PROVIDENCE — The dining scene in Rhode Island is known for the way culinary worlds combine along the same street. Just about anywhere in the state, you can find foodie destinations for just about any type of eater: Along Thames Street for classic New England seafood in Newport, to the lively music, art, and spice that Providence’s Broad Street has to offer.
Yet it’s easy for small spots to get lost in the shuffle these days, where pretty pictures and a big social media presence can truly make a restaurant fill up on any given night. There’s a whole host of great dishes being served at hundreds of Rhode Island’s casual and most underrated restaurants.
We know the fine-dining favorites and the Rhody institutions. We asked readers about their favorite hidden gems in Rhode Island. Here are some of our own favorites.
La Casona is a Rhode Island institution for anyone seeking authentic Colombian cuisine. Some of their ingredients come directly from Colombia and their owner Doña Gloria says everything on their 75-item menu is made fresh. For appetizers, try the Chorizo Picado, which is served with corn arepa, and Tostones o arepas con Hogao, with your choice of corn arepa or friend plantain with Hogao (one of the most important condiments in Colombian cooking with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and garlic) sauce. Head over the border to Pawtucket for La Arepa for Venezuelan cachapas, arepas, and pabellon criollo.
In Providence, head to Machupicchu II on Chalkstone Avenue. Shortly after Elizabeth Brito immigrated to Rhode Island from Peru, she opened Machupicchu I on Admiral Street in 2004, which is known for its rotisserie chicken that cooks for nearly eight hours. She opened a second location in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood a few years ago, which doubles down on authentic dishes like ceviche, yucca, and more. Get the Leche de Tigre, which is small dices of fish and red onions that are marinated in lime juice with a touch of Peruvian spicy sauce, and a side order of the fried yucca.
Dolores in the Fox Point neighborhood offers contemporary Mexican cuisine, but they also offer mezcal or tequila flights that are broken down by region. Los Andes, a Peruvian and Bolivian restaurant that leverages its creativity in a funky space, is another local favorite.
La Casona, 768 Broad St. in Central Falls, @lacasonaus, 401-727-0002, LaCasonaUS.com. La Arepa, 582 Smithfield Ave. in Pawtucket, 401-335-3711, laarepa.com. Machupicchu II, 1366 Chalkstone Ave. in Providence, 401-490-0098, FB.com/MachupicchuII. Dolores, 100 Hope St. in Providence, 401-409-2075, dolorespvd.com. Los Andes, 903 Chalkstone Ave. in Providence, 401-649-4911, losandesri.com.
HIDDEN KITCHENS IN BARS
Sometimes the best eats are served with the greatest drinks. Check out Masa Taqueria, where owner and head chef Jonathon Kirk is preparing, cooking, and serving you his quesabirria tacos and birria ramen. It’s a pop-up at Rock & Rye, which is owned by DJ Dirty Dek, right on Atwells Avenue. Kirk said they rotate taco specials using produce from local farmers.
In downtown, Fortnight Wine Bar offers small-batch beers, a long list of natural wines, and small plates. It’s a workers’ cooperative wine bar where you can get bar snacks like tinned squid in squid ink, cheese and charcuterie, and delicious winemaker olive oil and crunchy bread. They occasionally invite winemakers and other industry folks paired with special tasting menus.
The Royal Bobcat is an old-style New Orleans bar that serves food from Hanju Kitchen next door, led by chef Jenny Han. They serve up a Korean Cajun fusion like Bulgogi flatbread (bulgogi, salad, mozzarella, white sauce, sour dressing, and scallions), po’boys, gumbo, and kimchi mac with “KoCajun” spice and relish.
Masa Taqueria, 224 Atwells Ave. in Providence, 401-432-7676, masataqueriapvd.com. Fortnight, 187 Mathewson St. in Providence, 401-572-3355, fortnightpvd.com. The Royal Bobcat, 424 Atwells Ave. in Providence, 401-537-7777, theroyalbobcat.com. Hanju Kitchen, 422 Atwells Ave., 401-537-7777, hanjukitchen.com.
Comfort food doesn’t have to make you feel like you just gained 10 pounds in a single sitting. It should make you feel warm and gooey, and in fact, can be dished out on small plates over multiple courses. That’s Slow Rhode, which is the type of place that you’ll wonder why you haven’t gone there before. It can hold a lot of hats: Be a great date night location, a place of celebration, or to dine solo and sit at the bar. They have rotating toasts, such as a House Cured Arctic Char with lemon chive ricotta and sea salt. And plates like the crispy confit duck leg with a white bean stew featuring roasted peppers, Tuscan kale, and Manchego.
Their sister restaurant, Broadway Bistro is another great handout that sources local ingredients for a comfort-forward American menu.
Kabob and Curry on College Hill is a no-frills kind of restaurant that tends to have some of the best Indian food. Get the Paneer and pepper makhani and tandoori shrimp.
