Over the 13 years I’ve lived in Providence, the city has continued to evolve at an exponential rate. Case in point, The Slow Rhode restaurant is part of a recently completed renovation of an old livery garage, along with neighbors Cleverhood (famous for high-quality, American-made cycling rain capes), new brewery Long Live Beerworks, Devine City Cycle spin studio, martial arts studio City Aiki and the non-profit Downcity Design.
Broadway Bistro’s chef Patrick Lowney conceived of The Slow Rhode. It may seem younger and hipper than Broadway Bistro, but the two restaurants have a common thread: deeply flavorful, truly indulgent dishes served in an unpretentious setting. Though both may have, at first glimpse, a décor and menu similar to other popular restaurants, there’s something of substance below the surface – an authenticity – that makes these two Providence restaurants especially satisfying.
The Slow Rhode’s interior is dark and cozy, its name emblazoned across the left wall in giant rounded letters that reminded me of a Bauhaus teapot. Abstract art adds a tasteful splash of color. The bar seems just as prominent as the tables, giving the interior a casual and comfortable feel.
Just like the space, the cocktail menu is small but enticing. Instead of bearing pun-laden cutesy titles, the drinks are starkly named after their main liquour: Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Mezcal, Bourbon. My table companions had the Tequila ($10), with organic poppy liqueur, lime, hot sauce and a black salt rim. I had the spritzy Vodka ($10), with cherry heering and a cherry garnish coated in finely ground black pepper. The ingredients may seem unusual, but it was not just a gimmick; these were delicately balanced drinks. It was so delightful, I considered ordering another but thought better of it.
The Slow Rhode has a southern-influenced comfort food menu with a heavy dose of Louisiana, an underrepresented niche in Rhode Island. The menu is mostly small plates and everything is easy to share. Our poutine-like French Fries and Gravy ($8) were served with ample shreds of duck confit. The toast with oyster mushrooms and marinated sheep’s milk cheese ($4) came in a serving of three, fortunately for our three-person table, as did the three large Crawfish Beignets ($9), which we eagerly dipped into the surrounding Tabasco mayo. Out of these three small plates, the Beignets were my favorite, a Southern version of the platonic Rhode Island clam cake.
My husband ordered a glass of the Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau ($9), an unusual draft selection, our friend switched to the Mezcal cocktail ($10) with cassis and I had the Lunar Apogé Syrah ($10), a biodynamic and organic wine from France. Biodynamic winemaking is practically an occult art, and the resulting wine always seems to have an edge.
The bowls of Gumbo ($9) and Seafood Chowder ($8) were satisfying – the chowder didn’t skimp on the cream and was fresh, with clams in the shell. My gumbo had a dark roux that seemed to fill the hole winter had left in my soul; though it was incredibly hot, I couldn’t stop taking spoonfuls at a dangerously fast pace.
We each ordered one of the menu’s three large plates. The Hot Fried Chicken ($13) is a regional dish from Nashville traditionally served on a slice of normal-looking white bread you think you’ll forego until you find it is soaked with an addictive hot sauce. The chicken was scattered with tangy pickle slices. My husband’s Braised Beef ($14) with rigatoni was fall-apart tender and had a rich broth harmonized by cubes of sweet butternut squash. My Catfish Chips ($14) looked beautiful with purple cabbage slaw and the tomato-based sauce piquante, also a Louisiana touch; the seemingly endless pile of fried fish left me wishing our fourth friend hadn’t cancelled. But we still had room to share a square of not-too-sweet Cheesecake ($6). The large plates were consistently good, and though it’s difficult to choose a favorite, I’d say the catfish came out ahead.
Winters can be tough in Rhode Island. Some people like to escape to a tropical paradise, but for me, a dimly-lit hideaway with flavorful comfort food and creative drinks works just as well.
The Slow Rhode
425 West Fountain Street