Dining Review: Honeybird Kitchen and Cocktails in East Providence

Honeybird Kitchen and Cocktails serves up fried chicken and all the fixins, plus some pretty potent drinks.

Blue plate with Hurricane cocktail. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Honeybird Kitchen and Cocktails holds nearly fifty people between its tables and bar, but feels far more intimate. Housed in a restored gas station, diners look out over a darkened Massasoit Avenue as they rub elbows with eager eaters of every age. This is more of a Southern backyard barbecue than a rager — one in which the whole neighborhood has gathered in a single, pocket-sized yard. If there’s a south-of-the-Mississippi playlist, it’s hard to catch. The din of the crowd rises high and the music is thumping, but you can still catch the rustle of red-and-white checked paper that lines each plate. 

Food falls between mama’s home cooking and an old-school Southern pit stop. This is not a place for pretense, as orders come out quickly and sides are served in little paper snack trays. It’s not so much nostalgia as the timeless aesthetic of casual cooking. The obvious centerpiece of Nick Rabar’s latest venture is clearly the Charleston-style chicken which comes in a variety of fried incarnations, including tenders, pieces and big ol’ potato bun sandwiches. But like a Thanksgiving dinner, it’s objectively all about the sides and Honeybird offers well into the double digits. 


Garlic Parmesan wings. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Like the chicken though, most small plates and sides are deep-fried and indulgent. Sweet potato tater tots arrive like glossy marbles ($6) and pulled pork pierogies are chewy and crackling ($12). Even the spring rolls ($7) — stuffed with molten cheese and pickle spears — glisten like stained glass. No surprise that nearly everything comes with a sauce of its own: Old Bay ranch, comeback, remoulade, white barbecue, smoked tomato mayo. Each one is mellow and, in fact, the whole menu is mild except for the fried chicken flavors, which range from OG to Nashville hot. 

That’s not to say there’s no tang to the offerings. Potato salad is laced with dill pickles ($6), and potlicker collard greens are loaded with vinegar ($8). Baked beans ($8) register as a full meat dish given pulled pork serves as the binder, all sweet, sour and smoky with sauce. On the opposite side of the spectrum sits a double wedge of cornbread doused in melted honey butter ($6) — so soft and sweet you could call it dessert. A twenty-piece bucket with a dozen sides will cost you a good deal more than it would on the side of the highway in Dixie, but Honeybird’s a whole lot nicer than eating out of your car on an extended road trip.


Honeybird’s interior. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Check the fine print though: Honeybird’s moniker is “Kitchen and Cocktails” and it’s the latter where the most complexity reigns. There’s something intriguing, even surprising, about the drinks here — each one a Zen-like balance of sharp and soothing. Vodka is mixed with pineapple syrup and a bitter cider steeped with dandelion roots; corn whiskey pairs with ginger liqueur and lemon; and in an absolute spectacle of mixology, whiskey goes whole hog into black tea, peach liqueur, farmhouse ale and honeycomb. Nothing sounds like it would work (mezcal and pickle juice?) but everything does, even on the first sip. 

Do we call it a fried chicken shack with drinks? Or an urbane bar with a retro menu? Either way, it’ll keep the New England crowd convinced that the South still has something to offer. 


Honeybird Kitchen and Cocktails

230 Massasoit Ave., East Providence, 919-5885, honeybirdri.com 

Open Mon.-Thurs., 4-9 p.m., and Fri. and Sat., 4-10 p.m.

Must get: Any form of fried chicken, pulled pork baked beans, sweet potato tater tots, cornbread, all things shaken and stirred.