PRIGuide

Where To Eat, Drink, & Stay In Providence

All the best restaurants, bars, and hotels in Rhode Island's capital.

There’s a popular, self-deprecating saying in the Ocean State that, “nobody leaves Rhode Island.” If you stick around long enough, the waitstaff, bartenders, and regulars will get to know your name. People even drive around with “Hi-Neighbor!” bumper stickers from Narragansett Brewery on their cars, a not-so-subtle nod at the fact that you can travel across the state in a mere hour (sans traffic). Literally everyone is your neighbor. 

It's not hard to see why people stick around. We have everything we need right here (great food, great beaches, a Dunkin’ on every corner), and the capital city of Providence is no exception. Restaurants serve up fresh seafood, red sauce Italian, locally-made kielbasa, grinders loaded with pepperoncini, stuffed bánh mì, and more. Providence is also the birthplace of grilled pizza and home to some true food oddities like hot wieners “all the way”: rusty red hot franks served with mustard, meat sauce, celery seeds, and chopped onions.

In this guide, you’ll find our recommendations for some of the best restaurants and bars that Providence has to offer, and a few hotels, too. With something for everyone, who knows, maybe you’ll never leave Rhode Island.

NEW-ISH & BUZZY RESTAURANTS

photo credit: Grace Kelly

Bonanno Vinicola review image

Bonanno Vinicola

$$$$(401) 272-8466
Hours:FRI
4PM-2AM

Federal Hill is where you’ll find most of Providence’s red sauce Italian spots, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter, head to Bonnano Vinicola. Expect spritzes, Sicilian wines (some from women-owned producers), and regional specialties like octopus salami, mozzarella di bufalo, and smoky cured bonito tuna. You’ll probably be served by Max or Luigi, who will encourage you to try their experimental limoncellos and push tiny cups of espresso onto your table. Oh, and order dessert: it’s sourced from Scialo’s, the 106-year-old Italian bakery across the street. They make a Sicilian cannoli that might make you weep tears of joy with each slightly sweet, orange-tinted ricotta-filled bite.


This College Hill bar isn’t as crowded and chaotic as somewhere in Seville or Granada, but Palo still does the tapas tradition justice. You won’t need to order much more than the tabla combinado (a plate of meats and cheeses) and a few other snacky things, like anchovies with guindilla and piquillo peppers, to feel full. And the cozy, pub-like interior is a great place to nurse a spritzy Rebujito with manzanilla sherry, cucumber tonic, and mint, or, if you’re feeling bold, an Industria that combines fernet, chartreuse, vermut rojo, and lemon.


Oberlin is the place to take your artsy friends from New York when you want to show them that Providence is chic and has good food, too. It’s tucked away in the heart of downtown with an attentive waitstaff that’s happy to help if you’re stuck between dishes or don’t know which sake to order. Sit at the bar if dining solo, or grab a table outside when it’s nice out and order a little bit of everything, including some rotating crudos or any other seafood plates. Don’t miss the creamy salt cod brandade with herbs and grilled house-made country bread.

SPECIAL OCCASION SPOTS

Fancy multi-course dinner spots are few and far between in Providence, but if you’re looking for a reason to throw down lots of cash for some stunning dishes, Gracie’s is the place to do it. It’s the kind of restaurant where a dish of Massachusetts sea scallops is followed by a string of ingredients that float on their own line (“celeriac, poached apple, caper salsa verde, toasted hazelnut”). Gracie’s is also smackdab in the middle of the theater district, making it a great start to a slightly less expensive Broadway-esque “dinner and a show” type of evening.


This waterfront institution is renowned for its grilled pizza—which makes sense since the owners arguably invented it back in the ‘80s. It also happens to be one of Ina Garten’s favorite restaurants, which for us is reason enough to have a meal here. Unsurprisingly though, Ina knows what she’s talking about: while any pizza on the menu is a good choice, we like the mortadella-topped version that’s crispy, slightly charred, and comes draped with the creamy pink cold cuts. Order a side of fried buffalo mozzarella with salami, a bold glass of red, and try not to get any sauce on the white tablecloths.

