Dining Review: Pine Street Social in Providence
This new urban bar attracts the sophisticated party crowd.
There’s nothing like a basement bar. Perhaps it’s the lack of light that conjures clandestine conversation; perhaps it’s just the intimacy of subterranean spaces. However that innate mystique asserts itself, there’s something that makes drinking feel like the right course of action. In the case of Pine Street Social, that’s just one variable that convinces the crowd that a buzz is the only way to go through life.
A glass chandelier and wall of faux flowers at the underground entrance hint at the mood: This is a party waiting to happen. Though there are industrial elements — the raw wood ceiling, iron piping, polished concrete floor — a panoply of pink decor is the best expression of Pine Street’s vibe. A pair of electric pink booths flank one end of the restaurant while the other is wrapped in flamingo wallpaper. The bar is built out of white marble, which further suggests that you’ve just wandered into a girly-girl’s bedroom only to discover she’s got a pretty gritty side under the surface.
The soundtrack, however, is as sweet as they come. Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Michael Bublé sing about being young at heart and even the girl from Ipanema shows up for a brief spell. If you’re seated at the bar or a high-top, you may feel the urge to show off a few swing steps on the floor — though there’s a lot to keep your attention at the table.
The menu (pink, of course) is the manifestation of Pine Street’s more robust side. It’s a meat-and-potatoes meal with a side of fries thrown in for good measure and a whole lot of cheese. There are lighter spots: shrimp cocktail served Gatsby-style in a coupe glass, a burrata and heirloom tomato salad ($17), as well as salmon and quinoa ($28). But most of the menu is hearty and hedonistic. Strip steak, meatball subs and thin, grilled pizza topped with short ribs define the culinary approach.
Food is familiar and without any element of surprise, but food is also peripheral to the soul of Pine Street. That belongs to the cocktail menu, which manages to amaze both by ingredients and presentation.
Ryan Wilk headed up the opening bar program and his vision was rooted in the world’s most elevated tiki bar, set somewhere in the tropics. Fruit juice is the key player in nearly every drink — freshly squeezed citrus and syrups made from mango, passion fruit and peach are set aside in squeeze bottles that look like the colors of an artist’s palette. Everything tastes light and like vacation which, as one guy (three drinks in) said, is all sorts of trouble. This is also where the spectacle lies and, if you order correctly, your night of drinking can play out like theater in the round.
The Real Baroness ($16) mixes tequila with Aperol, blood orange and rosemary — bright and herbaceous — but it’s the sashay that makes the drink. The empty glass shows up tableside in a cloche of smoke before its
potion is poured and everyone in the room turns toward its grand entrance. Not enough humor? Try the Pink Paradise or the Flock It ($14) — vibrant with dragon fruit, lychee, guava and passion fruit — which bound out in delicate glasses shaped like pigs and flamingos. Does it feel like a sorority sister’s vision board? Maybe. But it’s a delightful balance of luminous and illicit and, if cocktail hour is about anything, it celebrates an evening that can’t yet decide what the night will be.
PINE STREET SOCIAL
127 Dorrance St., Providence, instagram.com/pinestreetsocial
Closed Sunday. Street parking.
Must get: Three drinks and a plate of nachos.