In 2023, Rhode Island’s new and storied restaurants gained both local and national acclaim. This year, some big names and long-anticipate plans will finally open throughout the state — from the Track 15 food hall in Providence’s historic Union Station, to the reopening of Wes’ Rib House.
Here are the restaurant, bar, and brewery openings to watch in Rhode Island in 2024.
Diego Alcantar, the chef-owner of popular Central Falls restaurant Tuxpan Taqueria, plans to open Cielito Mexican Kitchen in the space where the original Oberlin was located in downtown Providence sometime around March. The name comes from the famous mariachi song “Cielito Lindo.” Similarly to how Alcantar stuck to his roots for Tuxpan Taqueria, Cielito will have traditional Mexican cuisine that derives from the central west region of Michoacán. They’re still finalizing the menu, but think of items like mole de olla, corundas, caritas, enchiladas, and tamales. There will be tacos, but they will be served for the table to share.
Masa and tortillas will be prepared in front of guests in the open-air kitchen, where chefs will be grinding the corn in the dining room. They’ll have a small cocktail menu with some small-batch tequilas, and are looking to begin importing Mexican wine.
Location: 186 Union St., Providence, R.I.
NANU BURMESE FUSION
In 2020, Ruth Chhuani Khiangte and her husband Thanga Vaiphei founded Nanu Burmese Fusion as a family-owned food truck that was typically found at local breweries and festivals, serving plates such as coconut milk noodle soup and chicken aloo curry rice boxes. Earlier this month, the Nanu brick-and-mortar opened in Warwick, where they’ve expanded the menu to dumplings, mini maki rolls, and new bento boxes. Be sure to try one of their traditional milk teas.
Location: 997 Sandy Lane, Warwick, R.I. nanuburmesefusion.com.
For nearly two years, the team at Warren’s beloved Square Peg restaurant have been working on building out and opening Stingy Alley, a classic American bar on Main Street. The bar, which previously was the location of a Sprout CoWorking office, will represent something “more low-key” compared to the Square Peg, said co-owner Joel Cary, and will become a place where diners can go for small plates and beverages. There will be approximately 40 seats, and employees will have the opportunity to become partners in the business.
Cary said he plans to keep the bar open until midnight.
Location: 489 Main St., Warren, R.I., updates posted on the bar’s Instagram.
In Pawtucket, Brooklyn transplants Mike and Rob Fitzhenry plan to soon open their bake shop watUlike on Hillside Avenue, just over the line from Providence’s East Side. The shop, which was previously a photo studio, will focus on serving sweets like cookies and country cakes, homemade candy bars, and savory items like breads and focaccia. Rob Fitzhenry, who attended Johnson & Wales University, has an extensive resumé in hospitality — including a three-year stint where he worked as the sous pastry chef of Eleven Madison Park in the early 2000s, and as the bread baker for Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston. Fitzhenry, who helped open Orchard in Marblehead, Massachusetts, also will help instruct baking classes at the shop.
Location: 194 Hillside Avenue, Pawtucket, R.I. updates posted on the bakery’s Instagram.
In Newport, some familiar restaurateurs are opening another business. Inked Restaurant Group, which is owned by Scott Kirmil and operates Diego’s and Wharf Southern Kitchen, is opening The Quencher. The restaurant space is located where Celtica pub used to be, which Kirmil and business partner chef Joey Piotti purchased it for $1.1 million. The Quencher, which is still undergoing renovations, will become an Italian kitchen, focused on fresh pasta, signature pizzas, and small plates like arancini and lasagna dip. Kirmil told the Globe they plan to open at the end of February.
Location: 95 Long Wharf Mall, Newport, R.I. thequenchernewport.com.
In Narragansett, the Newport Restaurant Group recently announced plans to close TRIO Kitchen + Bar at the end of this month, and complete a series of cosmetic renovations to make way for a new restaurant. The next concept, dubbed Celeste, is said to focus on coastal European cuisine — from a raw bar offering a selection of crudo, to shareable small plates. TRIO, which has been open for 15 years, needed “a change,” according to Jeff Tenner, the director of concept development for the restaurant group. A menu has not yet been finalized, and an opening date has not yet been set, Tenner said.
Location: 15 Kingstown Road, Narragansett, R.I.
WES’ RIB HOUSE
After many months of renovations, Wes’ Rib House on Providence’s Dike Street reopened on Jan. 11. The restaurant initially opened in 1973 and the recorded history of its founder, a Black man from Missouri, has not always been properly told. Here’s what we do know: Founder Wesley “Wes” Hopkins Brewton Sr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in the early 1930s. In 1950, he joined the US Air Force, and was honorably discharged. After attending a trade tech school in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, Brewton decided to become a barbecue chef. Brewton moved to Rhode Island and saw the need to serve some decent BBQ. Wes’ BBQ originally opened on Broad Street, and then it was relocated to Dike Street in 1983. Original diners might recall being able to purchase a “scrap sandwich” for 50 cents — which was really a hot dog bun filled with pork scraps.
