2022 Best of Rhode Island: Editors’ Picks

Our editors scoured the state for the best food, shopping, fun and beauty businesses in Rhode Island.
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The CBK (Chicken, Bacon, Kimchi) sandwich at Ming’s Asian Street Food.

By Jamie Coelho, Edelinda Baptista, Lauren Clem, Bob Curley. Karen Deutsch, Dana Laverty, Nicole Mineau, Kaitlyn Murray, Casey Nilsson, Lou Papineau, Annie Sherman and Kerri Tallman.

Photography: Alex Gagne, Wolf Matthewson, Meaghan Susi and Angel Tucker

 

Cheers to another impressive selection of winners, meticulously chosen by Rhode Island Monthly’s editors and contributors after twelve months of scouting praiseworthy local businesses. This year’s Best of Rhode Island issue applauds these new and/or well-deserving locations dotted across the Ocean State. The Readers’ Poll also includes awards granted by devoted fans who voted for their favorites in nearly 300 categories.

From Providence to Washington counties, we’ve located eighty-nine eateries, shopping boutiques, outdoor adventures and more with Rhody lovers in mind. Check out these award-winning picks before stepping out to explore them in person.

 

FOOD & DRINK

It’s the summer of “yes,” after all, so we opened wide to all of the food and drink in Rhode Island.

Bar Seat

The Dining Room at the Vanderbilt 

Encased in glass and moody blue paint, there’s not a better bar seat in the state than the Dining Room at the Vanderbilt. Cocktails can be thrown back with a plate of soft scrambled eggs and caviar or a mountain of fried beet chips dunked in garlic dip. But the real appeal of this gilded space is the suggestion of something illicit — whether that be romance or culinary hedonism is entirely up to you. But, under the soft glow of hazy light, every option looks irresistible. 41 Mary St., Newport, 846-6200, aubergeresorts.com/vanderbilt

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Cocktails served at the Dining Room at the Vanderbilt.

 

Local Pub

Lucky Enough

Vito Lantz and Art Chamberland knew what they wanted when they opened Lucky Enough — a place that feels like home to everyone who walks in — and they succeeded on every front. With a playlist that settles comfortably into classic rock with a splash of eighties drama, this West Side space has a little something for everyone. Sports light up the big screen on the regular but there’s also live music, brunch on weekends and monthly stand-up comedy on Sunday nights. Order a draft or a rum and Kool-Aid and settle in for the night. 1492 Westminster St., Providence, 642-2749, luckyenoughpvd.com

 

Breakfast on the Go

The Nitro Bar 

The rest of the day would never happen without the Nitro Bar, the best caffeine and breakfast depot on both sides of the state. Get the breakfast sandwich (soft boiled egg, cheddar and ’Nduja) or a slab of Buns Bakery’s babka for the road, but do not forget the coffee. You can get it black but the ube or rosemary brown sugar latte are reasons enough for getting up in the morning. Carpe diem! 228 Broadway, Providence; 404 Thames St., 2 Pond Ave., Newport, thenitrocart.com

 

Modern Bakery

Clover Desserts

The cases at Clover Desserts look like a modern museum showcasing color and form. What makes it even better than the Met is the fact that everything is edible, and every bite is sublime. A panoply of flavors is packed into tart shells or small Mason jars and piled high onto shortbread. You can offer anything as a gift, but the first recipient needs to be you — eat it in the car because the minute someone catches sight of a glossy turtle or lemon tart, it’s gone. 52A Valley St., Providence, cloverdesserts.com 

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A selection of treats from Clover Desserts.

 

 

More Coffee, Please

Cool beans to all the new coffee shops diversifying the state’s cafe scene. The day-to-night coffee and cocktail spot Audrey’s Coffee House and Lounge (audreysri.com) in South Kingstown hosts trivia nights, karaoke, “Bachelor” watch parties and meet-and-greets with former “Bachelor in Paradise” castmates, owners and married couple Jared Haibon and Ashley Iaconetti. Cafe Zara (cafe-zara.com) is an East Providence coffee shop that serves epic brews and puts a Portuguese spin on menu items like café com leite (double espresso with steamed milk), tea drinks and toasts topped with St. Jorge cheese. Latin-owned Notes Coffee Co. (notescoffeeco.com) in Pawtucket makes a point to support arts and culture by promoting local artists and musicians through the shop, while also supplying some of the best coffee drinks and sandwiches. And Red White and Brew Coffeehouse (redwhitebrewri.com) in North Smithfield serves up coffee with a message of inclusion: The cafe employs people with developmental disabilities while selling the work of local artists in its gift shop, Budding Violet. 

