Best of Rhode Island 2019
When it comes to what to eat, where to shop and things to do, we have compiled the ultimate list that has your plans for the next year covered.
Fresh off another year of scouting the state for the best of the best, we ask you, our readers: What could possibly be better than our annual Best of Rhode Island issue? When it comes to what to eat, where to shop and things to do, we have compiled the ultimate list that has your plans for the next year covered. So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and get started!
Contributors: Alyssa K. Anderson, Jamie Coelho, Bob Curley, Karen Deutsch, Sarah Francis, Serena Gaitskell, Samantha Labrecque, Nicole Mineau, Casey Nilsson and Lou Papineau
Photography: Wolf Matthewson and Angel Tucker / Beer can illustration: Daniel Pelavin
Sift Bake Shop
102 Bay St., Watch Hill, 315-2655, siftbakeshopmystic.com
Sift pays homage to the country that rules pastry: France. The baked goods run the gamut from classical (wait until you try the croissants that alternate eighty-one layers of hand-rolled butter and dough) to the modern Opera Torte, an espresso-soaked almond cake topped with chocolate ganache and coffee and hazelnut mousse. You can build the best breakfast in the world from the pastry case or you can let Sift celebrate your birthday with the state’s most beautiful cakes. (The fruit tart looks like a Kandinsky painting on a plate. Go big or go home.)
The Inside Scoop
30 Ten Rod Rd., North Kingstown, 294-0091, theinsidescoopri.com
The Bucci family is living their best life, dedicating themselves to making superlative ice cream in North Kingstown for the past eighteen years. If you thought summer couldn’t get any better than a scoop of coffee Oreo ice cream, think again. Inside Scoop now makes vegan offerings from coconut cream that will blow your mind. They open at noon but, if we could, we’d eat their banana ice cream for breakfast every day.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Tricycle Ice Cream
70 Battey St., Providence, 741-3549, tricycleicecream.com
Ice cream sandwiches do not need a sales pitch — portable disks of sweetened cream are the reason we get up in the morning. But David Cass and Gio Salvador wanted the old favorite to push the boundaries. They scoop wedges of fruity pebbles, Thai tea, fresh mint or raspberry jam ice cream between homemade shortbread cookies or brownies and, in doing so, reinvented what summer is about. (And if you’re heading to someone’s house for dinner, their sandwiches or ice cream tacos are the perfect hostess gift.)
Sandwiches be damned; we are all about the pastelitos, a Dominican empanada packed with fillings inside a crunchy shell. Matilda’s offers sweet and savory options, from breakfast varieties with plaintain, to stewed chicken and Black Angus beef. At events and farmers markets, order an empanada meal with seasoned rice and beans, plantains and a side of spicy tomato aioli, or pick them up frozen to heat up at home. Your freezer has never been so happy.
Lucky Dog Tavern
82 School St., North Smithfield, 488-4777, luckydogtavern.net
Everything you could ever want in a local watering hole and weeknight dining room. Lucky Dog is all about comfort food, from the mozzarella-covered garlic knots to the tater tot poutine to the pulled pork and grilled boursin sandwich. You could go there just to drink but, housed in the old Lindy’s Tavern, Lucky Dog was born to become part of the community.
Day to Night Bar
393 West Fountain St., Providence, 484-1227, facebook.com/saintmondaybar
Part coffee shop, part bar, Saint Monday chugs along all day long with a brief afternoon siesta. Its sprawling West Side space is punctuated with a retro “Fountain Service sign” and a Great White shark’s head, overseeing the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd. What revolves around baked goods and egg sandwiches in the a.m. quickly shifts to cocktails and mid-western fare like meatloaf, onion dip and pigs in blankets. We love to be fed all day long.
86 Dorrance St., Providence, 270-0790, sartoprovidence.com
It’s a big space but Sarto prevails with small bites. Rather than incapacitating yourself with a bowl of pasta, take a seat at the expansive bar and work your way through an evening of cocktails and cured meats. Freshly baked focaccia, carbonara french fries and crunchy breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto and pickled radicchio are a drinker’s dream, just salty enough to conjure another Prosecco. Don’t miss our favorite one-bite wonder: nduja deviled eggs.
Barnaby’s Public House
385 Westminster St., Providence, 455-6857, barnabyspublichouse.com
There’s a smoky British allure to Barnaby’s with the hint of a murder mystery, but we can’t seem to stay away from the double decker burgers that taste as if they came out of a 1950s diner, all oozing with cheese and debauchery. You can add a variety of toppings, from pulled pork to pastrami, but the real draw is the way the patties melt into the mushy bun and collapse into a bite of pure beef heaven.
