The crew at Seven Stars Bakery. [Photo by Richard McCaffrey]
BEST APPIE HOUR: HARRY’S BAR & BURGER
121 North Main St, Providence | 401.228.7437 | harrysbarburger.com | In 2012 when Providence was proclaimed the “No. 1 burger city” in a Travel + Leisure readers’ poll, Harry’s was the example provided. We’re hip to the beef sliders, but our present praise is for its daily special from 3 to 5 pm. Burgers are half-price and you can wash down those Sloppy Harry Chili Fries with a Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat beer or discover your own combination.
BEST BAGELS: BAGEL GOURMET
250 Brook St, Providence | 401.453.5560 + 288 Thayer St, Providence | 401.331.1311 + 222 Richmond St, Providence | 401.454.8000 | bagelgourmetcafe.com | Their offerings are boiled and then baked, so close your eyes and you might as will be in munching in Brooklyn. Maybe a classic poppy seed with a schmeer of chive cheese under lox. And if you’re up for more than a little nosh, they also serve Mexican food, from breakfast burritos to chicken or steak fajitas. ¡Oy carumba!
BEST BAKERY: SEVEN STARS BAKERY
820 Hope St, Providence + 342 Broadway, Providence | 20 Newman Ave, East Providence | sevenstarsbakery.com | When Lynn and Jim Williams opened their doors in 2001, they had no idea that their output would become so popular, needing more than 60 employees for their shops and to stock markets around the state. The bread is baked fresh daily, of course. Not so taken for granted is having both Kalamata and Moroccan oil-cured morsels in the olive bread. Ahh, that extra touch.
BEST BAR: THE AVERY
18 Luongo Memorial Sq, Providence | 401.751.5920 | averyprovidence.com | First-time visitors are struck with quite a lovely eyeful: the warm, sensual Art Deco décor of designers Kyla Coburn and Andy Trench, with the Providence skyline competing with reclining nudes. And, oh yeah, the drinks are an attraction too — craft beers, good wines, and interesting cocktails. Proprietor John “J.R” Richard has created an intimate, convivial place to meet, chat, and relax.
BEST BAR, BEER GEEK: DOHERTY’S ALE HOUSE
30 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick | 401.270.9800 | dohertysalehouse.com | You can’t argue with the numbers: at press time, Doherty’s Ale House had a jaw-dropping 121 beers on tap. That’s a lot to geek out on, from Maine Beer Company’s Weez to Ithaca’s Ground Break to He’Brew’s Rejewvenator to Southern Tier’s Goat Boy. And we have some breaking news that will make The Best even better: beer flights will soon be available, so you can (responsibly) sample more of those jaw-dropping offerings in one sitting. The multi-sipping options will enhance the ambitious menu, which reaches beyond the typical pub fare. Cheers!
BEST BAR, COCKTAILS: THE EDDY
95 Eddy St, Providence | 401.831.3339 | eddybar.com | Friendly bartenders, interesting drinks — what more could an after-work winding-down need? The cocktails are fine-tuned to impress the most knowledgeable connoisseur. Take the one called El Coche, with El Buho Mezcal for a smoky start, then Zucca Rababaro Amaro for some herbal oomph, a splash of Molé Bitters to cut the sweetness of the Cherry Heering and the Vya Vermouth, and an orange peel for accent. Bottoms up.
BEST BAR, DIVE: NICK-A-NEE’S
75 South St, Providence | 401.861.7290 | In the 1880s, the term “dive bar” denoted an illegal drinking/merrymaking place. In 1961, Webster’s defined a dive as “a disreputable resort for drinking or entertainment.” But these days, it’s a term of affection for a place that is bereft of pretension, a cool place to hang for a crew of devoted regulars, with cheap drinks, a pool table, two jukeboxes, an outside patio — yeah, we just described Nick-a-Nee’s. Add music on weekends (Paul Geremia, Mark Cutler, and in the rotation), plus the House Combo on Monday and the Bluegrass Throedown on Wednesday, and you have a real cool place to hang. Dive in, why don’tcha?
BEST BAR, FANCY: THE DORRANCE
60 Dorrance St, Providence | 401.521.6000 | thedorrance.com | Pretty snazzy digs. High ceilings, tastefully decorated, lots of tall windows to let light flood in. It used to be a Federal Reserve Bank, so this is probably the best place in town to drown your sorrows during the economic downturn. The bar here is the centerpiece of the place, with scores of bottles multiplied in mirrors. Have something expensive.
BEST BAR, GAY: THE STABLE
125 Washington St, Providence | 401.272.6950 | facebook.com/TheStableProvidence | The Stable has been a favorite destination since 1993. The space is cool and inviting, the vibe is lively and engaging, the location is ultra-central, and the drinks help it to win this category year after year. The bartenders are attentive master mixologists, and the prices won’t empty your wallet. And the sangria is a savory staple here. Grab a glass, head to the patio, and salute the Stable!