WHERE TO GET A CASUAL MEAL

Chilangos is a cozy cantina that’s been around for more than 20 years, and it’s the kind of restaurant where the owners always greet you at the door, making it a great place for a relaxing dinner after a long, active day. If it’s nice out, grab a patio table and order a margarita and some verduras en escabeche to start before digging into the cochinita pibil roasted in banana leaves or a gooey quesadilla with hibiscus.


With a tap list chock-full of local beers and pothos dangling from the rafters, Bayberry is a modern beer hall that’s lowkey enough for a quiet Thursday evening, but also ramps up for a real Friday night out. Order a frothy pilsner (or anything else on tap), a house-made pretzel with beer cheese, and an IPA-hot sauce fried chicken sandwich with sweet pickles. If you don’t want to share one of the community tables, booking a reservation might get you a cozy nook.


If you want the best polenta and meatballs in the state, go on a short drive outside the city to Mike’s. It’s a cash-only, cafeteria-style spot inside a Veteran of Foreign Wars outpost where you’ll probably hear lots of tales about “the old days” and a cacophony of Rhode Island accents. You might also make a few friends who’ll give you more tips on what to do while you’re in town (and maybe even tell you where the non-touristy beaches are). But the best part about Mike’s is the polenta: a custardy, creamy square topped with gravy (a.k.a red sauce) and a big meatball or Italian sausage. The fried smelts with pickled peppers are also worth ordering.


FOR A QUICK BREAKFAST OR LUNCH

Tallulah’s has long been one of the best places in town to grab a burrito. The glossy tortillas are packed tight with beans, rice, and tender meat (or papas, if you want to go meatless). The same goes for the tacos or tortas, both of which are stuffed, completely messy, and really good. While you could take your order to go for a picnic at nearby India Point Park, they do have limited outdoor seating during warmer months where you can drink some house margaritas or agua frescas.


When you’re looking for a quick bánh mì for lunch (or to bring to nearby Roger Williams Park for a picnic), head to cash-only spot Asian Bakery. The light, crispy-but-chewy house bread that bookends the Vietnamese sandwich is worth the crumbfest, and all the filling options are great, though we are partial to the sticky sweet barbecue pork. Specials like brisket bánh mì pop up here and there, so keep an eye on the chef's Instagram to stay in the know.


We love pepperoncini. Sandwich Hut loves pepperoncini. Therefore, we love Sandwich Hut. This spot in Hope is one of the best places in Providence to get an Italian sub. Our favorite, the Allitalia, comes stacked with prosciutto, capocollo (a.k.a. gabagool), pepperoni, and, of course, a whole bunch of crinkly neon-green pepperoncini. It’s a takeout joint, so accept the fact that you might get oil and crumbs all over you as you house that thing during a scenic afternoon walk on nearby Blackstone Boulevard.


There’s recently been a surplus of local pop-ups serving hot dogs topped with things like chili cheese, ranch Doritos, marshmallow fluff, and even glitter. But the original wiener joint in the state is Olneyville New York System, which has been making bright red wieners (don’t call them hot dogs) smeared with yellow mustard, topped with meat sauce, celery salt, and chopped onions, and served up in a warm bun since 1946. Order a few “all the way” and get a glass of coffee milk (pronounced “caw-fee”) while you’re at it. It’s a uniquely Rhode Island combination that you need to try at least once.


Seven Stars is the perfect place for a pastry, a cuppa, a shot of espresso, or a custardy quiche snack before (or after) a day of exploring the city. The quiche is worth getting your hands on (if you see it, order immediately since they sell out fast), as are the kouign amann, and the cheddar biscuits. And, if you’re feeling all Parisian in Providence, grab a loaf of their house-made bread: they bake up dark French rye boules, olive-studded batards, chewy sourdough sandwich loaves, and crunchy baguettes that all make for great picnic carbs.


This breezy cafe located near Brown University serves up ethically-sourced teas from across Asia, in addition to cocktails, natural wine, fun iced and hot drink creations, and snacks. The best way to experience the breadth and depth of their teas is to take part in a tea ceremony. This requires a special reservation that gets you an intimate tasting experience led by a tea apprentice that's also a great way to take a calming break from the swarms of other tourists visiting Thayer Street and Brown. But if you’re just looking to switch up your morning caffeine routine, you can still stop by and order a cup of tea, or perhaps an iced strawberry matcha latte with a giant gummy bear.

