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RI FOOD & DINING NEWSLETTER

After 10 years of cooking in Chicago, this chef is hosting pop-ups in North restaurant’s former space

North by chef James Mark closed in July, leaving a hole in Providence’s dining scene. Through this winter, chef Eric Brown is moving in with “Thick Neck.”

Eric Brown is the chef and creator of Thick Neck, a pop-up dining experience in downtown Providence at the Dean Hotel where North restaurant used to be. DETAIL: Chef Eric Brown began working in restaurants at age 14. He worked at fine dining restaurants in Chicago for 10 years.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.

When chef James Mark closed his beloved restaurant North in the Dean Hotel in July, it left a hole in Providence’s dining scene.

In fact, I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked: “Do you know what’s going in the old North space?” Well, here’s the skinny: the space was never going to be empty for long.

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Thanks in part to Michael Silva, who is in charge of the beverage program at The Dean Bar, the old North restaurant space is now known as A Place with No Name. There, he’s helping the hotel launch cocktail and food collaborations. They’ve had guest chefs like Quinneil Simmons of Fork & Flower, the former sous chefs of North, chef Nikhil Navnish Naiker from Fortnight, and many others swing through.

The old North restaurant space at the Dean Hotel on Fountain Street. North, a James Beard nominated restaurant, closed this year.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
The bar inside A Place with No Name.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

But then Eric Brown, a Wakefield, Mass. native who once attended Johnson & Wales University and just returned to Providence from Chicago, served there under the name “Thick Neck.” It was a hit.

Throughout the winter, Brown will be serving a modern, seafood-focused menu that’s inspired by fare along the coast. Being able to head to the docks or local fish markets is something Brown missed for the decade he was away.

“Any chef will tell you how joyous it is to cook here when you have access to these kinds of ingredients,” Brown told me after rattling off the various producers he works with, such as Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton for his cheese dish with grilled cranberries, Walnut and Carpenter Oysters, and White Barn Farm in Wrentham, Mass.

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Grilled and marinated olives with spices and garlic at Thick Neck.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
A half dozen Wellfleet oysters from Thick Neck.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

While in Chicago, Brown co-founded Saint Emeric, a speakeasy-style dining experience in a church from the 19th century. It was an intimate experience for 12 guests at a time, with a new eight-course menu curated each week. Part of the concept was that the place was a secret: Guests were emailed an address without knowing the kind of atmosphere or food they’d be getting.

But there were permit issues, and the city ordered him to shut it down.

As “Thick Neck,” Brown will be serving a menu that will update slightly for each dinner, which will take place on Thursday and Friday nights. Items are available a la carte. There are some nights where you can order everything for $100.

The Spaghetti Squash Salad with burnt seeds and parsley,MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

His standout dishes include his spaghetti squash salad, which he’s been serving on his menus for the last few years, where squash is gently roasted, dressed in a vinaigrette with pumpkin seeds, shallots, and parsley. Other favorites include raw fish with grilled pumpkin and sumac; creamed beans with yuzu kosho, shellfish and kohlrabi; and monkfish with grilled broccoli and bagna cauda.

The dessert is a cool gjetost — a brown Norwegian cheese — with bright persimmons and a barley caramel.

Since there’s so much uncertainty around the old North restaurant space, I asked Brown what his plans were for the future. He said he and his fiancé purchased a home on the East Side, and he wants his pop-ups under the Thick Neck brand to become a staple.

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“I plan on doing this for as long as I’m allowed to,” he said. “Until someone tells me to stop.”

Little doughnut cheese from Sweet and Salty Farm with grilled cranberry and crackers from Thick Neck.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
A frozen gjetost dessert with persimmons and barley caramel from Thick Neck.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Thick Neck’s pop-ups are located inside the restaurant space at The Dean Hotel at 122 Fountain St. in Providence, Rhode Island. The “Thick Neck” pop-up by chef Eric Brown does not accept reservations at this time. Updated are posted on Thick Neck’s Instagram.

If you have suggestions or need a recommendation, shoot me an email at Alexa.Gagosz@globe.com.

Visit Food & Dining in Rhode Island for more. Because everyone’s gotta eat!


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.