Rhode Island’s Best Restaurants of 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Whole Animal Heaven:
This year the focus of most of the top chefs in the state was not only using locally raised meats and fish and poultry, but being responsible for the whole animal and introducing the adventurous to new and exciting food. You need to look no further than chef Derek Wagner at Nick’s on Broadway for an example of a local chef using the “snout to tail” cooking philosophy. A recent weekend saw chef Wagner offering two orders of ½ roasted pig head…he had gotten in a whole hog and had two halves, you see. Another chef using the odd-bits is Beau Vestal at New Rivers. Chef Vestal uses his charcuterie menu to bring parts such as pork cheeks and rooster combs to his dining room to great success. Over at La Laiterie, Chef Matt Jennings makes his own bacon and will use things like lamb’s neck to make sure that nothing is wasted on these beautiful, farm-raised animals. Nick’s on Broadway, 500 Broadway, Providence, 421-0286, www.nicksonbroadway.com New Rivers, 7 Steeple St. Providence, 751-9669, www.newriversrestaurant.com La Laiterie, 188 Wayland Ave. Providence, 274-7177, www.farmsteadinc.com
Mobile Food Frenzy:
One of the best restaurants this year wasn’t a restaurant at all. The local food truck and cart movement continued to grow at an astounding rate with events such as the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Food Truck Tuesday getting the word out to the public. Dynamic chefs like Jake Rojas and Matt Genuso made use of every free second to bring us great lunch options from their dinner-only restaurants, Tallulah on Thames in Newport and Chez Pascal on Hope in Providence, with Jake’s Tallulah’s Tacos and chef Genuso’s Hewtin’s Dog Mobile. Heck, Rhode Island even has multiple, mobile wood fired pizza makers working at local farmers markets to bring individual, artisan pizza to the masses. Mama Kim’s Korean BBQ has made us twitter hawks for their daily menu of all things Korean and tasty. All of these chefs are using fresh, locally raised ingredients to produce the ultimate fast food. Follow all on twitter @chezpascal, @tallulahstacos, @mamakimskbbq for locations and menus.
2011 was a good year for the Rhode Island cocktail lover as the number of places for inventive libations has never been higher. In the capital city, Cook and Brown Public House began a movement away from sickly-sweet drinks to fresh, inventive cocktails that often play off classic drinks of the past and pair with the inventive cuisine coming from the kitchen. Another proponent of this philosophy is Perro Salado, in Newport. Perro is our go-to spot for craft margaritas. Blood Orange, spicy cucumber and cilantro-jalapeño are just a few of our faves. The fall saw the re-birth of the Federal Reserve Bank building in Providence with The Dorrance, a perfect mix--pun intended--of classic drinks and new age technology. Want the classic James Bond Martini? Try it in a CO-2 charged drink mixer for the perfect bubbles. Or sit back and enjoy the creative food of Chef Ben Sukle in one of the most breathtaking dining rooms you’ll ever see. Cook and Brown Public House, 959 Hope St. Providence, 273-7275, www.cookandbrown.com Perro Salado, 19 Charles St. Newport, 619-4777, www.perrosalado.com The Dorrance, 60 Dorrance St. Providence, 521-6000.
This year we loved the resurgence of “cult restaurants” on the Rhode Island food scene. You can’t eat “five star” every night and these are the places that make us drive out on cold winter night when nothing else will do. We were introduced to The Beef Barn back in the early 90’s and make a couple of pilgrimages a year. Well, our humble little roast beef spot has hit the big time with two of the states’ best chefs, Jake Rojas and Matt Jennings, tweeting their love of the Beef Barn and it’s old-school charm and tasty beef. Another one of our cravings is the authentic Mexican food being produced in Olneyville at Chilangos. Without fail we find ourselves here a couple of times a month for the Villa Burrito. This tour de force is enough for a couple of meals…or one big craving. When we used to live on the East Side, we used to do our shopping at the old Shaw’s, off North Main, near the Pawtucket line. Well the Shaw’s is gone but we still find ourselves in that plaza when we’re craving good Pho. Pho Horns is that great little hidden spot featuring delicious Vietnamese soup with rice noodles. The Beef Barn, 4 Greenville Rd. North Smithfield, 762-9880, www.thebeefbarn.com Chilangos, 447 Manton Ave. Providence, 383-4877, Pho Horns, 50 Ann Mary St. #403, Providence, 365-6278, www.phohorns.com
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Top photo: David Dadekian Photography
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