HOMEMADE AND WOK-TOSSED
On the East Side, Jahunger is the only known Uyghur restaurant in the state. Their chefs have a boutique, curated menu where they hand-make and hand-pull all of their noodles. The Ding Noodles, which are beef and homemade noodles cut in small chunks by hand and mixed with diced red and green peppers before being they’re seasoned with homemade hot sauce. Looking for something without meat? Try the Spicy Tiger, which is smoky wok-tossed Asian chili with eggplant in a garlic sauce. Get the Bobas Milk Ice Cream Bar for dessert. Around the corner, on Ives Street, try Bee’s Thai Cuisine for lunch specials or to bring-your-own-booze for dinner. Order the green curry.
In Cranston, King’s Garden’s has a lot of the usual Szechuan cuisine favorites and Chinese-American dishes alongside an expansive dim sum menu that has nearly a dozen different kinds of dumplings. Get the pan-fried water chestnut cake, sweet coconut pudding, stuffed eggplant, crystal taro dumplings, and beef tripe. At Rasoi, a fabulous Indian restaurant in a Pawtucket plaza, get the grilled rice crepe with jackfruit masala, cauliflower, and lamb galouti.
Juhunger, 333 Wickenden St. in Providence, 401-454-6866, jahunger.com. Bees Thai Cuisine, 167 Ives St. in Providence, 401-273-2727. King’s Garden, 90 Rolfe Square in Cranston, 401-467-8916, kingsgardencranston.com. Rasoi, 727 East Ave. in Pawtucket, 401-728-5500, rasoirestaurant.com.
PIZZA, PIZZA, PIZZA
Pasquale’s has somewhat of a cult-like following in South Kingstown. But outside of that part of Washington County, it’s not as well known. Yet, this year they were listed as one of the top Italian food restaurants in the country by Gambero Rosso (an Italian food and wine magazine)... again. Their owner, Pasquale Illiano, said it best: “[We] strive to honor the classic Neapolitan pizza where the integrity of handcrafted ingredients is paramount.” They import their cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil from Campania. They use Sicilian sea salt. And their wine list is basically a giro del sud Italia (tour of southern Italy). Dine in for their award-winning Napolentana (certified and awarded) wood-fired pizza.
Back in Providence, there are a plethora of popular pizza joints that go above and beyond like Alforno (get that calamari pizza) and Bacaro, both of which grill their pizza, are regular favorites for locals and visitors alike. In downtown, Figdini’s doors open and the aromas of tomato and basil swell across Washington Street. Their ingredients are sourced from local farms to regions across Italy, and serve small plates and seasonal salads. Also, this is wood-fired Neapolitan, so cut your pizza with shears, not a knife. Caserta Pizzeria is a casual pizza joint serving Sicilian style, and an absolute institution on Federal Hill already. But other reader favorites include Pizza Marvin (order the margarita pizza) and Francesco’s Pizzeria.
In Johnson, try the pizza chips (little rounds of absolute crunch) at The Original Italian Bakery. In Bristol, Pomodoro has old-school favorite toppings, and where New York City and Neapolitan-style collide.
Pasquale’s, 59 S County Commons Way in Wakefield, 401-783-2900, pasqualespizzeriari.com. Alforno, 577 South Water St. in Providence, 401-273-9760, www.alforno.com. Bacaro, 262 S. Water St. in Providence, 401-751-3700, bacarorestaurant.net. Figdini, 67 Washington St. in Providence, 401-808-6886, figidini.com. Caserta Pizzeria, 121 Spruce St. in Providence, 401-621-3618, casertapizzeria.com. The Original Italian Bakery, 915 Atwood Ave. in Johnston, 401-919-5777, theoriginalitalianbakery.com. Pizza Marvin, 468 Wickenden St. in Providence, 401-262-3336, pizzamarvin.com. Francesco’s Pizzeria, 57 Hope St. in Providence, 401-751-0355, francescospvd.com. Pomodoro, 271 Wood St. in Bristol, 401-396-9699, promodorobristol.com.
NOT EATING ITALIAN WHILE ON FEDERAL HILL
Federal Hill in Providence isn’t just for Italian food. Saje Kitchen, led by owner owner Jessica Wilkin, serves new American fare with a Southern twist. If you want authentic Mexican food, check out Don Jose Tequilas, whose owners might be opening another restaurant on the Hill. At Mambo Sushi, Peruvian ingredients and dishes are blended with Asian cuisine.
Saje Kitchen, 332 Atwells Ave. in Providence, 401-473-0504, sajekitchen.com. Don Jose Tequilas, 351 Atwells Ave. in Providence, 401-454-8951, donjosetequilasprovidence.com. Mambo Sushi, 380 Atwells Ave. in Providence, 401-6å42-8439, mambosushiprovidence.com.
Know an underrated restaurant in Rhode Island? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.