Over the years, the Rib House became an iconic destination for food and figures, and “Wes” himself was at the helm.
Here’s one story: Sometime in the 1970s, former mayor Buddy Cianci tried to give singer James Brown a key to the city at Wes’. Word spread that Brown was going to be at the restaurant, and hundreds of fans gathered to see him. Yet, the police had no idea Brown was there, according to Brown’s 2007 obituary in the Providence Journal, and officers thought a riot was in progress and charged into the restaurant with German shepherds. Cianci and Brown ran out the back door.
Former city councilman Michael Solomon, a longtime owner of Wes’, bought out his partners in the mid-1990s, and Wes’ Rib House underwent a renovation in 2012. Brewton moved out of Providence, and lived in Kennewick, Washington, for 15 years before his death in 2016. He was 83. Solomon says he is now part of a “new ownership group” that has redesigned and branded Wes’ for the next generation of local BBQ lovers.
They’re smoking all of their meats in a giant smoker, and then finish off the BBQ in their wood-fired open pit. Their meats are also offered on combo platters and family-style serving sizes — all of which come with cornbread.
Location: 38 Dike St., Providence, R.I., wesribhouse.com.
PHANTOM FARMS BREWING
Jason Macari, who purchased Phantom Farms in Cumberland recently, soon plans to open Phantom Farms Brewing nearby. The taproom, which has been under construction in the historic Berkeley Mill’s former boiler room, will incorporate some of the farm’s produce into their upcoming brews. The Berkeley Mill was once home to one of New England’s foremost textile manufacturers, and according to updates posted on their Instagram account, transforming this historic property has been a long process. They’ve restored some of the boiler’s rooms original beams against the ceiling, and have had to remove the massive, turquoise-painted boiler, along with several other pieces of heavy equipment. Macari said the brewery will likely open “within the next two months.”
FRANK & LAURIE’S
After working in a number of Chicago’s kitchens, chef Eric Brown returned to Rhode Island in 2022 to launch Thick Neck in Providence, a concept that initially started as a pop-up that has become a fixture at the Dean Hotel’s restaurant space, he quickly rose as one of the state’s leading culinary stars. In November, Brown and wife Sarah Watts announced they were going to open Frank & Laurie’s, a neighborhood joint serving brunch and lunch.
“Since moving to Providence, Sarah and I have been seeking a certain somewhere we can sit down midday and get lost in a meal,” wrote Brown in an Instagram post announcing the new business. “A neighborhood retreat… where our stacked to-do list can wait outside while we fill our cups inside.”
They never quite found the sort of spot they were looking for, so the two decided to build it themselves. Frank & Laurie’s is named after Brown’s grandparents — who taught him what a “perfect runny yolk is like,” “how dark to take a pancake,” and their house was where he tasted a peach for the very first time.
Until Frank & Laurie’s opens this spring, keep your eye on Thick Neck’s Instagram account. Brown has been hosting pop-up events at various spots around Providence where he’s featuring some of the menu items he plans to serve — such as fried sweet potato pancakes with crème fraîche and squash jam, and donuts stuffed with whipped roasted banana cream.
Location: 110 Doyle Ave., Providence, R.I.
Just over a decade after Cecelia Lizotte initially opened Suya Joint, an “All African cuisine” restaurant in the Boston area, she’ll expand with her downtown Providence location this spring. Suya Joint’s Providence location will be found at 320 Westminster St., where Lizotte said diners should expect Nigerian cuisine, with a vibrant bar and cocktail program that will highlight flavors from West Africa.
Lizotte first opened Suya Joint in Roslindale in 2012. In 2016, she relocated to a larger space in Roxbury’s Nubian Square, and has since launched a food truck that serves Suya Joint’s menu around Boston. This year, Boston Magazine named Suya Joint the Best West African restaurant in Boston.
Location: 320 Westminster St., Providence, R.I. suyajoint.com.
The reopening of The Dorrance may have the largest question mark of all the restaurant openings in Rhode Island this year. The Dorrance was an iconic Providence restaurant a few blocks from City Hall since 2010. Since its first year, The Dorrance was a breeding ground for kitchen and bar talent to local and national acclaim, and was known as one of the best restaurants in the state. But when the pandemic hit, the restaurant intermittently closed. G Hospitality (of GPub, Sarto, etc.) has taken over the space, which was once an old bank, and used it for private events. By early 2022, The Dorrance’s owners, the Lester family, promised the dining world it would make a stunning comeback on Bellevue Avenue in Newport where Griswold’s Tavern used to be. There was talk that it would open during the spring of 2022, but it never did. Then 2023 came and went. It’s unclear whether 2024 might mean a Dorrance rebirth.