West Shore Coffee Bar
2291 W. Shore Rd., Warwick, 921-2999, westshorecoffee.com
The surfer vibe will make you feel as if you’re at the beach while the menu will help you chill out. Whether you take your coffee black, want something extra sweet like a unicorn shake or a chocolate peanut butter latte, or even if you’re feeling a few drops of CBD oil in your cup, they’ve got something for everyone. Dan Saffer clearly knows his coffee, rolling out a new, fun creation each month, including limited runs of local craft beer on tap.
Daisy Jo’s Hot Chicken and Biscuits
63 Airport Rd., Warwick, 921-6464, daisyjoschicken.com
If you want to know Southern hospitality in a single bite, take a bite of a Daisy Jo’s fried chicken sandwich. Kicked up to Nashville hot and covered with slaw, pickles and comeback sauce, there is no finer manifestation of Tennessee culinary pride. Feed the fire or cool it down with four levels of spice. Special bonus: there’s plenty of local beer and a meal will only set you back $10.
509 Thames St., Newport, 846-0400, tsknpt.com
In the age of never-ending kale salads, TSK has embraced hard-core hedonism. A vintage mirror advertises the steak slabs of the day, all the way up to a four-pound ribeye. Meat is served glistening and juicy, cut away from the bone but still in proximity in case you want to gnaw on the origins of life. You might be rendered immobile afterward so find a comfortable place to lay your head and stomach.
Al Fresco Dining
229 Waterman St., Providence, 336-6273, marerooftop.com
Sure, some people want a water view when they’re dining out but nothing beats the vantage point from Mare’s roof deck. Just high enough to see Providence in action, it’s an urban garden where you can eat weekend brunch or hot soppressata pizza over the sunset and people-watch. When winter comes, Mare sets up outdoor igloos to shelter you with a mug of hot cider and a plate of cold oysters.
1 Centerville Rd., Warwick, 921-3144, vandacucina.com
American might have made some men famous for Italian cooking but everyone knows that the romance of Italy came out of Mama’s kitchen. Accordingly, owner Dino Passaretta has created Vanda Cucina in the image of his mother’s Italian influence, with light modern dishes cooked with care by chef Gina Pezza, and a space that feels as if Rachel Ashwell just bought a house in Tuscany. The Bolognese is worth eating every single week but what a waste to miss out on everything else they have to offer.
776 Hope St., Providence, 831-9272, warawarari.com
Manchego and quince paste have been replaced by pork belly buns, crispy chicken skin and hamachi with ponzu. Its look may be retro kitsch but Wara Wara cranks out modern Asian cuisine that’s as entertaining as it is delish. You haven’t really lived until you’ve eaten the fried chicken with mochi waffles topped with maple syrup and sriracha. Sometimes the smallest bites have the most impact.
Sustainable Seafood Market
425 West Fountain St., Providence, 415-8905, fearlessfishmarket.com
We used to have to beg our local fishmonger to carry species like scup, tautog, monkfish and Rhode Island-raised oysters, but now there’s no question that what’s for dinner came from area waters. Tuesday through Sunday, Fearless Fish lists what it has in stock and where it came from on social media. Browse the shelves for convenient cooking ingredients from the common ginger and lemons to the more obscure Kewpie mayonnaise and Portuguese sardines. Never prepared whole fish before? They’ll take you through it and get you hooked for life.
Ramen and Izakaya
531 Wood St., Bristol, 396-5036, sakuratani-ramen.com
It may be tucked away in a residential neighborhood, but Sakuratani is serious about its ramen. There’s plenty to nibble on — like grilled skewers of steak and charred veggies — but nothing satisfies like a bowl of ramen with chashu pork, a soft-boiled egg, black garlic oil and hot sauce. They offer suggestions on the best way to eat your dinner but the goal is to get everything in your mouth as soon as possible, before anyone else at the table can touch the precious bowl.
44 Rolfe Square, Cranston, 522-5222, bettola.com
Bettola understands what matters in life and what matters in life is pizza. Thin crusted and cooked at blistering temperatures, this is the dish that put Naples on the map. There’s nothing wrong with basic cheese but the San Gennaro — with smoked and fresh mozzarella, peppadew peppers and sausage — is the reason why Bettola has become a neighborhood favorite. If you’re an all-the-way carnivore, make room for the massive meatballs.