Cafe Zara

Cafe Zara serves some Portuguese-style coffee drinks and breakfast snacks.

 

Celebratory Meal

La Masseria

Wonder where to go to properly celebrate a personal milestone: graduation, a special birthday, wedding anniversary or one of the many other reasons to raise a glass to life’s achievements? The one place that always delivers in service, food, wine and atmosphere is an intimate, consistent and reliable Italian restaurant in East Greenwich. Life is short. Order the rare bottle of wine. Twirl the truffle-laced pasta. Bite into the juicy filet. And order a dessert board. Always. 223 Main St., East Greenwich, 398-0693, masseriari.com

 

Spanish

Otra

Otra offers refined Spanish food with an approachable soul. You can get a mean steak in this refurbished firehouse, a comforting cassoulet or a platter of chicken in sharp sherry vinegar. But all of those should come after the massive bowl of shoestring fries tossed with a fried egg and spicy tomato sauce. Add a bottle of Spanish wine and gleaming bar and you may have just saved yourself airfare and a hotel. 303 S. Main St., Providence, 633-1313, otrarestaurant.com

 

Fried Chicken

Ming’s Asian Street Food

The war of the chicken sandwiches is several years old at this point, but Ming’s wins the competition. Get it on a bun or in “popkorn” form — either way, be prepared to eat your body weight in crusty golden goodness. The combos are deliriously good: honey miso sauce, sweet Thai chili and scallion, furikake ranch and Japanese barbecue or get it covered in bacon and kimchi. You can call it street food, but you’ll want to sit down for this one and wonder why it took you so long to go to Pawtucket for this platonic ideal. No way, Chick-fil-A. 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Unit 2114, Pawtucket, mingsri.com

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The CBK sandwich at Ming’s Asian Street Food.

 

 

Italian

Bellini

More Fellini than Little Italy, Bellini brings high style to traditional Italian pasta. Oh — and the mountain of freshly shaved truffle doesn’t hurt either. Sip a peach-infused signature Bellini cocktail as you choose to go old school (lasagna Bolognese) or modern (salmon with pea puree and white asparagus). Either way, you’ll look divine against a backdrop so polished and demure that Audrey Hepburn will fit right in, sipping a Vesper and making small talk. 50 Westminster St., Providence, 331-4050, bellinirestaurant.com/providence

 

Quesabirria Tacos

Masa Taqueria

Like clam cakes and chowder, cookies and milk and French dip sandwiches, everything’s better when you dunk it. Especially Masa Taqueria’s quesabirria tacos stuffed with slow-cooked and chili-marinated beef served with bone marrow-infused consome. Jonathon Kirk first tested out his scrappy business idea from his home kitchen and then went legit with a commercial space in the Lorraine Mills with a food truck coming soon. I dip, you dip, we dip. Pop-up at Rock and Rye Bar, 224 Atwells Ave., Providence, 699-6204, masataqueriapvd.com

 

Cheffed-Up Hot Dogs

Wally’s Wieners

Brad Head and his wife started Wally’s Wieners in 2019, named after their dog, Wally. Selling only Rhode Island’s famous Saugy dogs, the bookings grew during the pandemic, and in 2021, they opened a brick and mortar offering french fries with toppings, onion rings, smash burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, boozy and non-boozy shakes and a full bar with cocktails. The upstairs lounge, the Copper Club, also dishes out late-night eats and drinks for adults. 464 Thames St., Newport, 236-1760, wallyswieners.com

 

Wine Bar

Aguardente

Victor Pereira is serious about getting together with friends to have a glass of wine. Not only is his Governor Street restaurant one of the coziest spaces in town to have a plate of bean-stuffed plantains with a glass of Tempranillo, he’s also constructed an all-season patio to expand the footprint of this tapas bar inspired by the flavors and culture of Portugal, Guatemala and the Azores. If there’s anything better than sitting outside in the summer air, extolling the glory of cheese, we don’t know what it is. 12 Governor St., Providence, 414-7324, aguardente.com

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Aguardente has so many different intimate seating nooks.