In email correspondence to the restaurant’s general email this month, an unnamed respondent advised a Globe reporter to “reconnect in the spring.” They did not respond to questions related to when the restaurant might reopen, or if they’ve hit construction snafus during their build out. The Dorrance’s social media accounts have continuously updated to say when it would reopen every year — with a “coming soon” line followed by a new year. Right now, The Dorrance’s Instagram bio says it will open in the summer of 2024, but it’s unclear if that is accurate.
Also in Newport, new hotel The Gardiner House has opened Studio Bar, a cozy, art-filled lounge featuring an intimate, stylish bar and working wood fireplace. But The Gardiner House also plans to open a new restaurant sometime this year. A name, concept, and the executive chef’s name have not yet been made public.
Location: 103 Bellevue Ave., Newport, R.I. thedorrance.com.
THE ROSE ROOM
The Shop, a coffee and breakfast spot on Wickenden Street, closed in November 2023. The Rose Room will soon take its place, sometime this winter. The café, which was founded by Jess and Bill Sabine and originated in Webster, Massachusetts, serves breakfast and lunch dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Jess Sabine said the Providence location is expected to have a more limited menu. They source their coffee beans from Counter Culture in Somerville, Mass.
Location: 460 Wickenden St., Providence, R.I. theroseroomcafe.com.
This March, the Providence Public Library will finally unveil a new space — but it won’t be an archives room or a banned book room. After years of planning, a new restaurant run by the Genesis Center, known as CHOP (the Culinary Hub of Providence) will open as a hybrid retail store and workforce and economic development hub, where students get paid to train. Other than a coffee and bar program, the restaurant’s menu is still being finalized, but centers on “New England bakery classics paired with globally inspired cafe foods,” said Joshua Riazi, CHOP’s chief operating officer. They’ll also be “taking inspiration from the countries of origin and heritage of many of our culinary students.”
Location: 150 Empire St., Providence, R.I. gencenter.org/chop.
TOWER HILL BREWING
In the South County Commons in Wakefield, Tower Hill Brewing is slated to open early this year. Four friends — most of whom graduated from the University of Rhode Island — started thinking of opening a brewery together more than two decades ago. Partner Ivan Nazario, a longtime home brewer, has only focused on recipe development along with brewery consultant Jeff Goodno. When construction is complete, the taproot side of the brewery will be able to seat 100 people where the owners will host small music performances.
The brewery does not plan to offer food, but will encourage guests to grab takeout from nearby restaurants.
Location: 25 Village Square Drive, South Kingstown, R.I. towerhillbrewing.com.
Irregardless Biscuit was an instant hit when it broke out in Rhode Island’s culinary scene in 2020 as a pop-up by James Dean (who also owns Slow Rhode with Patsy Wilson and Patrick Lowney). Originally from North Carolina, Dean makes his grandmother’s biscuit recipe using flour from mills in his hometown.
Dean and partner Joe Hafner have transitioned the former (and very tiny) Kitchen space into Irregardless’ permanent home. Over the last week, the two have completed most of their required inspections and said they are will complete their “finishing touches” before opening this winter.
Location: 94 Carpenter St., Providence, stay updated on Instagram.
After facing supply chain issues and other hurdles while renovating the historic building, the developers for the long-anticipated food hall at Providence’s Union Station says it is expected to open in the late summer of 2024.
A long-vacant space that once housed the city’s original Capital Grille, Raphael’s, and more recently, Bar Louie, Marsella Development Corporation president Christopher J. Marsella said the food hall will bring some of the state’s most celebrated culinary talent under the same roof. Marsella Development Corporation, which has dubbed the forthcoming food hall “Track 15,” will include a new concept from Dune Brothers; regional Mexican cuisine from chef Maria Meza and her family at Dolores; burgers and more from There There; and two Italian concepts from Kevin O’Donnell, chef and owner of Giusto and Mother Pizzeria in Newport.
The overall development will represent a $22 million investment in the restoration of the historic building. When the project is complete, it will include a large central bar, a new home for seven Rhode Island-based restaurateurs, an entertainment venue, and a 10,000-square foot plaza that will provide space for special events and outdoor seating.
Location: 40 W Exchange St., Providence, R.I.
Know of another great restaurant or bar opening in Rhode Island? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.