22 Great Spots for Comfort Food in Rhode Island
Hunker down with some of these delicious dishes from around the state.
Angelo’s Civita Farnese
Chicken parmesan at Angelo's
141 Atwells Ave., Providence, 621-8171, angelosri.com
The menu: Classic Italian dishes done well earn the spotlight at Angelo’s, where the portions are large, the prices are cheap and the focus is family. When the weather is chilly and you’re looking for something to warm your belly, dig into a heaping plate of chicken parmesan or slow-cooked all-day veal and peppers.
The vibe: Everyone feels like friends and family at Angelo’s, whether you’re Italian or just wishing you were. Communal tables seat multiple generations and sports fans watching games, while the lounge appeases anyone waiting for a seat. Historical photos decorate the newly renovated dining room alongside accolades like proof of a visit from Guy Fieri.
Get: Serving traditional Italian cooking for more than ninety years, there’s a reason the third-generation restaurant hasn’t had to change much on the Classics menu since 1924. Favorites include breaded and fried chicken parm or eggplant parm smothered in mozzarella and housemade sauce, and good old meatballs served with fries instead of pasta for an even better way to soak up homemade gravy. During the Great Depression, the original owner, Angelo Mastrodicasa, invited folks who were in need to come eat and he added fries to their plates to help tide them over to their next meal. The tradition continues today.
The price: Entrees range from $8.99 to $13.50.
The details: No need to worry about parking; Angelo’s provides valet. Bring lots of quarters to feed the full-scale L.G.B. model train from Germany; small children stay mesmerized as it travels along the dining room ceiling, allowing mom and dad a break to enjoy dinner. All of the donations benefit children’s charities in Rhode Island, totaling more than $20,000 to date. –Jamie Coelho
Meatballs with fries at Angelo's.
Caleb and Broad
162 Broadway, Newport, 619-5955, calebandbroad.com
The menu: The food at Caleb and Broad (named for the two streets that abut the restaurant) toes the line between casual and high end. In the mood for delicious, old-school fare? Start with the pulled pork mac and cheese appetizer and follow up with the burger, a big beef patty topped with mozzarella, prosciutto, fried onions and aioli. The meat and potatoes, a steak dish with herb butter and salty fries, is another great throwback that fills the belly. For light eaters, the roasted pear salad with grilled romaine and the half chicken are guilt-free yet taste indulgent.
The vibe: The interior is trendy — think large-scale canvases with familiar pop and street art, including Banksy’s “Panda with Guns” — but circular booths are cozy as can be. TV buffs will appreciate the large projector screen hanging in the rear of the restaurant.
Get: The bar snacks menu is big on comfort, and you’ll want to try a bit of everything. Salty fried chicken skins, housemade tater chips, beef jerky and fried green beans with remoulade dipping sauce are great precursors to the rich duck confit. If you’re in the house for brunch, skip the traditional comfort food dish, chicken and waffles. The better-executed breakfast bowl, a fried tortilla topped with home fries, spinach, egg, linguica and cheese, warms the soul on a chilly winter’s morning.
The price: Entrees range from $12 to $22.
The details: Locals flock to Caleb and Broad on Monday nights, where every entree is $10. –Casey Nilsson
84 Tavern on Canal
15 Canal St., Westerly, 596-7871, 84tavern.com
The menu: They say the early bird gets the worm, but at 84 Tavern, the early bird gets good deals. Plan to eat well between 3 and 6 p.m. every day and all day on Sundays, when the restaurant features its $8−$4 menu. Enjoy full-sized appetizers, burgers and sandwiches for special prices, as well as $4 drafts of craft beers and pours of house wines.
The vibe: A neighborhood spot where locals feel at home and visitors from out of town wish they lived here. Swing by after a stop at a local brewery like Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island, then continue the craft beer worshipping in between bites of the best burgers, stacked sandwiches and macaroni and cheese money can buy.
Get: Nachos are everything you’d hope for and expect: tortillas blanketed with melted cheddar, tomatoes, jalapeños and sour cream (pulled chicken, pulled pork and chili can be added on). A crab cakes appetizer is enough for a meal with two patty-sized rounds of lump crab meat and just enough breading to bind it together. Black Angus burgers can be as fancy or as simple as you wish, topped with cheddar, bacon-onion marmalade and sweet pickle chips or decked out with fried oysters and Cajun remoulade.
The price: Specials and regular menu range from $8 to $26.
The details: Take advantage of weekly dining specials like Mangia Mondays featuring Italian dishes, Dinner for Two Tuesday for $30, Whiskey Wine Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, $15 Fish and Chips Fridays and Saturdays Locals Lunch (burger or chicken sandwich paired with a local beer or wine for $12). –J.C.