BEST BAR, SPORTS: PICASSO’S PIZZA & PUB
2323 Warwick Ave, Warwick | 401.739.5030 | picassosrocks.com | Picasso’s Pizza and Pub is much more than blaring hi-defs and attentive waitresses. Their pizza and wings are better than most, and their Cattleman and Picasso calzones are to die for. And yeah, the TVs are pretty slick too: there’s a few massive plasmas above the bar, plus smaller LCDs at each wall-side table. They also have video games, Texas Hold ’Em nights, NTN Trivia, and pool tables (in the adjoining tobacco bar, Retro). Whether you’re catching a game or just grabbing a pie, this is the place to be.
BEST BARBECUE: RICK’S ROADHOUSE
370 Richmond St, Providence | 401.272.7675 | ricksroadhouseri.com | Some day you might come back for their fajitas, steak, or mahi-mahi, but on your first visit you’ve probably come for the BBQ. Beef brisket, baby back ribs, chicken, pulled pork — all pit-smoked slowly over hickory and applewood coals. You might want to start off with their smoked-chicken Texas egg rolls or maybe the slow-simmered firehouse chili. The Caesar salad can wait.
BEST BREWERY: REVIVAL BREWING
facebook.com/pages/Revival-Brewing-Company/144546355630452 | The battle for Best Brewery is tougher than ever. A few years ago, we didn’t have five breweries to fill the Best ballot slots; now there are a dozen contenders, with even more on tap for ’14. There’s a lot of great local brews, and Revival grabbed top honors for the third consecutive year. They pride themselves on “making beers the way they should be made — bold, furious, and full of passion.” Burnsider Pale Ale and Mercy Brown Imperial Brown Ale have joined the go-tos Double Black IPA and Zeppelin Hefeweizen. Look for them statewide (and in MA) and enjoy the local flavor.
BEST BREWPUB: TRINITY BREWHOUSE
186 Fountain St, Providence | 401.453.2337 | trinitybrewhouse.com | Trinity Brewhouse has won the Best Brewpub category for all 17 years that we’ve been Besting. In honor of their repeat wins, we’re going to repeat the blurb we ran for them last year (like Trinity, it’s The Best we’ve done): Best brew fare, check (here’s the list we consulted near deadline: Kolsch, Tommy’s Red, Rhode Island IPA, To Helles Und Bock, Providence Pilsner, Larkin’s Irish Stout, Chocolate Wheat, Hefeweizen, Redrum Imperial Red. Best pub fare, check: chili, nachos, wings, double loaded ravioli, 12” rustic pizzas, burgers, pulled pork, jerk chicken, and entrees. Brew + chew = The Best of both worlds.
BEST BRUNCH: JULIAN’S
318 Broadway, Providence | 401.861.1770 | juliansprovidence.com | You know a place is serious when it has a smoker on wheels to haul around and cater pig roasts. But the restaurant is also popular for its extensive selections at brunch. The Shakshuka is two eggs poached in a spicy tomato stew; the Desperado eggs Benedict has avocado and salsa. There are 10 kinds of hash, from sweet potato to mushroom/boursin. Nice choices.
BEST BUFFALO WINGS: BONEHEADS WING BAR
131 Washington St, West Warwick | 401.828.9464 | boneheadwings.com | Boneheads Wing Bar takes the crown in its first year on the RI dining scene. The main attraction is the “Boneboard” list, styled like a Billboard Top 100 chart, featuring more than 40 in-house sauces (and 20-plus dry rubs, also great on the fries). Mind-blowing flavor combos include peanut butter and jelly (“Pump Up the Jam”), cranberry-habañero (“Zombie”), and an addictive maple-and-candied bacon sauce called “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But straight-up buffalo wing purists will flock for the wide range of spicy sauces: grab a stack of napkins and go for the blinding, Ghost Pepper-laced “Hell’s Bells.” Hurts so good!
BEST BURGERS: CRAZY BURGER
144 Boon St, Narragansett | 401.783.1810 | crazyburger.com | Perusing the menu, it’s easy to not get burgers, because there are so many other distractions, from quesadillas to baked brie, risotto to mahi-mahi. But the burgers range from virtuously vegan, like the roasted tempeh Poco Loco, through the non-beef meat, like the Baa-Baa Burger, to the wildly imaginative, such as the Whassupy, whose ground beef is pumped up with a sesame-fennel-wasabi spice rub.
BEST BURRITOS: CILANTRO MEXICAN GRILL
Seven locations in Cranston, Warwick, Providence, Rumford, Coventry, Newport, and North Providence | cilantromex.com | Copious choices separate this place from the run-of-the-taco Mexican eatery. Want your tortilla smoked pepper, spinach, or tomato basil? Want your chicken grilled adobo or spicy curry? Or maybe you prefer pork carnitas or steak? From there the fillings are endless. Sweet corn mango salsa? White or brown cilantro and lime rice? Black beans or pinto? Not for the undecided.