THE BEST BARS

If you think vodka is the worst spirit, you haven’t been to ISCO yet. The urban distillery’s version, made with corn from upstate New York, is smooth and balanced, without the typical burn that’s associated with vodka. They’ve changed our minds if that counts for anything. If you’re adventurous and like dirty martinis, check out their Ostreida vodka, brewed with local oysters. For folks who don’t want a drink that tastes like the ocean, the bar also has a rotating list of sweet, boozy, bitter, and frozen cocktails. Whatever you choose, soak up the urban factory setting at a fire pit on the patio, and maybe even order a pizza from Lost Valley Pizza just across the street.


Fortnight is a worker’s cooperative wine bar that boasts a big selection of organic and unusual wines: think rare moristel cavas, wide-ranging pet-nats, and modern sherries. And while it’s a wine bar, the moody lighting and chalk-scrawled lists mean it never feels pretentious. Order some snacks while you’re there, like tinned fish and pickles, a bowl of olives, or some slabs of crusty bread, or stop by for one of their food pop-ups. It’s also located literally steps away from the Providence Performing Art Center, making it a great choice for a pre- or post-show glass of wine.


With velvet stools and curtains and a dark walnut wood interior (hence the name), the Walnut Room is a great place to nurse a cocktail after reading too much news or Albert Camus. It’s also a great place to get a cocktail and some bar snacks, period—after a long day walking around the city, browsing the art at the nearby RISD Museum, or just because you want something to drink. We recommend any of the drinks made with pistachio liqueur, which adds a nutty, orgeat-esque sweetness that you can’t quite put your finger on (in a good way). They do have some outdoor seating, though it’s usually taken by a bunch of Brown University professors or Rhode Island School of Design students. 

THE HOTELS

photo credit: Christian Harder

undefined imageoverride image

The Dean

Want to pretend you’re at boarding school minus the teachers, classes, and shower that only runs hot or frigid? Welcome to The Dean, a boutique hotel housed in a tall, old brick building that makes you almost feel like you’re in 1800s Providence. Choose from an array of rooms, some featuring bunk beds, some with rain showers, and most with oil paintings of mustachioed old men. The Dean is also great because there’s so much to do in the building: walk downstairs for some caffeine at Bolt Coffee, go down the hall for a drink at the Dean bar, or take a turn around the building to sing a few songs at the Boombox karaoke bar. The hotel is also in the heart of downtown, meaning most activities, shows, and restaurants are within walking distance.


photo credit: Christian Horan

undefined imageoverride image

Graduate Providence

The Graduate Providence hotel (formerly the Providence Biltmore), has all the trappings of 1922 Beaux Arts excess (pointy art deco metalwork, red carpet, giant chandeliers, marble everywhere) but with modern amenities like warm showers and air conditioning. The hotel has survived hurricanes, years of abandonment, and even rumors of the ghosts of past guests haunting its halls (though you’re unlikely to encounter any spirits, unless you’re walking around with an EMF sensor). Today, it’s an iconic landmark (and luxurious place to stay) in the heart of downtown PVD.


photo credit: Nat Rea

undefined imageoverride image

Dye House

Do you love hearing the words “thoughtfully curated”? Does local art hung on bare walls make you feel alive? Well, the Dye House boutique hotel is probably for you. Located in Olneyville, it’s steps away from an Olneyville New York System location, and a quick ten-minute drive from the artsy West End district (and the Colombus Theatre, which hosts great musical acts). It’s also a five-minute drive to the farmers market on Sims Avenue, and since some rooms have kitchenettes, you can easily store whatever you pick up. The rooms are bright and airy with white walls, mid-century and Shaker-inspired furniture, pops of colorful fabric, and large windows that let the sun wash in.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

.
Where To Eat & Stay In Nashville guide image
Guide
Where To Eat & Stay In Nashville

Our 31 favorite restaurants and hotels in Nashville.

Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME guide image
Guide
Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME

The best places to eat. Plus, where to stay.

Where To Eat Down The Shore: Atlantic City To Cape May guide image
Guide
Where To Eat Down The Shore: Atlantic City To Cape May

The 40 best restaurants along the southern Jersey Shore.