Philly cheese steak at Ciro's Tavern.
42 Cherry St., Woonsocket, 769-3330, cirostavern.com
The menu: Stick-to-your-ribs cuisine dominates the lineup at this comfy-cozy retreat where craft beer and live music are big draws. Dishes span casual to elegant, from Angus beef burgers smothered in all things delicious to caramelized tenderloin tips and butternut squash ravioli. Wash it all down with a coffee milk stout from Ravenous Brewing Company out of Woonsocket.
The vibe: The building has a history as a home and boarding house in 1893, and then it became a bar and upstairs brothel in the early 1900s. In 1962, the Donnini family remodeled it into a medieval manor-like restaurant with stained glass windows and a banquet fit for the Knights of the Round Table. Current owners, the Savini family, morphed the downstairs into a snug English
pub with a roaring fire and surrounding television screens, but private parties still unfurl upstairs in Hampton Court.
Get: The French onion soup comes piping hot in a crock filled with sweet caramelized onions, crusty bread and loaded with bubbly Swiss cheese. The nachos pack barbecue pulled pork, cheese and coleslaw onto every freshly fried chip. Anything with steak is a hot commodity including the tips and the Philly cheese steak sandwich overflowing with mushrooms, onions, peppers and cheese. It’s the real deal in little Rhody.
The price: Sandwiches and entrees range from $9.99 to $20.99.
The details: Check the website for the live music schedule and trivia nights. In other seasons, stake out the outdoor courtyard, complete with a full-service bar and dining tables, plus a beautiful stone fireplace with fireside seats and a bonfire to warm up on those chilly nights. –J.C.
Cook and Brown Public House
Sunday Supper at Cook and Brown.
959 Hope St., Providence, 273-7275, cookandbrown.com
The menu: Like the restaurant itself, Cook and Brown’s menu is carefully curated, with dishes that change with the season and specials that surprise each night. It’s comfort food, but elegantly rendered, with nods to local purveyors. Twice named James Beard Award finalists for their inventive craft cocktails, Cook and Brown keeps it fun with a wine and craft beer list that includes a section dedicated to “real weird and funky stuff.”
The vibe: Refined and warm, Cook and Brown isn’t the place you go when you want to hunker down with some wings and berate the competition on TV. That doesn’t mean they don’t make killer burgers. Their popular Wednesday burger, bourbon and beer night features a different take on the classic each week, from smothered in pineapple jalapeño relish, bacon and sunnyside up egg to covered in kimchi mayo, cabbage slaw and cucumber.
Get: The huevos rancheros and pork belly Benedict pack people in at brunch. For dinner, eight to ten daily small plates make a visit a different experience each time. For main plates, the Narragansett Creamery ricotta gnocchi with summer green pesto, zucchini, ricotta salata, mint and pistachio was satisfying but light for a pasta dish. And the braised beef short ribs are beautifully presented and delicious without overwhelming.
The price: Entrees range from $11 to $27.
The details: The back of the house gets especially creative for Sunday Supper, a family-style communal meal with three courses for $38. Diners are asked their preferences at the outset, then dig into a communal appetizer, main meal and dessert for an experience that’s akin to dinner at Grandma’s. –Jen McCaffery
Moules frites at Red Stripe.
465 Angell St., Providence, 437-6950; 455 Main St.,East Greenwich, 398-2900, redstriperestaurants.com
The menu: Unabashed comfort food that translates easily from French (baked onion soup barely visible under a small mountain of Gruyere) to Spanish (smoked chicken and goat cheese empanadas) to Italian (a satisfyingly traditional pappardelle Bolognese).
The vibe: Red Stripe calls itself an American brasserie but it mixes things up with a slightly French accent that includes Parisian cafe posters lining the walls, crisp white linen tablecloths and a distinctive awning out front.
Get: The ziti pasta with a fourteen-ounce veal and beef meatball roughly the size of a baseball, buried under a blizzard of fresh shredded parm. Anything that includes the handcut shoestring frites, with the instantly addictive aioli, which rides sidecar on a number of dishes from sandwiches to moules. Also available on their own; indulge, if you dare.
The price: Entrees range from $15 to $24.
The details: Be on the lookout for specials including burger and beer nights, just $9.99, offered on Thursdays, and wine dinners that in the past have included passed hors d’oeuvres, five courses and wine pairings for just $60. –Sarah Francis
DenDen Cafe Asiana
Hot stone spicy pork bibimbap at DenDen Cafe Asiana.
