2018 has held very few changes in RI weather. From January to March we got “constant, unforgiving snowstorms,” and as we all know, this year, on account of the cold, April’s name was changed to “This-cannot-be-goddamn-April.”
But we are finally — finally — rounding a corner. The days were you can saunter down Thayer Street in booty shorts or take a leisurely walk up Westminster in Daisy Dukes are here — and I’m going to give you the lowdown on the best restaurants where you can soak up that summer sun.
Xaco Taco — Formerly Rick’s Roadhouse, and now bursting with authentic Mexican cuisine, Xaco Taco, this is a THE place to inhale some tacos while taking in a warm summer evening in Providence. XT sits away from a bustling road so you don’t have to shout at your significant other to talk over passing traffic. With the front wall of the building completely open to the outdoor dining section, it feels like you can hang out and enjoy the summer air all night long. It’s the perfect location for a relaxed outdoor night of queso, cocktails and company.
Bywater — When you start making plans to eat in Warren, you better get ready to give it some serious thought because the competition is fierce. Revival, Chomp, Perella’s, Square Peg — all great options. But if we’re talking about enjoying your food in the sun, you have to go to Bywater. Sitting on charming Water Street, a stone’s throw away from the shore, Bywater specializes in upscale New England seafood dishes and is the place to go for raw bar. But if you ask me, the duck tacos are the reason to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I like to put on a light blue button-down, some khaki shorts and boat shoes for dinner as much as the next guy. On those days, I go to Bywater to get littlenecks or scallops with chimichurri brown butter and spicy aioli. But literally one block away from Bywater is a completely different but equally essential New England summer seafood experience, and the times I feel like a TRUE Rhode Islander in the summer are the times when I’m wearing an already-wet American flag bathing suit, a tank top, a sun-bleached baseball cap — and I’m on my way to get some fish n’ chips at…
Blount Clam Shack — Warren wins again. Blount Clam Shack is the destination, and it sits directly on the docks of a New England background scene that seems ripped out of the serene and gentle atmosphere of the movie JAWS (if there had been no JAWS*). This is what we’re talking about for a Rhode Island summer: fish ‘n’ chips, clam chowder, clam cakes, lobster rolls, clam rolls, lobster bisque and more. Why do we eat piping-hot soup in 95° weather? I don’t ask, and I will never stop, as long as it keeps coming from Blount Clam Shack. This is your number one option if you want to experience a Rhode Island summer classic.
Besos Kitchen and Cocktails — Besos is new to me, and if you haven’t been there, do yourself a favor and GET there. The food is amazing on its own. The first time I went, I tried the Brussels and bacon appetizer, the ultra-light wild mushroom tart, the tuna tartare and the sirloin over gnocchi with rosemary balsamic cream, and there were literally 10 other dishes I was still aching to try — and that was in the winter! With such an eclectic and high-quality menu, this excellent East Greenwich restaurant has no business having an ultra-casual outdoor seating option, but they do. Looking for a true culinary surprise while you feel that change in the air as the sun goes down? Go to Besos.
Ogie’s Trailer Park — Let’s talk nighttime eats! Ogie’s Trailer Park is one of the most successful bars/eateries in Providence when it comes to achieving an inviting, unique aesthetic. The back patio of Ogie’s is closed off from the street, features a beautiful tiki bar and recreates the feel of sitting with your friends at … well, a trailer park. But in the best, most nostalgic way. They call themselves “retro-chic” and I don’t think there’s a better way to say it. Although Ogie’s is a bar, they serve cheeseburgers, fried chicken, grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and most importantly, tots. Truffle tots, French Canadian tots (poutine-inspired), garlic tots, TOTCHOS! Tater tots are the star of the show when it comes to the Ogie’s menu. With the perfect amount of multi-colored canopies and light-up palm trees, Ogie’s is the place to end your night.
Duck and Bunny — We NEED to talk about dessert, and the Duck and Bunny hides a tucked-away garden that provides the perfect romantic-but-relaxed end to any date night. Duck and Bunny has excellent appetizers, salads, small-plates and even crepe-pizzas. But what I’m looking for at the D&B is dessert. Coffee, tea, crepes and most importantly, those amazing cupcakes. The banana nutella cupcake at Duck and Bunny is my favorite cupcake of all time. Now try eating one at midnight on a Friday in July, inside a hidden garden in Providence under a beautiful full moon. Unbeatable.
Los Andes in Providence is all about Peruvian food. With a beautiful hidden patio, this is one of the best restaurants Providence has to offer, and one of the most surprising outdoor dining set-ups you’ll find. Feeling hidden from the city is difficult in Providence, but Los Andes achieves that while feeling remarkably intimate.
FOO(D) at AS220 is located on Empire Street right in downtown Providence. They provide sandwiches and lighter options, and you get to sit right outside a main hub for Providence performing artists.
The Boathouse in Tiverton is a surefire hit for New England seafood in the sun. If you’re looking for the best outdoor summer seating with a sunset view over the water, The Boathouse is the best in the state.
Chelo’s on the Water in Warwick is yet another seafood restaurant, but with a plethora of options on where to enjoy the view, and more focus on outdoor music that makes this dining experience top-notch.
Cafe Nuovo in Providence is right along the Providence river and one of the best dining spots to experience WaterFire. Perfect for an airy lunch, a beautiful dinner experience or a “second location” dessert option after dinner.
The Rooftop at Providence G provides rooftop dining while overlooking the entire city of Providence, which is something that I wish was more common in our capital city restaurants. The Rooftop at Providence G is nailing it. The food is great, the architecture is perfect and the atmosphere is ideal for a relaxed summer evening.
*My friend Walt Flanagan has informed me that the shark’s name was Bruce. My apologies.