Eat and Drink Your Way Through Providence

Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but the capital’s food and cocktail scene is epic.

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No matter what you’re looking for, Providence has got it. Whether it’s wicked fresh lobster plucked right from the Atlantic, spaghetti and meatballs served by an Italian chef with a twirly mustache, or craft cocktails made by a hipster mixologist with a, well, twirly mustache, you can find it in Rhode Island’s capital.

Located right off I-95 between Connecticut and Massachusetts, this seaside city is a straight shot from pretty much anywhere on the east coast. And, as we learned, it’s a particularly pleasant journey when you’re behind the wheel of a brand-new Aston Martin.

Photo: Aston Martin

We piloted the DB11 flagship up the 175-odd miles of interstate from New York City, relishing the beautiful beast’s gargantuan 600-horsepower V12. (Pulling out of a tollbooth has never been so fun.) No vehicle on earth combines power and luxury like James Bond’s favorite ride, and even after a 4-hour drive through stop-and-go traffic, we felt more than ready to hit the ground running.

Like many American cities, Providence has been undergoing a renaissance after decades of stagnant economy and general neglect. Nowhere is this more evident than the restaurant and bar scene, where trendy new spots are popping up next to the old-school dives and family-run eateries that previously defined the city. This gives the city a unique character that makes it a destination unto itself—not just a pit stop on the way to Boston.

The flames of WaterFire.

In between food coma naps at the historic Biltmore hotel and an evening being hypnotized by the flames of the city’s WaterFire festival (a summer weekend event in which torch-lit vessels spectacularly light up the three downtown rivers), we spent a recent weekend eating and drinking everything we could.

This is where we did it.

Craft cocktails: The Eddy

Photo: The Eddy

Tucked away on a quiet downtown corner, The Eddy specializes in cocktails of the sort you would never make at home. (That is, unless you happen to keep Thai bitters, rose water and yellow chartreuse in your cupboard.) Try the infamous house punch.

Farm-to-table fare: Nicks on Broadway

While “farm-to-table” has become a cliche on the level of your “thinking outside the box” boss, at Nicks it’s more than just a buzzword. Chef Derek Wagner maintains a close relationship with local farmers, fisherman and ranchers to ensure every perfectly prepared dish is as fresh—and tasty—as possible.

Killer brunch: Circe

Photo: Circe

Sure, the pork belly hash, short rib benedict and chicken and waffles are all delicious, but we especially loved Circe for its brunch-time cocktails. Skip the Bloody Mary and grab the eye-opening, mezcal-powered Smokey Pineapple.

Old-school Italian: Cassarino’s Ristorante

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Federal Hill is one of the oldest Italian-American enclaves in the country, and no trip to Providence would be complete without a red-sauce splattered stop for pasta. The timeless Cassarino’s is the place to hit.

Speakeasy scene: Courtland Club

Photo: Jon Gourlay

Located in a hard-to-find building that once housed a members-only social club, Courtland Club oozes speakeasy cool. When we eventually found our way inside, updated versions of classic cocktails—think celery sidecars and Japanese-whiskey juleps—made our booze-seeking mission well worth it.

Seal-the-deal dinner: CAV

Photo: CAV

In a world of cookie-cutter restaurants from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, CAV stands in a class by itself. Bring a date to the vintage artifact-packed eatery—the vision of late owner Sylvia Moubayed—and split the definitive version of Rhode Island-style fried calamari.

Fresh seafood: Oberlin

You’re lucky your dinner still isn’t moving when you sit down to eat at Oberlin. The seafood crudo, homemade pasta, and whole fish added up to one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. If you don’t trust us, ask the food nerds over at Bon Appétit; they recently named Oberlin the seventh-best restaurant in America.

Late-night eats: North

Photo: north

Finding a place to enjoy a non-street-meat meal in Providence after 11pm isn’t easy. Enter North, an Asian-inspired spot located in the uber-trendy Dean Hotel that serves everything from raw oysters to sesame noodles to seafood ramen, up until midnight. 

Once refueled, check out Boombox just down the Dean’s hipster-packed hallway for some Japanese beer-fueled karaoke and end the night right.