Dining in RI
Eating out in Rhode Island offers a variety of choices to the hungry diner: fine dining, casual dining, family style dining, cafeteria dining and fast food. Restaurants are classified by the number of patrons they can accommodate, table service availability, atmosphere and pricing. It doesn’t matter what style you desire for your dining experience, you will find it in Rhode Island.
Historians document a “restaurant” as a location served by wait-staff who provide table service. This has come to be known as a sit-down restaurant and applies to fine dining, family dining and some casual dining establishments. Rhode Island has them all - from one end to the other. Some of these locations are well-known. Others have surfaced as the new-kid-on-the-block.
The Italian population is quite strong in this tiny state and that is reflected in the sheer number of restaurants serving Italian cuisine. Sit-down dining is the atmosphere of choice for those wishing to experience the essence of that which is Italian. Food! Rich or poor, immigrant or native, food is the expression of Italian hospitality.
However, Italian is not the only ethnic group serving food from the homeland. These populations are also represented: Asian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Jewish, Cuban, Irish, French, Brazilian along with the All-American dining experience. That is the short list!
It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night it is, there is an eatery open and ready to serve you.
There are restaurants that have become known far beyond state boundaries. These are referred to as destination restaurants. One such place is the White Horse Tavern. Built before 1673 in Newport, it is the oldest operating tavern in the United States. (401)849-3600. Although a colonial classic, it is now considered “top rack” classy and features a sumptuous menu. Dining here means that you dress to impress and let the restaurant do the rest. Whether romantic or formal, the White Horse Tavern is sure to be your destination of choice.
Another Newport destination spot is also located in Newport on Bannister’s Wharf. The Clarke Cooke House is an 18th century building where diners can experience an elegant and innovative cuisine. High above the yachts docked in the bay below is an area called The Porch for those who wish to dine in a romantic atmosphere. The Candy Store offers a casual dining area that is located at the level of the harbor. Finally, intimate cocktails are served up in The Sky Bar.
During the cold of winter, The Bistro fireplace warms this cozy area of leather and dark wood for your dining pleasure. Take a twirl on the dance floor in The Boom Boom Room. The Clarke Cooke House offers something for everyone. (401) 849-2900
What about that hunger that strikes when you’re busy in or around the Providence area? Let’s hope it does hit when you’re in Providence or 15 miles away in East Greenwich for two good reasons: Haven Brothers Diner and Jigger’s Diner. It is important to know that Rhode Island is the birthplace of the diner, America’s answer to the bistro or the pub. It sets us apart from the rest of the world.
Haven Brothers Diner has a reserved space at the foot of the Providence City Hall. The diner is deposited in its space at 4 p.m. and is open until 4 a.m. each day. This diner has been in the Haven family since it was built sometime during the 1930s.
Sal Guisti is the current owner. He purchased the diner in 1980. His son, Ivan, does the cooking. They specialize in tasty hot dogs and shakes. Over 1,000 burgers and hot dogs are served on a weekend evening. (401) 861-7777
Johnson & Wales University has an exhibit devoted just to diners and featuring a vintage Worcester Lunch Car Company diner in the process of being restored. When last used, it was know as the Ever Ready Diner. There is a little-known fact about Rhode Island dealing with those diners that are sprinkled throughout the state. At last count, there were 80 of them and 12 are in the style of the traditional railroad car. The rest are mobile, stick-built or trailers.
Jigger’s Diner is another Worcester Lunch Car Company diner located about 15 miles south of Providence in East Greenwich. It has a desired location on Main Street. Once inside, it is the mahogany trim that catches your eye as it decorates both the windowed side-wall and the ceiling. Each booth has slotted benches and antiqued coat hooks and are made of mahogany as well. (401) 884-5388
Up and Coming Restaurant
Bacaro Restaurant is as far from the diner experience as a visitor can get! This is the new-kid-on-the-block offering concept dining. Located in Providence, this is sure to become a destination spot in Rhode Island. The name is derived from the Venetian word for a wine bar, which is a place to gather, grab a bite to eat and wash it down with a glass of wine.
The Bacaro debuted in May of 2007 as a split concept dining experience. Brian Kingsford and Jennifer Matta offer everything Italian. They serve food as the customers prefer, either a heavy or a light fare. Grab a bite on the run or experience full service dining in this new arena called concept dining. (401) 751-3700
The main entrance sports a sign reading: Inside, the noise is deafening! When you see that sign, you know you have arrived at Wright’s Farm in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Wright’s is the biggest restaurant in the tiniest state and brags a reputation as the king of the “family-style chicken dinner.” (401) 769-2856
The Wright’s Farm crew proudly touts their tradition of serving “all chicken, all the time” to everyone. You will get the same dinner: salad, rolls, baked chicken, pasta with red sauce AND no limits on refills. Secretly, Wright’s Farm has succumbed to pressure to offer a varied menu selection. You could order a steak if you are so inclined. However, no refills allowed if you do make such an order.
1,400 visitors can be seated at any one time. It has been said that your wait time for seating will be longer than the time you spend eating. Boredom can be eased a bit with a visit to the gift shop which offers a wide variety of unique items for home, bath and garden as well as food: salad dressing, homemade fudge and a special pasta sauce.
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