Visiting Rhode Island: The Ocean State Travel Guide
The best part of living in a new-to-you state (or country) is playing tourist. When I would tell my new friends, all lifelong Rhode Island natives, about a new restaurant I tried or a new location I visited, and it was one they hadn't tried or visited, I knew I was doing it right. I moved to Rhode Island in 2012 after graduating university to start my career as a teacher, and toured the heck out of it until our move abroad this past summer. I still can't believe I'm no longer in the little state that so greatly shaped my life, but now, almost half a year removed and well into (arguably) the best season to visit, I thought it was time to share my guide to touring the ocean state!
While there are certainly more touristy things to eat, drink, see, and do, I'm sticking to the ones I enjoyed time and time again as a local.
Anthony's Seafood (photographed above): There are plenty of seafood options down in Newport, but I rarely, if ever, strayed from Anthony's Seafood. Half market, half dine-in, this is a casual and relatively inexpensive establishment where the food is so fresh that you can't go wrong with any item on the menu (my friends and family never did--I brought everyone who visited). A and I would always split a lobster roll (market price ~$22) and the fresh oysters and clams.
Elephant Tea Room: The service is lackluster, but they serve a huevos rancheros crepe. I repeat, they serve a huevos rancheros crepe. Choose a savory or sweet crepe (or both) and then from their grand selection of exotic and rich teas. Located in the charming Pawtuxet Village in Cranston (where I lived for two years), this is a good spot for the brunch lover.
Caffe Bon Ami: An option for the early birds as, if I'm remembering correctly, they're only open from 6am or so until 1pm. The breakfast items are tasty, but you must get the Big Train chai latte. Oh my damn. Don't forget to bring cash!
Marchetti's: I'm a big eater and I can easily make four dinner portions from one dish at this Italian family-style restaurant. What the host and hostess lack in hospitality, the servers and food make up for in service and goodness. The fettuccini alfredo here is the best I've ever had, and the lobster rav and pink vodka sauce are equally delicious.
Ichiban: This is the last of the Cranston eateries, but not the least. They cut the best sushi (that we found in Rhode Island). We didn't go for the rolls, but rather the nigiri and sashimi.
West End (Providence)
Hudson Street Deli: In the West End of Providence is the Hudson Street Deli, where the lunch rush is such a rush that they have to disconnect the phone line. A colleague and good friend of mine and I would go here for quick lunch breaks on our students' internship days and split The Armory, the most glorious roast beef sandwich. A and I actually split one on our moving day on the floor of our loft, our last meal in Providence.
Mount Pleasant (Providence)
Chilango's: One of my two favorite Mexican restaurants, located in the Mount Pleasant area of Providence. They're closed on Wednesdays, which was devastating news for us one time when we drove over in the rain. My personal favorites are the nachos, the enchiladas verdes, and of course, the apple soda, but don't get me started on the complimentary salsa!
Pastiche: Behind the central fountain in the infamous Federal Hill (look for the upside-down pineapple) is this bakery which serves (other delectable desserts, but mostly) the greatest fruit tart in the world. My friends visited not for me, but for the fruit tart, and I was okay with that.
Seven Stars Bakery: There are multiple locations throughout the state, but we tended to frequent the one in Federal Hill. The vegetarian sandwich, the roast beef sandwich, the chocolate almond croissant (a dangerous habit). Yaas.
North Bakery: Trust me on the Dan Dan handpie.
Julian's: A and I went here on one of our first dates and didn't return until our last few months in the state, when we went for brunch every other weekend. I'd order a savory breakfast platter and the pancakes. The pancakes!
Napolitano's: The closest thing to New York-style pizza I found in little Rhody. You'll know it by the Brooklyn lights sign. Every pie we tried was good, but our favorites were The Boardwalk and The Verrazano (our Friday night takeout order).
Rogue Island: A gastropub with locally sourced ingredients, Rogue Island is located in one of my favorite buildings in Providence, The Arcade. I remember the banh mi, mac and cheese, and poutine vividly (and am salivating).
Sura: Our favorite Korean restaurant, mostly for the kimchi pajun (pancake), though their sushi rolls are quite good.
The East Side of Providence
Yan's: Though poorly rated on Yelp, I loved Yan's. We always started with the crab rangoon (which is saying something as I don't like fried food, crab, or cream cheese), usually split a mapo tofu, and I'd devour a noodle soup. Sometimes, we'd stop by just so I could pick up a Jasmine milk tea, which tastes like soap bubbles (which is my sort of thing).
Duck & Bunny: Near Yan's, in the Fox Point area, is the Duck & Bunny. A cute pink house that is so New England. I don't know what's the cutest--the exterior, the interior, or the outdoor seating, which I discovered at the tail-end of our time in Rhode Island, when a couple of my girlfriends were in town to visit. Sure, the blasé staff contrast with the almost precious atmosphere, but you get over it. The truffled pomme frites are a must, as well as a cupcake or two (I recommend the seasonal honey lavender or the mocha espresso). I don't and can't drink, but in the fall, I wouldn't say no to a sip of their mulled wine.
Apsara Palace: There are two locations, this is the one on Hope Street. The nime chow. The pad thai. The drunken noodles. The Thai iced tea. Done.
Pho Horn's: Located in a strip mall so close to the border it might as well be in Providence, I've never had pho like the pho at Pho Horn's. You'll want to lap up the broth even when you're bursting-at-the-seams full.
La Casona: CF gets a bad rep, but it's where I taught my first three years in Rhode Island, so I have a lot of love for the square-mile city. La Casona serves Colombian-style food and my favorite Colombiana soda. The empanadas and tequila shrimp were my jam.
Taqueria Lupita: The second of my two favorite Mexican restaurants, this one serves an unreal guacamole and fresh mango juice.
Del's: for frozen lemonade (stop at the sign of the lemon). There are several flavors, but the original lemon, both tart and sweet, is most refreshing on a day at the beach.
Fully Rooted: my favorite ever cold-pressed juicery, one of the things I miss most about New England. You can find them at the local farmers markets and now at their new storefront in Pawtucket. Grab a Watermelon Slice in the summer and an Apple Pie in the fall.
Long Live Beerworks: A recommends this Federal Hill spot as a cool atmosphere for beers with friends or to chat with the owner, who studied brewing in Europe, before grabbing a growler to go.
The Eddy: an intimate spot in downtown Providence, more affordable than the surrounding fine dining spots, with good tapas and cocktails.
The Dorrance: we mostly recommend this for the atmosphere. The building originally housed the Union Trust Bank, built in 1901, and still maintains some of its elements as decor.
to do and see
WaterFire is a strange thing Rhode Island does--at the heart of downtown Providence is a river that is lit up (actually set on fire) through a performance--to be honest, but definitely an experience if you're visiting on a weekend in the summertime. Also downtown, you could take a stroll on Westminster Street (probably my favorite street), visit The Arcade (here and here), shop around Providence Place, or tour the State House (I've attended several field trips there and could give you a tour myself).
Uphill on the East Side (here, here, here, here, and here) you can enjoy the view at Prospect Park, a strip that overlooks the city, admire the charming houses and properties, pretend you're Belle in the Athenaeum, visit Brown or RISD, ride through one of the bike paths (the Blackstone River and the East Bay bike paths are our favorites), or stop by the Hope Street farmers market in the spring and summer months.
Down south, Newport's beaches are an obvious choice, as are the mansions (see Marble House, The Elms and here, Rosecliff, The Breakers, and The Green Animals Topiary Garden). My favorite part is the Cliff Walk, which lines the backs of the famous Newport properties. The downtown area is ideal for shopping and aimless wandering.