From sizzling-hot newcomers to old favorites slinging flaming cocktails, the Ocean State’s capital city has an A-plus dining scene.
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Maybe it’s the influence of Johnson & Wales University, one of the world’s top-ranked culinary schools, but relatively petite Providence, Rhode Island, is a city that punches way above its weight when it comes to restaurants. Federal Hill is well known for its wealth of divine Italian eateries, plus there are all sorts of lively spots—brewpubs, sushi joints, you name it—dotting the mini-Venice that is the River Walk. And besides all the exceptional eats, Providence is just fun: There’s a ton of walkable watering holes and an especially vibrant gay bar and club scene that keeps the nightlife hot even in the colder months. When you’re ready to make the quick drive down (or better yet, schedule a ride share so you can truly enjoy the cocktail scene), here’s where to savor some time in Providence.
This guide was last updated in December 2023; check back for periodic updates.
With “sweets” right in its name, this café—gorgeously appointed to pay homage to the Syrian city that owners Youssef and Reem Akhtarini hail from—is the perfect place to savor the baklava of your dreams. Here you’ll find phyllo purses stuffed with orange blossom water-tossed pistachios and drizzled with simple syrup, as well as layers of crispy dough topped with almond slivers. If you can avoid the temptation to skip to dessert, the café menu also features excellent kabobs and soaring renditions of mezze favorites (zippy tabbouleh salad, for one, and hummus with the right kick of lemon). But anyway, back to the baklava: They also ship it, so you can order by the pound to share. Or not.
107 Ives St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-533-9019, alepposweets.com.
If you’re an outsider who’s heard one thing about Providence food, you’ve probably heard of the grilled pizza, made famous by this old-timer (open since 1980!). Get the grilled pizza, sure—the simple margarita is a popular choice—but don’t stop there. Al Forno is known for its rustic Italy-meets-New-England cuisine, from wood-grilled ribeyes and pork chops to cheesy baked pasta. Peek dining hours tend to book up a few weeks in advance, so if you don’t want to wait for a 9:30 p.m. reservation, be sure to plan ahead.
577 South Water St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-273-9760, alforno.com.
When the luxe Beatrice Hotel opened in Providence in 2021, it came with a Bellini chaser. By that we mean the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, Bellini, named for the cocktail that restaurateur Ignazio Cipriani’s great-grandfather apparently originated at his Venice bar in the 1940s. The first Providence outing from the Cipriani hospitality group, which is behind some of the swankiest restaurants and lounges in the world, Bellini has an Art Deco-style interior that sparkles like Prosecco and serves a similarly lively spread of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, focusing on modern spins on Italian favorites. Our favorites? Those would include the grilled lamb chops and crudo tasting.
50 Westminster St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-331-4050, bellinirestaurant.com/providence.
This beauty has been the grand dame of Federal Hill’s Italian scene since 1914, which means you absolutely have to come here for the classics: The feeds-a-small-army-sized lasagna Bolognese with ricotta and mozzarella, the cremini mushroom-studded chicken marsala, and the house-made gnocchi in a lush pink vodka cream sauce. The dress code is “casual elegant,” and the service is attentive. But all manners fly out the window when it’s time to fight over the last clams casino.
71 Bradford St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-751-4812, camillesonthehill.com.
Located in the Fox Point neighborhood, this restaurant highlights the Mexican cuisine of the Mixteca region—specifically, Puebla and Oaxaca—as prepared by chef Maria Meza. You can expect to find chicken thighs in spiced mole poblano, Yucatan-style slow-cooked pork tacos (aka cochinita pibil), and melty queso fundido on the almost-daily dinner menu (save Sunday and Tuesday), plus a limited menu of late-night eats available from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Stop by for a Sunday brunch that features live music from local musicians and DJs and a menu filled with Mexican-inspired favorites: brunch nachos piled high with refried beans, queso, pico de gallo, and guacamole; comforting huevos con mole; and churro French toast.
