My boyfriend was in Providence, Rhode Island, for a couple of weeks on business, and people kept telling him how up and coming the food scene was. I was skeptical, because everyone from everywhere loves to tell me how comparable to NYC their town’s food scene is, but Jack took me up there to find out for myself. There were two restaurants everyone seemed to be talking about in Providence, and one of them was North.
Honestly, despite the reviews, I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it. I wanted to fine dine, and this sounded like some hipster hole-in-the-wall with a teeny menu where nothing looked interesting and nothing sounded delicious. The only thing on the menu that resembled an entree was fried chicken for two, and I didn’t want to waste one of my meals on something I can find all over NYC. Even the ramen, which I usually crave, had clams in it that made it less appealing to me. I was sort of being a sadsack.
And then I loved it.
North totally was a hipster hole-in-the-wall. There was a bar where maybe four people could sit and then a smattering of tables that were a mishmash of built-in wooden booths and the kind of laminate tables and metal chairs you see in old pizzerias. And yet I found it totally charming. There was a sort of nautical theme, and the way-too-cool servers were also really friendly and chatty. When I accidentally left the lens cap for my camera behind at the table, they were holding it behind the bar for me and seemed so relieved when I returned for it five minutes later. The witty drink menu pretty much sums up the place.
red wine & Coca-Cola
Damn. Delicious. Who knew.
frozen drink of the day
I forget what they had concocted the night we went, but it was being mixed up in one of those machines you see in gas stations up by the bar. Apparently the drink changes on a daily basis and is always the thing to get.
tiny ham biscuits: surryano ham, lemon garlic mustard
Tiny but powerful. I love a biscuit, and I thought it was cool that they were using a Virgina ham rather than an Italian or Spanish one. But it was the mustard that really had all the flavor.
early autumn ramen: clams, miso, egg, wakame, pork broth
So deliciously porky, and I actually thought the chew of the clams added to the bowl! The broth was heavy with miso and so flavorful.
almost boneless fried chicken: everything bread, herb salad, grapefruit chimi
Everything about this dish was my dream.
1) Most of the pieces were chicken breast that they had wrapped chicken sausage around, just like the duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar here in NYC. And then they were deep-fried. So there was this perfect white meat chunk in the center of every slice, then the more flavorful sausage, then the crunchy crust.
2) A couple of the pieces were bone-in, though, so I got the best of both worlds.
3) There was a big pile of herbs to eat alongside the chicken.
4) There was also a huge spread of one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, everything bread.
I saw the “everything bread” on the menu in the description of the chicken, but it meant nothing to me. I actually thought there might be a word missing or something. Even though I live for the everything bagel. Even though one of the most memorable things I’ve eaten in NYC was the everything bagel ice cream at wd~50. Even though I have a jar of everything bagel spice in my spice cabinet. And this was actually even better than any everything bagel I’ve ever eaten. Because this was brioche from a local bakery, Foremost Baking Company, buttered and grilled so that it became a little crisp, with everything spices on the outside.
We were supposed to make little sandwiches with the bread and chicken, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I just kept eating the bread on its own and dying a little bit more with every bite. One of the most painful parts of existing in this world is the way the first bite of something is always the best bite, and every bite after is a little less exciting. This never got less exciting.
Jack surveys the end piece, which was clearly the crunchiest and best piece of chicken, and which I graciously let him have.
Okay, okay, the food scene in Providence is up and coming. Mostly because it reminds me of some of the best parts of the food scene in NYC. The next restaurant I went to in Providence actually reminded me of another David Chang restaurant I love, so apparently the restauranteurs of Rhode Island came to NYC one weekend, ate at all of the Momofukus, and then went back to open their new joints.
OH! OH! Stop the presses! I was actually just looking at North’s Tumblr, and it turns out that the cook and owner, James Mark, was at Momofuku Ko, my favourite of the Momofukus, when it first opened. And there’s a Momofuku Ko collaboration dinner being hosted at North next Monday as I type this. Hilarious.
And lucky for the people of Providence. This was the kind of meal you want to eat with all of your best friends, at a big table surrounded by mismatched chairs, with lots of Coke & red wine at the ready. The specifics of the dishes seem to change nightly, but the main ideas remain the same, and for good reason.
3 Luongo Memorial Square
Providence, RI 02903 (map)