Hot on the heels of last month’s review of an East Providence restaurant brought to you by a longtime member of the restaurant community with a couple of places in his portfolio, comes another spot with the same pedigree from yet another old school Rhode Island restaurateur. Paul Shire is a chef as well, and you may fondly recognize his name from the days of the old Down-City Diner and then at Oak on Hope Street in Providence. Last year he and a new business partner, Paul Roidoulis, opened The ROI in Providence and recently the pair doubled their restaurant business with their new venture 2 Pauls Good Food.
Oddly enough, I was in the building where 2 Pauls Good Food now stands a little over a year ago when I wrote about the now defunct Vine Yard East. The location has housed a few restaurants over the years. It’s a good spot for a neighborly place and 2 Pauls Good Food very much fits that bill. There’s not much difference from the past in the layout of the restaurant. There’s still the large bar area with televisions and the bar is still nicely partitioned from the dining room. The restaurant has sparse décor, making it look clean and streamlined. There are a couple of big, brash, cartoony murals on the walls. They’re in the same style as the 2 Pauls Good Food logo you’ll see on the street sign, menu and online.
As you might imagine from the “Good Food” part of the name, 2 Pauls aims to be a sort-of upscale diner with a large menu of comfort food. The servers’ outfits certainly reflect that feel and the middle-of-the-road ‘70s classic smooth rock added to that ambience. It’s certainly not a diner, but it’s not fine dining. It’s that neighborhood place to relax. We were there on a Tuesday and the place was busy, but definitely laid-back in vibe.
The meal kicked off very pleasantly with an excellent bread service. How often do you get to say that? The basket of bread placed on the table was piled with flatbread that was almost like a cross between a pita and focaccia. It came with a little container of really good hummus. The hummus was mild but tasty, and a nice way to start things off a little differently. There’s a good cocktail list at 2 Pauls Good Food with a lot of usual suspects along with a couple of more unique drinks. The wines by the glass list, while good that it contained at least ten whites and ten reds to choose from, was full of typical choices. It was a list of serviceable table wines that reflect the comfortable atmosphere.
We kicked things off with a big Basket of Hand-Cut French Fries ($5.95), served with a trio of dipping sauces. These were great French fries, perfectly fried and salted. The three sauces were a house-made ketchup, dill ranch and garlic aioli. I liked the ketchup the most. It was very good, though more like a barbecue sauce than a ketchup. The dill ranch reminded me of a sour cream and onion dip with a nice hint of dill. The garlic aioli was mostly mayonnaise-like and was mildly garlicky, so as to not be too overpowering.
For a starter we ordered the Mac and Cheese Fritters ($9.95) which the menu describes as “wrapped with spicy capicola ham, lightly breaded and fried in extra virgin olive oil.” They were more like mac and cheese mixed with cubes of ham, rolled into a ball and fried. These fritters could be a meal unto themselves, as the balls were almost as big as tennis balls. I’d almost say they were too big as they fell apart a bit when you cut into them. They came with an extra side of the cheese sauce which really wasn’t needed, as there was plenty inside each fritter.
In the tradition of the Blue Plate Special, 2 Pauls Good Food has a different special each night. I was happy we came in on a Tuesday so I could order the Southern Fried Chicken special. It came with grilled cornbread, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a side of zucchini, carrots and snap peas. The only thing that could be more comfort food than that would be what my wife ordered, Homemade Chicken Pot Pie ($14.95).
The breading on the Fried Chicken was thick and heavy, with some good flavor. What I especially liked was that I was served fried dark meat-on-the-bone chicken and not your typical boneless breast of chicken. The mashed potatoes were delicious red-skin-on potatoes, though oddly they were plated on the opposite side of my dish from the gravy, which, since it was sitting alone on one side of the plate, cooled a bit quickly. The vegetables were simply prepared with a nice bite to them and the cornbread was great. The Chicken Pot Pie was a big bowl of chunks of white meat with veggies and potatoes, topped with a large round of puff pastry crust. There was a lot of sauce, but not overwhelmingly so, and plenty of carrots, peas and potatoes. It’s one of those dishes where there’s not much to look at, but it just gives you that homey comfort.
I may have used that term “comfort” several times here, but that really does sum it up about 2 Pauls Good Food. The Pauls went for that balance between a fast diner and a slow dining experience and came out in the middle, succeeding with a warm, comfortable, neighborhood dining embrace.