1. Providence has received a lot of recognition as a foodie destination recently. Can you tell us about some of the city’s accolades?
I love to brag about what a great food city Providence is. We were named the #1 Food City in the US by the readers of Travel+Leisure in the 2012 “Americas Favorite Cities” poll and #2 in 2013. Saveur named us one of the notable small dining destinations in the world in their 2013 Culinary Travel Awards and recognized both our restaurants and our bar programs in 2014. StarChefs.com recently held their “Rising Star Chef Awards” for Coastal New England in Providence and honored 10 of our best chefs, mixologists and food purveyors.
2. If foodies are coming to Providence for the first time, what are some of the neighborhoods they should check out?You can’t go wrong in Providence. We don’t have a lot of chain restaurants or fast food places. Still, you can’t miss Federal Hill. Mario Batali regularly names it among his favorite Little Italys in the country. I also like the West Side, which has some cool places like The Grange, Food by North and Nick’s on Broadway.
3. Besides the Taste Trekkers Food & Travel Expo, what are some of the other big foodie events that happen in the city each year?
Providence Restaurant Weeks happen twice a year and encompass nearly 100 restaurants across the state. Look for it in January and July at ProvidenceRestaurantWeeks.com. The Eat Drink RI Festival happens in April and showcases the top local chefs and local products. There’s two great events on Federal Hill – the Columbus Day Festival in October and the Federal Hill Stroll in June.
4. Who are some of the Providence chefs we should keep our eyes on?Ben Sukle at Birch, which is a tiny restaurant downtown, is doing some remarkable stuff and getting a lot of buzz. The one I’m dying to get to and just opened is The Salted Slate. The Exec Chef/Owner Ben Lloyd had a loyal following at the now-defunct Tazza and I am glad he’s back. Also, keep an eye on Gracie’s dynamic duo of Exec Chef Matt Vargas and Pastry Chef Melissa Denmark. They are both young and smart chefs.
5. What are some of the foods we should be sure to try when we’re in Providence?
Well, you’ve got to go to Olneyville for a NY System hot weinter. The James Beard Foundation honored them as an icon recently and for good reason. They’ve been serving hot dogs with their special meat sauce for decades. We are also known for wood grilled pizza. My favorite is at Bacaro, where toppings change with the seasons. For beverages, you’ve got to try a Del’s frozen lemonade and/or a coffee milk, which is milk flavored with a sweetened coffee syrup. Dave’s Coffee Co. does a nice artisanal take on the classic coffee syrup.