 

Tapas

Palo

Who knew the oldest industrial building in Providence would feel a lot like Andalusia? It turns out that the thick stone walls and dappled light create the perfect environment for a tapas spread and a glass of sangria. Owner Samir Zaiter oversees a rotating menu of small dishes including spiced albondigas, shrimp steeped in garlic, braised lamb and twice-fried bacon. But the crown jewels of Palo are the charcuterie boards, overflowing with Manchego, Mahón, Serrano ham, pickled onions, apricot mustard and Marcona almonds. You’ll never long for an entree again. 3 Steeple St., Providence, 414-7610, paloprovidence.com

 

BREWERY BOOM

This past year and a half saw an expansion to Rhode Island’s already robust brewery scene. Not only did Narragansett Beer (narragansettbeer.com) open its very own brewery in Providence in the best spot right on the India Point waterfront, but Providence Brewing Company (pvd.beer) transported its modern brewery and taproom with a historical name to the Valley, right inside the Farm Fresh Rhode Island building. Pivotal Brewing (pivotalbrewing.com) in Bristol transformed the interior shell of the Industrial Park into a beautiful tasting room and beer garden as part of the Unity Park project. The new Guild in Warren (theguildwarren.com) converted a waterfront warehouse into its communal counter-service style brewpub with great food. Meanwhile, after four years of planning and construction, Ragged Island (raggedislandbrewing.com) finally opened its farmhouse taproom and barn brewery while also planning to use existing greenhouses and fields to grow additional crops for use in brewing. Last but not least, cheers to the Rhode Island Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action in Craft Beverage Committee (rideacommittee.org) for hosting the first RIDEA Craft Beverage Festival and raising funds for a new scholarship for candidates from diverse backgrounds in the brewing, sommelier and beverage management programs at Johnson and Wales University. 

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Soak up the sunset and distant water views with a beer on the deck at Ragged Island Brewery in Portsmouth.

 

Mobile Cocktail Bar

RI Cruisin’ Cocktails

Two retrofitted 1961 Shasta trailers — blush pink-and-white Rosie and the more tropical-themed Marigold — are driving some of the most inventive and beautiful cocktails around. The mobile cocktail bars are available for rental with bartenders who create signature drink menus and serve a full bar of liquor, beer and wine. Hire Sarah Gwizdowski and team to make any event from birthdays to weddings a little more personalized and funky. 571-722-2153, ricruisincocktails.com

Sarah Cruisin' Cocktails

Sarah Gwizdowski of RI Cruisin’ Cocktails.

 

Shakes

Kaffeology

Locals and visitors (especially kiddos!) are in awe of Kaffeology’s gravity-defying shakes, from the Cookie Monster topped with an Oreo ice cream scoop and a perfectly balanced cookie to the Tutti Frutti decked out with Fruity Pebbles ice cream, a Pop-Tart and cotton candy. Adults go all-in with the Rhody, a nitro cold brew coffee drink with a secret “coffee” Rhode Island ingredient. 8 Russo Rd., Portsmouth, 251-4208; 359 Thames St., Newport, 324-5151, kaffeologycafe.com

 

RI for Ukrainian Relief

An already humbled local hospitality industry came through to help another country in need. Woonsocket’s Krakow Deli Bakery Smokehouse’s Polish owners have been gathering and sending supplies and donations non-stop to their home country to support refugees fleeing Ukraine (facebook.com/KrakowDeliBakerySmokeHouse). Easy Entertaining (easyentertainingri.com) in Providence’s Valley section donated all proceeds from Easter takeout meals to Ukrainian relief (not to mention that staffers also consistently supply meals for the homeless in Rhode Island). Giusto restaurant (giustonewport.com) in Newport held an industry night fundraiser with restaurant and retail friends to raise just over $8,000 for World Central Kitchen and Ukraine. And for the months of April and May, India Restaurant (indiarestaurant.com) on the East Side of Providence offered $12 healthy grab-and-go meals with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. 

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Krakow Deli.

