Even though Manhattanites live in the best city in the world, sometimes it is good to go outside the gritty streets of NYC and see what else is out there. Seeing as this past weekend was the warmest weekend in months, I was delighted to travel and explore Providence, Rhode Island; an area that I am very familiar with already as I went to school there for five years. The intent for me to visit was that I was invited to speak at my alma matter, Johnson & Wales University, about Manhattan Digest yet there was also the intent to try some of the local cuisine and give my readers what I believe to be the best of the best of this always up and coming city. Being wedged between two landmark cities like Boston and New York City can be tough on a town like Providence, yet they have done a phenomenal job over the past ten years in developing themselves into an area you want to travel to, and of course eat at. So whether you are looking for an elevated dining experience or a delicious burrito, we have got you covered. Check out what I think you should visit and try the next time you are in Providence.
Cilantro Mexican Grille- 127 Weybosset Street
If you want a good burrito with a Margarita on the side, this is where you go. Located right in the heart of downtown Providence and across the street from Johnson & Wales, this simple but amazing location has been the helm of many nights for me spent with my friends during my college years. Although it may seem like your basic Mexican Grill, Cilantro’s really is more than just that. Similar to Chipotle, they do the same type of options you can get at a chain but with better & more authentic flavors in their burritos, belly bowls, tacos, quesadillas and more. What is even better is that none of the food you will try there comes from a freezer, it is all brought in fresh as they partner with Farm Fresh Rhode Island and other suppliers to guarantee the food you are having is up to quality with what you are paying. What do I recommend? Get a burrito with adobo style chicken and all the fillings you want (corn salsa in particular. They should jar that stuff). For more information, check out their official site.
Hemenway’s- 121 S. Main Street
It is incredible to me that I lived in Providence for five whole years and never experienced this place while I was there. Located right in the middle of Providence, and steps away from the major universities there (Brown, JWU, Rhode Island School of Design), Hemenway’s is an absolutely stunning location that really shines even brighter now that the warm weather is here. I would recommend getting a window seat next to the ocean as on a beautiful, sunny day will really enhance the entire experience while you are there. Hemenway’s itself is spacious in size and works very well for a simple dinner/lunch for two or a big party of 10 or more. The wait staff was quite accommodating which can really add to the experience as well beyond how great the food is.
Now, onto the food. First off, come hungry. Because the variety of fresh food they provide is going to be worth the full stomach you will have upon your exit. To start, do a shrimp cocktail. Simple yes, but they are jumbo in size and taste delicious. Their Crab & Lobster Cakes were also divine as they come with spicy chipotle aioli, bacon, corn succotash on the side. Bacon in anything is great, and it elevated the flavor of the cakes to where it became my friend’s overall favorite dish of the day. If you are staying on the healthier side and want to do a salad, try the Spinach Salad with Great Hill blue cheese, toasted walnuts, poached apple, pickled red onions, apple cider vinaigrette. I for one am not the biggest fan of Spinach however when paired with all these other tasty ingredients really made the salad overall very delicious. Two more filling options for appetizers, which can have duality as an entree are their Lobster Mac N Cheese and Bacon Wrapped Scallops. The Mac N Cheese is served in the lobster shell and is plentifully served with chunks of lobster that pairs greatly with the mac n cheese itself. The scallops are cooked wonderfully and with the bacon wrapped around it really makes for a tasty treat.
Onto the main courses, they had two different items that I have never seen on any menu before in my entire life. When you pair Short Rib and Grilled Cheese, you naturally have my attention. So the Short Rib Grilled Cheese was simply amazing and the taste exploded in your mouth. With a horseradish cream on the side, it became one of the most inventive and unique grilled cheeses I have ever had in my life and would recommend anyone trying next time they are in town. The Cajun Chicken Penne Pasta with grilled chicken, spicy Cajun sauce, baby spinach, cherry tomato and a grilled baguette was also a standout. Usually with cajun it can be a bit much when it comes to the spices, however that was not the case in this situation. The spices were used generously but not to the point where it engulfs your entire mouth, and all of those ingredients combined made a great pasta dish. Overall a 10/10 in my book. For more information on Hemenway’s, check out their official site.
Waterman Grille- 4 Richmond Square
Waterman Grille is a bit of a contrast from Hemenway’s in its overall look, yet still kills it in execution in its technique. Another example of should’ve eaten here when I lived here, Waterman Grille is based close to Brown University and has a perk that many restaurants in Providence don’t seem to have- a parking lot. Anytime you can find parking easily in a bigger city is a positive thing, and that was one of the many positive notes I noticed throughout the night.
The location itself has a warm and homey type feel to it. Also located right next to the ocean, Waterman Grille’s does very well with its wood furnishings throughout and lovely atmosphere it presents itself to its customers. The food was just as impressive as the atmosphere. The Pt. Judith Calamari is a great way to start as this is quite possibly the freshest calamari I have ever had in my life. Complimented with Crispy banana peppers and peppadew aioli, it is a starter dish that I recommend anyone trying. Another good starter is the Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Local cornmeal, creamed leeks, and bacon aioli. I never thought of putting cornmeal with Oysters, however with the leaks and bacon aioli really brought the entire dish together as it was a great bite.
Onto the main courses, two dishes that I would recommend trying while you are there are the Duck Duo with Pan-roasted duck breast, stir-fry vegetables, duck confit, lemongrass forbidden rice, and red curry cream sauce and the Wood Grilled Filet Mignon with Blue cheese-bacon butter, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, braised Swiss chard, demi-glazed pearl onions. The duck and filet were both perfectly cooked and came with the appropriate sides that showcased just how well done the meats were in general. Also recommended is their Pan-Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Braised beluga lentils, shiitake mushrooms, haricot vert and beet vinaigrette. Tasty, fresh and overall a great dish. For dessert try their Red Bridge Dessert Sampler which contains Fried Apple Pie, Vanilla-Orange Creme Brulee and an Almond Joy. Simply a great way to finish off your meal. For more information on Waterman Grille check out their official site.
Happy Eating everyone…