Tequila and Tacos
Amigos Taqueria y Tequila
2 Canal St., Westerly, 315-5800, amigosri.com
Westerly may be at the far end of the state but no distance is too far for a plate of tacos and a bevy of margaritas from Amigos. Served in soft shells (authentic), hard (American), or Cabo San Lucas style (shrimp or scallops and mango-papaya slaw), this is the way every workday should end. Top everything with housemade guac and tomatillo cactus salsa — because happiness rests in the condiments. And another shot of tequila.
Eric Palmieri at D. Palmieri’s Bakery
624 Killingly St., Johnston, 621-9357, dpalmierisbakery.com
Just when you thought party pizza couldn’t get any more festive, in steps pizza artist Eric Palmieri of D. Palmieri’s Bakery who creates pie masterpieces that depict themes from mermaids and unicorns to the Rhode Island Red and superheroes. He designs each party pizza freehand using only food ingredients such as shredded mozzarella, parmesan, red, green, orange and yellow peppers, olives, onions, eggplant and more. His talent is pretty amazing any which way you slice it.
Plouf Plouf Gastronomie
2490 Main Rd., Tiverton, 236-1937, ploufploufgastronomie.com
We’re open to modernity but nothing makes us happier than old school French fare. Walk into the doors of tiny Plouf Plouf and you’re in another place, another time and another culture. There is no pomp and circumstance, just a poetic presentation of what it means to love French food, from a simple steak frites to a deeply soulful cassoulet. We have never been so happy as we are in the embrace of a gruyere-topped onion soup.
3 Luongo Square, Providence, bigkingpvd.com
One part tradition, one part rebellion, James Mark’s Big King is a minute space with huge taste. The handwritten menu changes nightly but you can expect to find plenty of spicy raw fish, tempura veggies and a startling array of sake. With only two tables and a moderate communal bar, every night you can find a seat is a victory, topped only by the delicate flavors that the kitchen conjures in every dish.
333 Westminster St., Providence, 274-0276, oboypvd.com
Jae Choi has created a restaurant that has the soul of a carnival. A little bit European and a lotta Korean, there’s an element of the unexpected in every dish that lands on the table. From a rotating spicy challenge to rolled omelets with miso sauce and Ninja crawfish, there’s something for every adventurous eater. Special bonus: don’t forget the bingsu, shaved creamy ice, for dessert.
134 Atwells Ave., Providence, 273-0650, massimori.com
Italians may know pasta but Massimo makes a mean roast chicken. Blistered skin coated in a sharp lemon sauce with artichokes and escarole, it’s a comfort dish that still evokes the Mediterranean sun setting over acres of olive trees in the countryside. We’re not saying it’s time to give up carbonara completely but protein prevails on this one.
Ocean House, 1 Bluff Ave., Watch Hill, 855-678-0364, oceanhouseri.com
Give us the ocean views, the stately manor, the air of indulgence when we sit down to a special occasion dinner. Just give us Coast with its endless offerings — from curated salts, to superlative seafood to towering souffles. Every meal is a trip back to an age when fine dining was done without ostentation but with endless imagination, each table an island of decadence. Half-birthdays need to be added to the list of mandatory celebrations.
107 Ives St., Providence, alepposweets.com
Youssef Akhtarini brought his family, as refugees, to Providence, escaping Syrian civil war and looking for work. Ultimately, he wanted to recreate the bakery he had back home, offering the gifts of his Syrian homeland. He started baking in a local pizza store during off-hours, and now has his own space, Aleppo Sweets, which is filled with the sweet scent of baklava (there are eight crispy varieties) as well as traditional dishes from the Middle East. Sweet stuffed dates, mezze platters and fatayer (Syrian wraps filled with herbs, cheese or lamb) speak to just how valuable life experience is when we sit together at the table.
Garden of Eve
405 Harris Ave., Providence, 688-5166, gardenofeveri.com
Chef Yveline Bontemp brings the cuisine of her native Haiti to Providence, sharing dishes including beef tasso, curry chicken and oxtail served with rice and beans or pigeon peas and a side of plantains. She also makes a blackened, bone-in spicy jerk chicken (you’d have to hightail it to Jamaica to find a better version). Enjoy a summer day on her patio paradise where you can BYOB.
292 Westminster St., Providence, 500-1127, yolenis.com
Yoleni’s makes the city’s best pita bread but it also sells a variety of Greek goodies that you can eat in or take out. In addition to fresh salads, juices and yogurt, there’s an expansive collection of Greek olive oils, vinegars, spreads, dips, pastas, candy and everything else that you might need for a gift basket for a loved one or yourself. Your pantry will thank you.