161 Benefit St., Providence, 270-5269, dendencafe.com
The menu: Japanese dumplings (gyoza) with pork or vegetable fillings, steaming hot Korean specialties like bibimbap cooked and served in granite stone bowls and udon noodle soups and tofu stews that are guaranteed to clear out your sinuses. You’ll feel warm and cozy inside after indulging in a meal that gives off as much heat as your thermostat (but you won’t be charged extra when temps dip below zero).
The vibe: Exposed brick walls, an open seating floor plan and order-and-pay-at-the-counter service make this a student-friendly utopia. Large tables are great for group seating, plus there are small nooks for work or studying complete with charging ports for devices. Pair your meal with Asahi Japanese beer on tap, wine or a Japanese cream soda in pastel hues like melon and strawberry, or indulge in coffee shop specialties and free WiFi.
Get: Bibimbap is where it’s at. Don’t let the sizzling stone pot intimidate you; it takes the chill right out of your bones with steaming meat of your choice (spicy pork, spicy chicken, Korean beef, mixed mushrooms, tofu, seafood), plus spinach, bean sprouts, carrots and zucchini on top of white rice, and you can add a fried egg and as much spicy sauce (gochujang) and kimchee as you like. Mix it all together to experience umami flavors combined with healthy veggies and crisp textures as the rice continues to cook on the bottom of the bowl.
The price: Entrees range from $9.95 to $16.95.
The details: End your meal with a latte made with illy coffee or go for the cold with green tea ice cream or Japanese Mochi (Snow? What snow?). –J.C.
Redlefsen’s Rotisserie and Grill
Sauerbraten at Redlefsen’s Rotisserie and Grill.
444 Thames St., Bristol,254-1188, redlefsens.com
The menu: No need to wait for Oktoberfest to prost with German beer and brats in this haus. Specialties include pounded and breaded veal or pork weiner schnitzel bathed in a Jaeger mushroom sauce and a grilled wurst platter with homemade sauerkraut, spaetzle and grainy Bavarian mustards. A meal is not complete without a German Warsteiner Dunkel lager; these taps have poured the most European brews around — and long before artisanal imports caught on.
The vibe: The focus may be German fare but Alsatian influences abound in the dining room, including family heirlooms like hand-painted plates and a cuckoo clock. Cozy up by the fireplace under twinkling lights, gaze at stained glass windows and painted murals featuring European cities and towns, and head to the barroom for a draft from the porcelain beer towers.
Get: Peasant food is updated for fine dining with sauerbraten, Angus eye round that’s marinated for up
to seven days then slow-cooked for three hours. But dining options run the gamut, including classic Italian and French dishes, and a littlenecks and chorizo appetizer for all the Portuguese food lovers (a homage to the area). Fried calamari and fish and chips are made with local seafood.
The price: Entrees $11.95 (hamburger) to $31.95 (filet mignon).
The details: Stay tuned for an international night with the Alpenblumen Bavarian dancers this winter. The group returns in September and throughout October for Oktoberfest festivities, which feature a special German menu and accordion music. But really, any time’s a good time for Oktoberfest action once you’ve said bottom’s up to a few good German lagers. –J.C.
Wharf Pub and Raw Bar
37 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, 846-9233, thewharfpubnewport.com
The menu: The renditions of steer, pigs, crossed pistols and meat cleavers that adorn the Wharf Pub’s rustic walls and T-shirts echo its menu: Wild West gone local. “Comfort food from scratch” includes offerings like Yo Mama’s Burger and the Gone Hoggin’ pork sandwich, which vie for your consideration with Matunuck oysters and sake from the raw bar. Wash it down with one of the twenty craft beers on tap from New England-based breweries.
The vibe: If you didn’t know to look for it, the tiny front of the Wharf Pub might be easy to miss even though it’s located on popular Bowen’s Wharf in Newport. Once inside, though, two bars (and a patio open during the warmer months) attract locals of all ages who chat away with staff. A great place to take shelter during a snowstorm.
Get: Start with one of the five kinds of tater tots: from big country-style to truffled. Then go large with the barbecue pork shoulder mac and cheese. Not thinking pig? The grilled cheese on Texas toast is the embodiment of buttery, cheesy goodness. The chicken and waffles are also a popular choice and lighter appetites can partake of the salmon.
The price: Entrees range from $13 to $30.
The details: There’s a reason to belly up to the Wharf Pub most nights of the week. People who sing at the Open Mic on Tuesdays get a complimentary sandwich; we were treated to a stirring rendition of “Ode to Billy Joe.” Thursday is bingo night, and people pack in on Sundays for Pats games and Mom’s Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts for $10. –J.M.
