Sometimes you just can’t take any more 4th grade humor or Kidz Bop bath time soundtracks. You just need to get away and have some adult conversation. Date night becomes a survival necessity and not a luxury.
We headed south to Providence last week for a fancy dinner at Gracie’s and a night away at The Graduate.
Sitting just about an hour south of Boston, it’s sometimes easy to overlook little Providence but don’t be fooled. It has a lot to offer that’s right up there with its bigger northern neighbor. It’s got a nice nice arts scene (it’s home to RISD), museums, an Ivy college, good live theatre and some great restaurants (it’s also home to Johnson & Wales a respected culinary institute). It’s all situated along the river and remains mostly walkable and easily navigable.
We checked into the hotel in the Downcity arts district and walked the short few blocks to Gracie’s.
We went with 4 other couples (adult conversation!) and did the tasting menu with the wine pairing. Let’s get this out of the way. It is not cheap. It’s a splurge and one of those outings you file under ‘an experience’ and not just dinner.
The staff was very good and very attentive and while the whole table did the tasting menu, the kitchen was able to accommodate multiple changes (no seafood, vegetarian, pescatarian). Part of Gracie’s philosophy is using seasonal ingredients and a changing menu. All the tasting menu dishes had spring vegetables and flavors highlighted. Some dishes were better than others. No dish was an outright flop. My favorite was the seared scallops and lentils, two things I wouldn’t necessarily put together on my own. The fava bean pasta was also a highlight.
The wine pairings were a little disappointing but that may depend on your palette. We had many wines that tended toward the sweet side.
Oddly, one of the most memorable parts of the meal was the bread. We went back for multiple slices of the sourdough, cornbread and multigrain.
Overall, I’m glad I ate here and I’m glad a restaurant of this quality is thriving in Providence but that 7 course menu with wine is a steep cost with gratuity. Don’t hesitate to go for a very very special occasion, you won’t likely be disappointed, but becoming a ‘regular’ would break just about any budget.
After long and filling meal, we were happy to only have to walk a few blocks back to the hotel rather than drive home.
We’d stayed at the Biltmore maybe 15 years ago (saw Seinfeld do standup) and The Graduate is a nicely remodeled update in a great location for Providence.
The vibe is sort of retro modern (okay, hipster) but the rooms are comfortable and full of modern amenities (large TV, comfy bed, free wifi, fridge). Rooms aren’t really big (we had a standard room with a king bed) but they are very adequate for a couple. Bathroom was a little small but again ok.
Biggest complaint is that the renovation is not totally done. We were only informed at check-in that the heating/air conditioning was not yet working properly. The staff were apologetic and told us fans or heaters were available or we could open the window. It put a little dent in the experience. Luckily, the weather was cool and this was more a random quirk than an issue but it’s worth checking on before you book a room.
Booking note: we did score a nice rate through the Hotels Tonight app.
The next morning we walked over to Knead Doughnuts to pick up half a dozen to bring down to brunch for Mother’s Day. They definitely brightened up (or sugared up) a gray and rainy day. The doughnuts (both yeast and cake) were all very fresh.
The old saw is that if you really want to know if a kitchen’s restaurant knows what it is doing order a roast chicken. It’s simple but not easy and there is no way to hide if you can’t do it right. You could say the same thing for a baked good.
I’ve eaten at a couple of the rival places around Providence (Providence has an oddly thriving artisan donut scene) and I appreciate both Knead’s quality and freshness, as well as their craft. Some rivals go a bit too far afield with their creative flavors at the expense of the doughnut.
Knead can get creative on occasion but they also make a really good old fashioned vanilla glazed or a deep chocolaty cake doughnut.
In short, they know what they are doing and it’s delicious.
Don’t underestimate Providence if you are looking for a date night or a quick weekend away. You can get a lot of the big city amenities without the big city cost or the stress. Less stress is a key ingredient to a good date night.