Do you ever have a day where you feel like you’re channeling Mr. Rogers? A day where you feel compelled to yell out, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!”?
That’s how I felt on the RI Red Food Tour in Downcity. I don’t normally quote Mr. Rogers, but it was one of the first beautiful days of summer and an ideal day for a walking tour through the capital. I met up with tour guide (and rival Motif food writer) Jenny Currier as well as the rest of our group at the very edge of the city.
I spoke to Paula Silva, the founder of the RI Red Food Tour, and she let me know how this whole thing started. “I learned long ago, go to the professionals when you want something done right and RI has a large pool of creative chefs making amazing dishes all around us. For me, nothing is more relaxing than unwinding over a glass of wine and a carefully prepared and plated dish that a hardworking chef took the time to create and I can glowingly admire and devour… The other thing I thought about was how many times when I traveled or went on a day trip to a new place, I wandered around from window to window trying to decide where I wanted to eat.”
Culinary diversity — and discovery — is the backbone of the RI Red Food Tour.
On the tour I was lucky enough to take, we started with chowder and a perfect clam cake from new-to-the-area Dune Brothers Seafood. Then we sampled the consistently top-notch donuts from Knead, followed by Oberlin, where we had legitimately the best mussels I’ve ever been served. We went from duck mousse on a crostini at Ellie’s to just-plain-amazing “Rhode Kill” fries at Friskie Fries. Then it was a quick stop at the Malted Barley to try their best-in-the-city pretzels and an extremely generous beer flight (for the alcohol-loving tourgoers) before ending up at Gracie’s for a dessert that was so impressive that it demands to be last on the tour. The food was excellent and the variety was key.
Jenny was an excellent guide and the tour felt like a well-oiled machine. The Downcity Providence tour is actually relatively new, but RI Red has been running a food tour for years successfully in Newport.
Silva explained the success as three-fold. “Vacationers were thrilled to get the opportunity to try food from several restaurants that they may not have known about had they not taken the tour… Newcomers just moving to Rhode Island get indoctrinated into the local restaurant scene and learn about their new adopted state. Local Rhode Islanders and guests that think they knew every place in Newport are taken off the beaten paths and discover new places or try something they hadn’t had before while learning a little more in-depth about the background of the chefs, restaurants and history of the neighborhood.”
She was right. As a staunch lover of Providence, I was thrilled at the prospect of finding out more about the places we visited on the tour.
“We will share with you a little bit about the background … their respective restaurant philosophy and the most popular choices on their menus. Our food and culture ambassadors will share with you the inside scoop on places to go, local happenings and things to do while in the city. If we don’t have it on our tour, we will certainly share with you where you might find it.”
Learning about the history of Providence while experiencing a wide array of the city’s best food offerings is an incredible way to spend a sunny afternoon in New England. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to Providence, and I was happily surprised at the amount of new information I got to take in about our beautiful and historic city.
As I got into my car after an enlightening and satisfying afternoon, I thought of one final poignant quote from old our friend, Mr. Rogers, and how it fit so well today. I’d like to immortalize it here in print for all to see.
“Jesus Christ, those mussels from Oberlin were wicked, wicked, wicked good.” — Mr. Rogers (to that weird king puppet he always hung out with).
Visit rhodeislandredfoodtours.com for more information and to set up a tour.