40 Market St., Warren, 245-1809, eliskitchenwarren.com
The menu: A spot where vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores can comingle, Eli’s Kitchen boasts hearty fare from falafel flatbread to shepherd’s pie and meatloaf, plus daily-changing specials that keep both the chefs and customers infatuated with food. Ingredients come from local farms and purveyors like Aquidneck Farms, Baffoni’s Poultry Farm, R.I. Mushroom Co., Narragansett Creamery and more. It’s like a farmers market that cooks cuisine for you.
The vibe: An intimate dining room means you might become fast friends with the guests beside you, or maybe you’ll share the community table or bar with neighborhood fixtures. Eli’s is a warm and friendly artistic environment, which is evident from its eclectic regulars and the creative artwork for sale on its walls. Children add scribbled masterpieces to the board of kids’ art.
Get: There is a comfort food option for all types of eaters. Eli’s caters to those with food sensitivities and preferences including dishes for those who abide by a gluten-free diet. Our menu favorites include sweet chili cauliflower and crab and dill beignets with housemade tartar sauce. As for entrees, shrimp and grits is the best example in all of Rhode Island: a scoop of creamy grits punctuated by jumbo shrimp, Tasso ham, bacon and some greens for good measure.
The price: Sandwiches and entrees range from $8 to $20.
The details: When he opened his own place, chef Eli Dunn wanted to carry on the tradition of his mother’s Seekonk eatery, Phoebe’s Fish and Chips. Turn up every Friday for locally caught fish lightly battered and fried and served with french fries and housemade tartar sauce. –J.C.
345 South Water St., Providence, 621-8888, cleanplateri.com
The menu: If cuisine could be described as happy, Clean Plate would be it. Cravings for international soul food will be satisfied by creative twists on Mexican tacos, Southern-style waffles and stacked Jewish deli sandwiches. Don’t hesitate when it comes to those waffles, whether it’s the ubiquitous version topped with fried chicken or the brunch bacchanalias piled high with corned beef hash or bananas and bacon.
The vibe: Just steps away from the Providence Riverwalk (trust us, you’ll need a stroll after this meal), the casual friendly restaurant has a homey atmosphere that’s equally as comfortable from the bar stools to the lofted dining room. Red and yellow walls and minimalist decor enhance appetite
in a crowd that includes everyone from budget-
conscious college students and young professionals to seniors seeking hefty portions (with a doggy bag to-go).
Get: Indulgent options cure (and prevent!) hangovers with poutine and bacon jam on everything. Pencil-thin shoestring fries, crisp tater tots or housemade potato chips are topped with cheese curds, a beef gravy sauce and other trimmings like bacon and sunny side up eggs. There’s even a pizza version: fried pizza dough loaded with pulled pork and all the poutine fixings. If you’re hoping to bring Elvis back from the dead, opt for the P.B.B.B.B. burger, a juicy patty piled with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas.
The price: Sandwiches and entrees range from $8 to $14.
The details: For Poutine and Pint night on Thursdays, save $2 on a Foolproof pint of beer when you order one of three or four versions of poutine. Clean Plate also hosts Tuesday Jewish Deli Nights including matzo ball soup, pastrami, corned beef, brisket, potato pancakes and rugelach for dessert. –J.C.
Federal Taphouse and Kitchen
279 Atwells Ave., Providence, 454-8881, federaltandk.com
The menu: American and international classics, plus anything you’d ever want to chow down on while watching a football game. Take advantage of specials like $6 appetizer deals available between 3 and 6:30 p.m., all-you-can-eat barbecue ribs on Sundays and Mondays for $19.95, fifty-cent wings on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays and $3 tacos and $5 margaritas on Tuesdays.
The vibe: As lively on a weekday as the weekend, the young professional crowd frequents the spot for its great bar scene and craft beer list. Locals love Whaler’s out of Wakefield, but also appreciate selections from Berkshire Brewing Co., Breckenridge, Stone and Kona.
Get: Start with the excellent sticky Thai beef ribs with ginger and carrot slaw and toasted sesame seeds. You can’t say no — we can’t either — to a steaming plate of lobster mac and cheese with chunks of whole claw meat, a four-cheese sauce and bacon or a rotisserie-style half chicken with crisp skin roasted to crackling perfection. Finish it off by toasting your own table-side s’mores, flames and all.
The price: Sandwiches and entrees range from $11 to $23.