100 Hope St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-409-2075, dolorespvd.com.
Sorry if you’re reading this in the winter: You’ll have to wait for warmer weather to enjoy the bounty at this seasonal seafood shack with a penchant for local sourcing. Once it reopens, head to the window to order New England classics to go or for a picnic on the sunny patio. The fish and chips are the highlight of the concise menu—beer-battered and beef fat-fried pollock, cape shark, or whole, bone-in bait fish. You’ll find a few other tasty treats, too, from chowder to lobster rolls.
239 Dyer St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-480-1269, dunebrothers.com.
East Side Pockets
The gaggles of Brown University students who line up at this Thayer Street restaurant have clearly done their homework, as the award-winning eatery has been a local favorite since opening in 1997. Pop quiz: Should you get the kafta wrap of perfectly grilled beef, or the falafel version full of fried-chickpea-ball goodness? Answer: Get a combo wrap (duh) with both. And do be sure to try all the toppings, including the hot sauce and hot peppers that can easily be tempered with the cooling tzatziki.
278 Thayer St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-453-1100, eastsidepocket.com.
Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza is in the spotlight at this downtown Mediterranean restaurant with an open kitchen. The team keeps the pizza list and add-on toppings fairly pared-down, leading to simple, well-done pies, enhanced with a small selection of starters like a goat cheese salad or shrimp with Calabrian chili, garlic, and greens.
67 Washington St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-808-6886, figidini.com.
This funky raw bar is a maximalist seafood fever dream. Gift Horse is the second project from the team behind Oberlin (see below)—chef-owner Benjamin Sukle and general manager/partner Bethany Caliaro—and its menu and dining room are anything but ordinary. Fresh-caught Maine Jonah crab meat tossed in burnt onion dijonnaise, smoked fish dip with preserved peppers and puffed nori for dipping, and a show-stopping crispy whole fish ssam served with banchan, rice, and spicy peanut ssamjang are only a few of the imaginative dishes you’ll find alongside a robust list of Rhode Island’s finest oysters. Pair your snacks with a glass of natural wine, craft beer, non-alcoholic beverage, or a cocktail (each one is served in its own special glass).
272 Westminster St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-383-3813, gifthorsepvd.com.
This cozy Fox Point bar is serving up natural and organic wines, beer, cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, and a curated menu of small plates. Whether you’re sipping on a glass of pét-nat and enjoying the seasonal cheese board or throwing back a Rodeo in Reverse (rum, pineapple, vanilla cola reduction, lime, spiced anise, and cinnamon) in between bites of house-made olive oil cake, the vibe at Glou is sure to make you feel right at home.
134 Ives St., Providence, gloubar.com.
Dash to this homey-yet-elegant New American beauty for its seasonal menu of similarly suave-but-still-unfussy plates. Consider, for instance, the house-made potato gnocchi with decadent milk-braised pork, spiked with Calabrian chili, or the duck—sourced from Crescent Farms in Haverhill, Massachusetts—served with veggies and a sage-and-sour-cherry jus. Not sure where to start? Take your hands off the wheel and let acclaimed chef Matthew Varga drive you through a five- or seven-course tasting menu. All you have to do is enjoy the ride.
194 Washington St, Providence, Rhode Island, 401-272-7811, graciesprov.com.
This bright and hip Japanese-fusion restaurant and sushi spot on Providence’s east side never disappoints with its raw fish game, from the classics—like pristine slivers of yellowfin sashimi—to fabled house favorites like the Red Dragon roll with avocado and crab stick, topped with whole eel. That said, the biggest standout might be the fried Tuna Crisp, a tempura-battered spicy tuna roll with hits of cream cheese. Afterwards, go all in on the fried front: Finish the meal with some deep-fried green tea ice cream.
