As Winnie the Pooh once said, “It’s the first day of autumn! A time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!” Like Pooh, we feel the exhilaration that comes with autumn, too. Maybe it’s evocative of our back-to-school days, when each September brought an opportunity to reinvent ourselves through the simple purchase of new shoes and school supplies. While we Rhode Islanders are always sorry to see summer go, our palates change too, and lobster rolls and clam cakes give way to hearty soups and comfort food classics made with the best ingredients Rhode Island has to offer. We’ve rounded up a bunch of our favorite places and picked a dish or two that we can’t wait to cozy up with.
Beech is a beauty of a restaurant in just about every way, made more special by the return of beloved chef – and now co-owner – Kevin Gaudreau, who started his career here when it was the venerable Trattoria Simpatico. Anchored by a 150-year-old Copper Beech tree and sporting an airy coastal vibe, the menu is heavy on classics with modern execution. Warm up with the French onion soup, and decide between the roasted chicken with grilled lemons, whipped potatoes, haricot verts (French green beans), and a lemon-caper butter sauce, or the braised beef short rib with creamy cheddar polenta, Swiss chard, glazed cranberries, and demi glacé.
13 Narragansett Avenue, Jamestown; BeechJT.com
Few restaurant atmospheres are as conducive to fall dining as Bridge. The inside is dark and cozy with a pub ambiance, while the expansive outdoor patio, which sits atop the Pawcatuck River, offers nice views and leaf-peeping advantages. Since September is the beginning of prime oyster season, we suggest starting with those (when they run it, their buck-a-shuck promotion is the best deal in town). Their house meatloaf hits the spot on a cool fall day – braised Denver-cut steak with bacon, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
37 Main Street, Westerly; BridgeRI.com
This colorful, cheeky bistro in the heart of Wakefield has a small menu featuring big flavors, but some of the most compelling dishes on owners Mark and Alicia Bryson’s menu elevate the humblest of ingredients, like an appetizer of thick, house-made potato chips covered in blue cheese fondue, chili crisps, and bacon. Given the restaurant’s name, it’s not surprising that the Brysons celebrate duck in its many forms here, but when fall brings cooling water temps, bass becomes more plentiful in the northeast. Start with striped bass tartare with white soy, serrano, avocado, lime, and crispy tortilla, followed by a simply beautiful pan-seared local striped bass with potato and veg. 333 Main Street, Wakefield; DuckPressRI.com
Few restaurants celebrate local farms and purveyors the way Celestial has for more than 20 years. On the menu, you’ll see where each ingredient is sourced, and their monthly local farm dinners are seasonally themed and a great bargain. Fall favorites include their crispy Brussels sprouts with sweet red onions, Laurel Hill microgreens and chipotle aioli, and Rhody Jambalaya – Cedar Valley Farm chicken and Pat’s Pastured sausage in a Creole velouté over jasmine rice. 567 South County Trail, Exeter; CelestialCafeRI.com
Starting your meal with a plate piled high with French fries might seem like a strange thing to do – unless you’re at the Rathskeller, where this is what practically everyone does. The fries – delish twice-cooked – come plain, with short rib gravy, truffled, or loaded. After you’ve indulged, get into the Oktoberfest mindset with their Jagerschnitzel, a huge crispy fried pork cutlet smothered with mushroom gravy atop mashed potatoes and braised cabbage and apples. After eating, wander to their “Down Back” area, a huge outdoor space featuring games, firepits, and occasional live music. It all makes for perfect fall evenings. 489 Old Coach Road, Charlestown; TheCharlestownRathskeller.com
Multiple James Beard Award-nominated chef Jeanie Roland’s eatery has won lots of loyal fans in the several years since it opened, most notably everyone’s favorite part-time Rhode Islander, Taylor Swift. While Roland says that her menu is inspired by French and Asian flavors and techniques, there’s something here for everyone, from the simple to the sublime. Fall calls for some of the richer flavors on Ella’s seasonally evolving menu, and few in the Ocean State do duck as well. Recent iterations include a foie gras club sandwich on house brioche, seared duck breast with mushrooms and udon noodles and hoisin, and a magnificent duck a deux facons – crispy confit alongside garlic-marinated breast meat with duck fat-roasted fingerling potatoes. We’re flying high on all of them! 2 Tower Street, Westerly; EllasFineFoodAndDrink.com
Evie’s is the latest to join the family of restaurants run by the dynamic duo of Justin Dalton-Ameen and Josh Culpo, who also own Black Oak in Coventry, Back 40 in North Kingstown, and Union and Main in East Greenwich. Like its sister properties, the menu here features elevated comfort food classics. Get cozy outside by the fire pits with their gouda meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes, washing it down with a seasonal house-made cocktail. 224 Post Road, Westerly; EviesRI.com
Die-hards get to the Mariner by 11:30am each day to ensure a spot at the bar at this popular lunch and dinner spot. They’re drawn for things like the Steak Healey, an open-faced ribeye sandwich with gorgonzola, demi-glace, and onion rings, and the giant chicken parm sandwich, where the pounded-thin cutlet extends inches past the bun. A bowl of their prime rib chili or the gorgeous 16-ounce bone-in veal chop with peppercorn brandy glaze will be perfect after a late-summer walk on the beach. 140 Point Judith Road, Narragansett; MarinerGrille.com
If you’re loving the recent “girl dinner” trend – where you graze on charcuterie, bread, and cheese for dinner – then you’ve likely indulged in one of the Revival’s killer dip-and-bread baskets or their cheese, Mediterranean, or burrata slates. This restaurant, with a sister location in Warren, does composed dishes oh so well, too. North Atlantic Faroe Islands salmon is in season through October, and Revival brightens up its sweet fattiness with a Greek salad-style treatment including cucumbers, olives, feta, and a red wine vinaigrette. Opa! 219 Main Street, East Greenwich; TheRevivalCraftKitchenAndBar.com
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