You Take the High Road, I’ll Take the Slow Rhode

“You have to try the duck confit,” my friend told me the moment after she informed me there was a new restaurant beside Long Live Brewery, the latest addition to the West Side. She described the restaurant — Slow Rhode — as a tapas-kind-of place, and the hippest spot in her neighborhood.

“So, it’s good?” I asked.

A slow and silent nod confirmed her recommendation, so I made plans to go there as soon as possible.

I learned that Slow Rhode is related, by owners, to the Broadway Bistro, another exceptional dinner option on the West End of Providence. Unlike the bistro, Slow Rhode is inspired by southern favorites, offering a range of small dishes with a couple of larger plates, falling in line with the latest trend of tapas-style restaurants. Essentially, these are flavorful dishes that are meant to be shared. So, I invited a fellow food-lover, and we investigated this spot on a snowy Saturday night.

The restaurant is small and industrial, like a converted storage unit turned into a speakeasy — seemingly hidden even though it’s out in the open. We arrived at 8:30pm, and inside was dark and bustling, a party in an otherwise quiet neighborhood, like a hideout for people in-the-know. We pulled into the parking lot (there’s a parking lot!) and hesitantly walked in.

We were greeted by a woman who was multitasking but very welcoming, and she directed us to the only open seats in the restaurant: two chairs at the corner of the bar. It was the perfect spot. The interior was dimly lit, reminding me of The Eddy, with a few canvas paintings as decoration. The table seating is found along the wall opposite the bar, intimately orchestrated into cubbies. Above that on the wall are giant red wooden letters spelling, “The Slow Rhode,” a stark contrast to the white background. I immediately loved the vibe here.

The menu is small, literally, four inches tall, with a beer and wine list on one side, and cocktails and food on the other. The bartender maneuvered cocktail after beer after cocktail, and despite the small list, it took me 10 minutes to decide what I wanted to drink. Even the tequila drink looked intriguing, and I hate tequila. When I posed my options to the bartender — vodka, gin, or bourbon — she told me, “I love the bourbon,” and boom, done. With crystalized ginger and some bitters, it was the perfect drink for a winter’s night.

My friend ordered a draught with the longest name, Cape Anne Fisherman’s Brew Amber, and as a fan of beers that aren’t dark, he said it hit the spot. I’m not a beer drinker, but I loved the beer glasses, which were uniquely shaped and classier than the typical pint. We toasted and dissolved into our drinks.

Then the food: Jeremy and I started with our own orders of “toast” (like crostini); he ordered the avocado and bacon, and I got the marinated oyster mushrooms with sheep milk cheese. There was an unexpected tanginess from the marinated mushrooms (think: pickled), but the combination worked well. I love the smoothness of sheep’s cheese, which is an underutilized ingredient in America, so I appreciated its presence on the menu.

For a “veg” dish, we tried the roasted cauliflower, beet hummus, butternut squash and poppy seeds. I would eat this every day. It’s simple yet complex: How does one make beet humus? It had the taste of chickpeas but sweeter, and it was, of course, red. Jeremy, who was excited for neither beets nor cauliflower, said it was the surprise overachiever of the night.

There were two dishes that boasted duck confit, and since my friend did not specify her recommendation, we chose the gumbo: duck confit, chorizo, white rice. It warmed our very souls. This was the most difficult dish to share since it was rather like a stew, but double-dipping spoons was nothing but an afterthought once that rich flavor hit our tastebuds. It was piping hot when it arrived, so the distraction of our “big” dish, the Hot Fried Chicken, allowed us patience while the gumbo cooled.

This hot fried chicken: It’s spicy, like the kind of spicy that makes your mouth burn and your nose run but you can’t stop eating it because it’s so good spicy. It was served atop white bread, like an open-faced sandwich, and topped with sweet pickles. I saved the pickles until the end because I wanted unadulterated spiciness, and Jeremy said he could have done without, but the flavor of this dish made my south(western) heritage happy. Not to mention, the potato salad served as a side was one of the highlights of the meal — the perfect antidote to a burning mouth.

The evening ended with a dessert special, cheesecake topped with hot fudge. I’m not a cheesecake fanatic, but this was light and creamy and the fudge decadent. I scraped the plate clean. In total, we had the perfect amount of food to satisfy our desires and our hunger, and our wallets did not suffer.

In a culture that tells us to go, go, go, it’s important to remember to relax and enjoy life: good drinks, good food, good company. This restaurant reminds you of those finer things. Why take the high road when you can take the Slow Rhode?

425 West Fountain St, Providence

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