earned a James Beard nomination for his inventive and artful farm-to-table fare, which remains astoundingly affordable, with a four-course dinner running just $60.
Al Forno has been called “the most influential restaurant in Providence”, which is pretty miraculous considering the owners are trained artists, not chefs. Then again, Al Forno’s menu is filled with creative spins on Italian classics, from the calamari-topped pizzas, which are grilled, not baked, to the inventive specials, which often include items like rabbit meatballs. Although somewhat more predictable, the baked pastas are not to be missed, nor is the seasonal fruit tart, whatever flavor it may be.
One of the best old-school Italian restaurants in Providence, Mike’s Kitchen is as much known for its salty service, cash-only policy, and unusual location (it’s in a VFW hall), as it is for its food. But that doesn’t mean the cuisine is forgettable: the fried smelt, polenta with red gravy, and stuffed artichokes are so excellent that locals don’t mind having to brave the cranky servers to get their fix.
Federal Hill is the place to find excellent Italian restaurants in Providence, but most of these are Americanized spaghetti-and-meatballs type operations (and excellent ones at that). But Enoteca Umberto stands apart, opting instead to focus on truly authentic Italian fare using fresh ingredients that are imported weekly. The dining room is small and there’s no menu—instead the husband and wife team simply ask if anyone at your table has food allergies, then serve dishes that were likely inspired by that day’s visit to the farmer’s market. Slightly unorthodox, but it’s clearly working as the restaurant often books up weeks in advance.
Dinner at Nick’s is kind of like getting a dinner-and-a-show experience, since you can watch through the open kitchen as chefs craft beautiful, yet unpretentious new American dishes with farm-fresh ingredients. But while dinner is excellent here, brunch is where the contemporary eatery really shines, whipping up creative benedicts using fresh filet of scup and seasonal vegetable hashes topped with perfectly poached eggs. Don’t miss the cassoulet or the pumpkin bread pudding (when it’s in season).
Jahunger’s specialty is authentic Uyghur cuisine, meaning it’s probably unlike any Chinese food you’ve ever eaten. The Uyghur people are a Turkic group who live in East and Central Asia, and their cuisine blends elements of Chinese, Middle Eastern, Russian, Mongolian, and Indian cooking. So don’t be surprised when you see dishes like lamb kebabs and naan sharing menu space with spicy chicken stew, potstickers, and hand-pulled noodles with sichuan peppers. Whatever you go with, a side order of the fried scallion pancake is a must.
The roast beef sandwich competition is pretty stiff among Providence restaurants and within Rhode island in general. Which probably explains why you won’t find a single Arby’s in the state. After all, why go national when you have local chains like Miller’s, that source their beef from family ranchers and slice it to order with every sandwich? The roast beef sandwich here is practically perfect, but if you’re tempted to try something else on the menu, the Thanksgiving sandwich is pretty much guaranteed to fill you with holiday cheer, no matter the season.
There’s no official Providence-style pizza, but the pizzas at Federal Hill are unique enough to almost qualify. At first glance, the thick, square-cut pies appear to be an homage to Detroit–style pizza, but appearances can be deceiving. The brick ovens that make them are imported from Italy, and Chef Billy Manzo is one of only two certified Master Pizzaioli (that’s Master Pizza-Maker, if you didn’t know) in the United States, so you can be sure he follows an authentic Neapolitan dough recipe all the way. Of course, even in Naples you’re unlikely to find anything resembling his Zorba the Greek pizza—a fan favorite sporting kalamata olives, hamburger, garlic oil, feta, and tzatziki sauce—so maybe Italy should start importing some ideas from Rhode Island.