172 Wayland Ave., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-223-0332, harukisushi.com.
Uyghur food is hard to find around Rhode Island, but Jahunger gives curious diners a delicious education on the cuisine, particularly when it comes to hand-pulled noodles. Try the restaurant’s eponymous noodle dish for a good example of these, seasoned with a tingly Sichuan peppercorn-based sauce, or the garlicky chicken stew, with thin, broad noodles, potatoes, green peppers, and tons of spices.
333 Wickenden St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-454-6866, jahunger.com.
Make global-plates spot Layali your first stop on a night on the town in Providence, especially if you’re heading to the Ocean State capital for a dose of its energetic LGBTQ nightlife—this bustling eatery is in walking (or stumbling) distance of legendary gay bars like the Stable, Dark Lady, Alley Cat, and more. Bring your crew and pick over all the small plates, especially the gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and the kicking Rhode Island-style calamari that’s served with pepper rings. The Eastern Mediterranean-accented menu also has some people-pleasing pizzas, including dessert pies topped with chocolate and strawberries or caramelized bananas. And the drinks? If your goal is get lit, you could do much worse than the flaming espresso martini, plus there’s smoking cinnamon shots and sweet-but-sneaky rum punches to put you in a Provi-dancing mood.
36 Weybosset St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-632-4500, layaliprovidence.com.
This New American restaurant’s small plates don’t pull any punches with big, bold flavors. New Rivers doesn’t hold back on presentation, either: The seasonal New England eats, such as a squash “carpaccio” to a basil-roasted half chicken with fresh veggies, are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Somehow, we’ll resign ourselves to tearing into dishes like a gorgeously grilled steak with rich duck-fat fries, or a smoky pork chop brightened by griddled apples.
7-9 Steeple St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-751-0350, newriversrestaurant.com.
What started as a coffee cart that was crafted in 2016 in co-founder Audrey Finocchiaro’s parents’ basement with the help of then-boyfriend and co-founder Sam Lancaster has certainly come a long way. Today, Nitro Bar exists in not one but four brick-and-mortar locations: the flagship location in Dash Bicycle Shop located on the West End of Providence, two Newport outposts, and a seasonal spot in Little Compton. Audrey and Sam bring the same boundary pushing, community-minded ethos to this location as they did with that original coffee cart—and of course, the same silky-smooth nitro cold brew on tap. Their food and beverage menus change seasonally and often feature ingredients produced in New England, like the maple sea salt latte made with Vermont maple syrup and the autumnal pumpkin muffin with cream cheese drizzle. You’ll find staples like a chorizo and salsa verde breakfast wrap (made vegetarian with sweet potatoes upon request), a breakfast sandwich with spicy house-made salami spread, and plenty of pastries available for morning and afternoon snacking all year-round.
228 Broadway, Providence, Rhode Island, 401-563-8578, thenitrocart.com.
Not Just Snacks
Not just snacks, indeed: Enjoy a hearty Indian meal at this cheery spot, open for over 20 years. The wide-ranging menu has plenty of options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, from biryani to tandoor oven-cooked kabobs. The honey and ginger naan is a must. After your meal, head across the street to sibling shop Not Just Spices to stock up on Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi groceries.
833 Hope St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-831-1150, notjustsnacks.com.
Oberlin is back and better than ever in a new location (right around the corner from the original space), conveniently connected to sibling restaurant Gift Horse (see above) through a sneaky passageway that makes the raw bar apps to sit-down dinner pipeline all too convenient. Among the many exciting updates at the restaurant, you’ll find a dreamy dining room with a celestial disco ceiling mural by local artist and RISD alum Victoria Cane, an indoor wood fire oven for churning out all manner of charred delights, and—perhaps most exciting of all—weekend brunch featuring sourdough bagels (wood-fired, of course), rye pancakes, scrapple, and more. If you’re a die-hard Oberlin fan, don’t worry—it’s still got plenty of classics on the menu, like olive oil-drizzled crudo, fresh pasta, and Basque-style cheesecake.