These treats are so good, humans can eat them too. And they do. Buppy Pets all-natural dog treats were created by Lauren Ruggiero, who sells them in five flavors, including PB and J, Pumpkin Nutters, Banapa Snaps, Pizza Bites and Chik Ched Marys, based on favorite human snacks like Goldfish and Triscuits. Ingredients include nothing but real rolled oats, bananas, applesauce, all-natural peanut butter, organic blueberries, cheddar cheese and more.
Farmers Market App
We used to struggle getting our hands on locally sourced food when we couldn’t make it to the once-a-week nearby weekend farmers market. This mobile app has changed all that by letting us choose and order local produce, meat and food products in advance for pickup or delivery at our convenience. Now you don’t have to rush from your kid’s soccer game only to find that your favorite purveyor is sold out.
Prica Farina Fresh Pasta Co.
2 Market St., Warren, 245-1680, pricafarina.com
The handmade fresh pasta resembles the rainbow ranging from cream, yellow and red, to green, deep purple and black. The shop serves take-home boxes filled with pounds of pillowy ricotta gnocchi, thick ribbons of bucatini and squid ink pasta, plus ravioli stuffed with ingredients including asparagus and prosciutto. Boil the pastas in salted water for just a few minutes, top with sauces and you’ll have a feast that feels like a trip to Italy.
Great Northern BBQ Co.
9 Parade St., Providence, 421-1513, facebook.com/greatnorthernbbqco
If someone says there’s no good barbecue in Rhode Island, raise a ruckus and point them toward Parade Street in Providence. Beef brisket with serious bark, tender pork ribs, housemade sausage, pickle-brined, smoked and fried wings and twelve-hour-smoked pulled pork are piled onto an epic BBQ platter that’ll change any naysayer’s attitude with just a few bites.
Whether you’re an avid home cook, professional chef or a newbie, Professor Chef has a class for you. Learn tips, tricks and shortcuts to creating restaurant-worthy meals at home, from Dinner in Tuscany and Amazing Asian to sous vide secrets for Chateaubriand and Super Souffles. Even the most expert chefs can learn a thing or two from culinarians Phillip Griffin and Malinda Coletta, who make you transform bad habits into Michelin-star-worthy skills.
127 Granite St., Westerly, 992-8223, grazeri.com
Imagine a Shake Shack that dealt exclusively with local purveyors and social responsibility. Graze has carved out a little corner in Westerly to make the great American meal: grass-fed burgers sourced from its own Stonington, Connecticut, family farm on fluffy brioche buns with a side of beef tallow fries and thick custard shakes. Everything looks as if it came out of a ’60s TV show, perfect in its incarnation and ready to create your very own Pleasantville.
Rebelle Artisan Bagels
110 Doyle Ave., Providence, 349-1263, rebelleartisanbagels.com
We’ve already established that Rebelle makes amazing bagels, but this year they’ve created a modernized version of the pop tart concocted with fresh pie dough and strawberry preserves, or stuffed with cookies and cream. Frosted and topped with sprinkles, they are every child’s and big kid’s dream come true.
Handcrafted Ice Cream
Vic’s Craft Ice Cream
74 Maple Ave., Barrington, vicscrafticecream.com
Before there were ice cream mixes, shops created the frozen treat from scratch. Vic’s Craft Ice Cream brings back the good old days of ice cream made with simple ingredients by hand. Owner Victoria Young even comes up with the toppings, including chocolate sprinkles, Nilla wafer crunch, toasted coconut and more. Each ice cream cup or waffle cone is topped with her signature gummy cherries to be the cherry on top of your day.
OG ’90’s Menu
79 Ives St., Providence, pvdonuts.com
If something’s not broke, don’t fix it, and that’s why we’re happy to see the ’90s menu return to PVDonuts annually. From Nerds, Wild! Berry pop-tart and Rice Krispies treats-topped doughnuts to the ever popular Dunkaroos (available more regularly) and Oatmeal Cream Pie and Cosmic Brownie, this throwback lineup is worth waiting a year for.
Beer and Food Menu
Taproot Brewing Company
909 East Main Rd., Middletown, 848-5161, newportvineyards.com/taproot-brewing
Not only does Taproot brew some great beers, but they’ve got an elevated food menu to match. From artisanal cheese boards and handmade pretzels with beer cheese dip to flatbreads and burgers topped with local farm ingredients, this is not another draft and wings kind of place. Thoughtful food complements the flavors of hops and malt in an atmosphere that’s visually stunning, too.