Since the beginning of the year, Rhode Island’s restaurant scene has said goodbye to a few longtime favorites. After more than 50 years in business, Gary’s Handy Lunch in Newport shuttered in February. In downtown Providence, the Greek eatery and market Yoleni’s closed permanently without warning in March.
But prior to the summer’s expected busy crowds from travelers around the globe, new restaurant and bar concepts are opening around Rhode Island. From award-winning chefs opening raw bars, to hip cocktail bars and noodle bars, here are a few places that opened — or are coming soon — this spring.
PROVIDENCE NOODLE BAR
Fortnight Wine Bar closed its doors at the turn of the year, leaving open a tiny space on Mathewson Street. Han Chung, a chef at nearby Korean and Chinese restaurant Wok & Pot, decided to begin leasing the restaurant space to open the Providence Noodle Bar. He is still working out his menu, but told the Globe that he’s hoping to serve Asian-style noodles and soups that go beyond ramen. His beverage program will include sake, soju, and lower ABV cocktails, and he is hoping to be able to serve until at least midnight. Chung said he hopes to open by June. 183 Mathewson St., Providence, check their Instagram for updates.
In 2021, couple Matthew Brown and Freida Sahady rolled their food truck around South County serving sandwiches christened with each other’s nicknames. Butterhead, their distinct-looking food truck that leaves an aromatic path that always seems to smell like fries, was always just their first step. He’s worked at Thames Street Kitchen, Nomi Park, and as sous chef for the Michelin-starred Café Boulud in New York City. She worked in the kitchen at Nebo Lodge in Maine, and in the dining rooms of the shuttered Salvation Café, Persimmon (when it was in Bristol), and other local spots.
This spring, Brown and Sahady plan to open Purslane Eatery on Main Street in Wakefield. They describe Purslane as their “pretty, badass, older, more mature sister” restaurant, where they’ll be slinging crudos, oysters, and have a full raw bar. The cocktail program will play with low-ABV options and other classics like spitzes, white Negronis, and sangrias. They’ll have a nitro coffee tap, sell bagged coffee on site, and feature a few locally brewed beers at the bar.
The space is an old garage with oversized industrial windows, that was previously gutted and renovated in 2019. With 20 seats inside and 30 on their patio, the couple said they plan to host guest chef pop-up and cooperative dinners, and have intimate music shows and poetry readings. 318 Main Street, Wakefield, check Instagram for updates.
THE XO BAR
Since October 2021, restaurateur and chef Ben Lloyd and partner Scott Champagne have been looking at renovating the former XO Café space, which was an iconic Providence space that first opened in 1989, and ultimately shuttered in 2018. Nestled in the first floor space of the historic John Updike House, the spot has been home to trend-setting bars since even before its XO Café days.
In the next several weeks, Lloyd and Champagne plan on reopening a bar, dubbed “XO Bar.” They’ve said they have zero plans to “recreate” the once beloved café that both Lloyd and his wife worked in. They won’t be serving food, but plan to put all of their investment into the beverage program. According to their website, XO plans industry nights on Mondays, post-brunch Sunday parties, and will have private event space. 125 North Main Street, Providence, 401-447-8210, thexobar.com.
When chef and restaurant owner Benjamin Sukle thinks about the future of fine dining, he makes it clear he won’t be in it. “That’s a young man’s game,” chuckled Sukle in a recent interview, sitting by the window at Oberlin in downtown Providence. He closed Birch, a tiny space that was nominated for several national food and dining awards, three years ago. This May, he plans to open Gift Horse.
The name derives from the tongue-in-cheek saying to not look a gift horse in the mouth — will be located in a massive ground-level space on the corner of Westminster and Union streets. It’ll have an eclectic raw bar that focuses on New England-caught shellfish and seafood, with an array of oysters that are harvested from different bays, salt ponds, and oyster farms around the state. Expect some “1970s, Italian disco vibes” and an outdoor bar and patio area that will line Grant’s Block on Union Street.
“I want to make this patio look like you’re dining somewhere in Copenhagen,” said Sukle. That means, he explained, wild flowers and greens, with a whimsical feel outside.
Bar manager Rachel Stone will serve low-ABV cocktails with creative takes on spritzes and martinis inspired by the Italian coast. Bethany Caliaro, Gift Horse’s partner and general manager, is building a wine list that will spotlight small-scale producers, Champagne, and natural bottles that will complement the restaurant’s raw bar. Shortly after opening, after graduation season ends, Oberlin will be moving across the street and next door to Gift Horse’s space. 272 Westminster St., Providence, 401-383-3813, gifthorsepvd.com.