The details: Pint nights feature different breweries (buy a pint and you keep the glass!). On Thursdays at 8 p.m., there’s Beer, Burgers and Bingo for which you get a burger and a draft for $10. They also host frequent live music nights, so check the website for the schedule. And by the way, “Bachelorette” fans might catch a local celeb sighting if they hit the right night. –J.C.
Rocco’s Pub and Grub
55 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, 349-2250, roccospubandgrub.com
The menu: Rocco’s can be summed up in one word: Saucy. On command, the kitchen whips up more than fifty sauce varieties, from standard barbecue and funky lime and peanut to the curiously named Rocco’s Juice, a honey mustard concoction that’s tasty on everything. Sauce-drenched burgers, steak and hefty sandwiches rule the menu, but waistline-friendly flatbreads and salads are also available. If you must order something green at Rocco’s, go big with the Steak House Salad. Rocco’s Juice just doesn’t work on a Caesar.
The vibe: Also saucy. It’s a small, leather-on-leopard-print kind of place, with five high tops and a handful of tables surrounding a long, sleek bar.
Get: Start with two orders of the fall-off-the-bone riblets: one smothered in a safe sauce and the second with something more adventurous. Then, build your own gigantic burger with more than a dozen add-ons, including slab bacon and a sunny side egg. Health nuts can order theirs with a gluten-free bun and black bean veggie patty.
The price: Entrees range from $9.95 to $18.95.
The details: Deals abound at Rocco’s, from half-off flatbread pizzas on Monday nights to $1.50 burger sliders on Tuesdays. But we’re marking our calendars every Thursday for wing night — thirty-five cents each — and we’re trying as many sauces as our server can carry. –C.N.
Whenever we need a comfort food fix, these spots hold steady.
205 Broadway, Providence, 331-2450, broadwaybistrori.com
It’s a Providence mainstay where the food is always terrific, the atmosphere is intimate and service is consistent. Opt for ribs and grits, duck leg confit, the braised short rib or the ramen special and both your belly and your heart will be full.
The Charlestown Rathskeller
489a Old Coach Rd., Charlestown, 792-1000, thecharlestownrathskeller.com
Deep in the woods of Charlestown lies a resurrected speakeasy where the coveted contraband is now fries loaded with bacon, cheddar, chives and sour cream, topped with truffled pecorino or doused in short rib gravy.
Chomp Kitchen and Drinks
440 Child St., Warren, 289-2324, chompri.com
Who needs sliced cheddar when you can count mac and cheese as a burger topping? It adds warm and oozy, crisp and buttery consistency to a juicy patty. And for those who cannot choose between fried chicken or a burger, opt for both with the Stack: three layers include fried chicken jammed between two burger patties with bacon.
121 Washington St., Providence, 274-2121, local121.com
Just the kind of place we’d want to be holed up in during city snowfall with stained glass windows, dark mahogany wood and a beautiful bar. Add steaming bowls of native shellfish minestrone and pig cheek confit with potato gnocchi and cinnamon pumpkin jus and we’ll be hibernating here all winter, thank you.
456 Main St., Wakefield, 783-9370, mewstavern.com
Anything consumed tastes better washed down with a beer. And vice versa when it comes to the MEWStine-Poutine: crisp fries, pulled pork, cheese curds and — wait for it — pork belly gravy. You can’t go wrong with anything wedged between slices of bread, be it a burger or classic Reuben or even fried oyster sliders.
76 South Main St., Providence, 331-0003, parksideprovidence.com
Whether it’s lemon and garlic, spicy lemon and cashew or coq au vin-style, Parkside’s crisp-skinned rotisserie chicken puts grocery store-bought versions to shame. The restaurant’s signature menu item is a must-order for any PVD newbie or native, so make a date of it and cozy up to this French bistro.
370 Richmond St., Providence, 272-7675, ricksroadhouseri.com
Yes, you can have your fall-off-the-bone ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork and fried chicken and then work off some of the damage playing cornhole and pool. Don’t miss Tacos and Tequila Tuesdays and Thursdays. Get three tacos for $9.99, and sip $9.99 Patron margaritas on both days.
Wes’ Rib House
38 Dike St., Providence, 421-9090, wesribhouse.com
No need to travel down South when Missouri-style barbecue can be found right here in Olneyville. Choose any style platter with your choice of ribs, baby back ribs, chicken, beef and more served with coleslaw, barbecue beans, cornbread and butter.
White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough St., Newport, 849-3600, whitehorsenewport.com
America’s oldest restaurant might also have the coziest atmosphere in Newport with multiple fireplaces, a historic bar and updated classic dishes like the duck Scotch egg, beef Wellington with foie gras pate and puff pastry and the must-try lobster mac and cheese. –J.C.