266 Westminster St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-588-8755, oberlinrestaurant.com.
Olneyville NY System
Sometimes, at 2 a.m., all you really need is a hot wiener. Olneyville—with locations in Providence and Cranston—is simply a classic. (The James Beard Foundation thinks so, too.) The decades-old, no-frills diner is known for its pork-and-veal hot dogs, best served “all the way” with meat sauce, chopped onions, yellow mustard, and celery salt, served in a steamed bun. Wash it down with coffee milk.
18 Plainfield St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-621-9500, olneyvillenewyorksystem.com.
Co-owners Lisa and Champe Speidel re-opened Persimmon in its current Fox Point location back in 2016 with a commitment to keeping things novel for their customers, particularly in terms of the unique and flavorful dishes on the menu. Black truffle and taleggio cheese beignets with truffle aioli, house-made cornbread with foie gras butter, and cotechino wrapped in puff pastry with native apple, quince, pear, parsnip, and pork jus are just a few examples of the inventive bites you can order, plus plenty of creative cocktails, an impressive wine list, and “neutral” (aka alcohol-free) cocktails.
99 Hope St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-432-7422, persimmonri.com.
If you’re in search of noodles, look no further than this Federal Hill spot. Originally a dinner club pop-up, Pickerel now has a brick-and-mortar space where the team serves a limited menu featuring a few types of ramen with house-made noodles (including a vegetarian tantanmen-style spicy sesame ramen) and small plates like chilled squid with hakurei turnip, roasted squash, carrots, and fried shallot. This walk-in-only restaurant is open Thursday through Monday for dinner service, plus late-night drinks and desserts.
3 Luongo Square, Providence, Rhode Island, pckrl.com.
Each item on Pizza Marvin’s relatively short menu is better than the next. Start with house-made burrata served with zippy pesto and roasted carrots or tender meatballs topped with fluffy whipped ricotta, then dig into Nancy’s Chopped, a chopped salad that’s loaded with hunks of cured meats, crunchy greens, bitter radicchio, and cheese cubes. Naturally, you’ll need to order a pizza, either a single Sicillian-style slice or whole pie with thin, perfectly charred crust (and because it’s Rhode Island, of course there’s a Chowdah Pie with clams, bacon, potato, and herbs). You might as well throw in a can of sparkling red Pizza Wine for good measure. Save room for dessert; the seasonal custard and sorbet flavors are pretty damn special.
468 Wickenden St., Providence, Rhode Island, 401-262-3336, pizzamarvin.com.
A self-proclaimed “diner-ish” burger joint, There There puts an eclectic spin on standard diner fare. Sure, it’s got burgers (and they’re very good), but they’ve also got a fried cheese sandwich (panko-breaded queso de frier, a seasonal condiment, mayo, shrettuce, griddled brioche bun), a kale roll (cornmeal-battered kale, tartar, shrettuce, smoky pickle relish, barbecue rub, griddle brioche), and the T. T. Bird (buttermilk fried chicken, mayo, honeygold sauce, shrettuce, and pickled red onion on a griddled sesame bun). Psst: There’s also steak fries (“thicc cut”), house-made sodas, and a Rhode Island staple: coffee milk.
471 W Fountain St., Providence, Rhode Island, theretherepvd.com.
Come to this corner of Providence’s east side for the post-apocalyptic-chic views of a defunct railway bridge on the Seekonk River. Stay, though, for the seasonal plates served in a legitimately lovely 19th-century bridge-gatehouse-turned-restaurant. Considering the waterfront location, it’s probably no shocker that the seafood is a standout, from shrimp bucatini with kale-pepita seed pesto to grilled swordfish with beet spaetzle. Don’t sleep on the brunch, either. We’re partial to the Gatehouse omelet—filled with chouriço, peppers, and cheese, it’s a bridge to the area’s Portuguese-American heritage.
4 Richmond Square, Providence, Rhode Island, 401-521-9229, watermangrille.com.