FEAST & FETTLE NEIGHBORHOOD FRIDGE
In 2016, Johnson & Wales graduate Maggie Mulvena founded Feast & Fettle as an upscale local meal delivery service in East Providence that quickly expanded to Massachusetts and Connecticut. Earlier this month, the company opened a brick-and-mortar space with its first Neighborhood Fridge in Pawtucket, stocked with fully-prepared meals and side dishes like salads, creamy polenta, grain bowls, steak tips, grilled flank steaks, and seared salmon cuts. Their shelves include other local goods from baguettes and eggs to coffee beans and bottles of wine. 727 East Ave., Pawtucket, 401-753-2572, feastandfettle.com.
When E&O Tap closed in 2018, some say it left a hole in the Providence dive bar scene. Endless Miller High Life bottles, Jeopardy nights, friendly staff, and a cluttered bar with knick-knacks is what made the grungy dive so great.
Finally, after five years, the brick bar reopened as Deadbeats this week by Courtney Tallarico and Jeff Angell. They don’t have a kitchen inside, so you shouldn’t expect a full food menu. However, they’re selling pre-packaged foods and snacks on site. Other nights, they’ll be hosting local food trucks to pair with an interesting selection of draft beers that will constantly be rotating.
To prepare for their grand opening, the couple renovated the building’s crumbling interior and stained and polished the original bar. But not all you’ll see is new: a mounted jukebox to play your own tunes, pinball machines are ready to ping in the corner, vintage beer advertisements have been hung on the walls, and a life-size Ronald McDonald sits on a bench.
One of Angell’s favorite pieces, written in fluorescent pink and green lights over the bar, reads his motto [one that includes expletives that cannot technically be written in a family-friendly newspaper]. 289 Knight Street, Providence, check their Instagram for updates.
Tavolo Wine Bar & Tuscan Grille closed its Federal Hill location earlier this year, leaving a large restaurant and bar space vacant. Alex Tomasso, who currently owns The George on Washington Street in downtown Providence, plans on moving in with the bar, “Saint.” While The George is new — opened during the first year of the pandemic — Tomasso has operated a string of nightclubs in Providence, like Club Sanctuary and Therapy, that date back to the early 2000s. Saint’s menus have not been finalized yet, but Tomasso plans to open in late May. 289 Atwells Avenue, Providence, check their Instagram for updates.
THE PATIO ON BROADWAY
In East Greenwich, The Patio on Main has quickly become a place you’ll likely run into a celebrity while sipping a cocktail. In Providence, owner Jason Winpenny decided it was time to take the corner building that once held the Grange restaurant, which closed permanently in 2022, and transform it into his second location. Winpenny, who said he intends to open this May, plans a full menu in Providence with handmade pastas, a late-night menu, and a full brunch. 166 Broadway, Providence, check their Instagram for updates.
BRASA Y CHIFA
Los Andes, a restaurant on Chalkstone Avenue serving Peruvian and Bolivian dishes, has been hugely successful over the years. The owners will open Brasa Y Chifa this May, ending a lengthy renovation project at the former Anthony’s Italian Deli. Brasa Y Chifa will be a fast-casual Peruvian rotisserie with some Asian flavors. There’s going to be a wok station, margarita machine, and Bolivian and Peruvian burrito bowls. 712 Admiral Street, Providence, check their Instagram for updates.
THE NERDY BAKER
Anita Carnevale started watching decorating and baking shows when her now 15-year-old son was young, looking for some inspiration to make unique birthday cakes. While working in customer service, Carnevale took her new hobby and put herself through the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University, graduating with an associate’s degree in 2016. This year, Carnevale opened The Nerdy Baker in Rumford, where Crugnale Bakery once stood. Comic-themed wallpaper with characters like Spiderman and Wolverine line the bakery’s wall. Her custom cakes are elaborate with specialty flavors like lavender tea, maple bourbon pecan, Mexican hot chocolate, and cannoli. 237 Newman Ave., East Providence, 401-414-7606, nerdybakerri.com.
SAPPHIRE BAR & CONCEPT KITCHEN
It’s where the Alibi Café, Nobodys, and many other late-night haunts used to be. Now it’s Sapphire Bar & Concept. The bar, located in Providence’s Jewelry District on Bassett Street, offers table-side bartending with a heavy focus on Spanish wine cocktails. Their tapas include Catalan toast with romesco tapanade and olives, and a house tandoori chicken. 18 Bassett St., Providence, 401-415-5975, sapphirepvd.com.
Know of another great spot that recently opened or is coming soon in Rhode Island? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.