Rhode Islanders love bragging about the state’s great food scene, which punches well above its weight for the smallest state in the union. The “official state appetizer,” Rhode Island-style calamari, even stole the show during the virtual roll call at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
The state’s capital city has a lot going for it culinarily: easy access to top-quality produce and seafood from nearby farms and waterways; a world-class culinary school in Johnson & Wales; and tons of quirky regional specialties like coffee milk, stuffies (stuffed clams), clam cakes, and Del’s Lemonade. Plus, rents on restaurant spaces tend to be cheaper than in nearby Boston, drawing talented chefs who want to venture into first-time ownership. Home to the Rhode Island School of Design and many working artists, Providence also has an indie, artsy feel to it, which has trickled into the ethos of many of its restaurants.
Update November, 2021:
Providence’s food scene was thriving before the pandemic wreaked havoc on restaurants, shutting down many kitchens for months in 2020 and others for good. In recent months, restaurateurs have had to deal with inflated prices for ingredients, staffing shortages, and supply chain disruptions. Despite the challenges, many owners have found ways to make it work by offering takeout (some for the first time) or setting up year-round outdoor tables on streets, sidewalks, and patios. Some businesses also now require a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination for indoor dining, so come prepared to dine.
Still, even a pandemic can’t suppress the city’s bubbling culinary energy and hometown pride, evident in every bite at Providence’s 33 best restaurants.
Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Jenna Pelletier is a Rhode Island-based writer and editor. A former food editor at Boston Magazine and a staff writer at the Providence Journal, Pelletier has also contributed to The Boston Globe, Food & Wine, and Time Out New York.Read More