 

Modern Teahouse

Ceremony

Michelle Cheng is adamant about introducing Rhode Island to really good tea. After starting her own tea importing business, Leafy Green Tea, Cheng launched a modern teahouse, cafe and market and Providence’s first zero-proof bar. Not only did she survive a tough business climate during the pandemic, but she also welcomed a baby and expanded to a new location. Ceremony is quickly gaining a reputation for the best matcha drinks, boba and chai lattes, espresso-based drinks and so much more, as proven by all the college students walking around with its cups. 406 Brook St., Providence, ceremonypvd.com

 

Bao Buns

Yagi Noodles

It’s a surprise to find stellar Chinese street food near the beach in Newport, but Yagi Noodles has pulled it off. Sure, you can get a winning bowl of ramen, but we can’t resist the bao buns, which come in both traditional versions (Cantonese pork belly) and modern (fluke katsu). And if you thought a buttered hot dog bun was the best way to eat lobster, you haven’t tried it in a pillowy steamed bao bun. This makes us rethink everything we’ve ever known about New England. 58 Aquidneck Ave., Side A, Middletown, 324-5669, yaginoodles.com

 

European Bakery

Madrid European Bakery and Patisserie

Sergio Mendoza and Hercilia Corona’s Madrid Bakery is an archetype of childhood glee. At most hours, Mendoza is behind glass, rolling dough, whipping cream and constructing dairy-rich pastries that could break through the will of
a dedicated vegan. Forget everything you thought you knew because the cream-filled croissants, lime meringue tarts and Santiago cake will change you forever, for the better. 199 Wayland Ave., Providence, 409-2300, madrideuropeanbakery.com

 

Brunch

Duck Press

Brunch at Duck Press is everything it should be: comforting and familiar and occasionally off the rails. We’re all about the brisket Benedict and the house-fried potato chips smothered in blue cheese fondue and bacon. But if your sweet tooth dominates, then go for the brunch board: a collection of mini croissants, banana bread and cinnamon doughnuts that will keep you wired for hours until you crash for a nap. What else are weekends for? 333 Main St., Wakefield, 661-9561, duckpressri.com

 

Sushi

Somo Sushi and Kitchen

Nino Elgheryany has a dramatic flair for sushi but it’s the taste that makes his restaurant, Somo, so appealing. Edamame beans are tossed in hot honey, calamari comes with Szechuan peanuts and tempura eggplant is served with miso-yuzu yogurt. Sushi is traditional but there’s always something that makes it just a bit better than your local go-to: eel aioli, butterfly pea powder and sweet miso sauce make fresh fish sing and the fuchsia dragon fruit rice makes every maki a celebratory meal. 373 Richmond St., Providence, 383-2307, somopvd.com

 

Outdoor Dining

Bayberry Garden

Bayberry Garden’s the Grove is the largest outdoor patio in town — nearly seventy seats in downtown Providence — but the inside of the mammoth restaurant is also sort of like outdoor dining. Filled with trees and meandering vines, this is a culinary hothouse in which you might think they’re actually growing produce in this mecca of greenery. So choose your view: lush sunroom or scenic river. Both serve as a splendid backdrop to plates of crudo or housemade pasta that allow al fresco dining year-round. 225 Dyer St., Providence, 642-5013, bayberrygarden.com

 

Rum and B Brunch

Blu Violet Roof Bar

Get a Heavy D dose of hip-hop and R-and-B nostalgia at brunch at the Blu Violet rooftop restaurant in downtown Providence on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beats include nineties throwbacks from artists like Salt-N-Pepa, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Bell Biv DeVoe and Bobby Brown backed up by biggie eats like tiramisu French toast and lobster jambalaya and drinks that are just as soulful as the music. Aloft Providence, 191 Dorrance St., Providence, 252-0711, bluvioletroofbar.com

 

Urban Outdoor Oasis

Hunky Dory

Claim your own outdoor oasis by grabbing a seat on Hunky Dory’s urban patio. Tucked away in the back of the cozy restaurant, this twinkle-lit oasis serves up stellar smoked meats, fried chicken, pimento cheese and hot honey drop biscuits. Pair everything with a juicy cocktail and you’ll be rethinking how to plan your own backyard dining experience to mimic this little slice of Southern comfort. 40 Market St., Warren, 245-1809, hunkydoryri.com

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Hunky Dory in Warren has a charming backyard patio.