“If you liked Red Stripe in Narragansett, you’ve got to try the Red Stripe on the East Side [of Providence],” a friend told us.
We did. And we did.
What we discovered was that, although the restaurants had a number of identical menu items, they are two very different and unique restaurants.
The Red Stripe at 465 Angell St. blends in perfectly with the Wayland Square neighborhood. There’s no big sign, but there is a big fork over the door. The tables line Angell St. and are also situated between the bar and the open kitchen, where the head chef and at least three line chefs prepare your meals.
Red Stripe is a neighborhood restaurant that draws a large percentage of its customers from the Brown community and East Side residents, while still being a destination spot for out-of-towners.
James, the busy manager on duty the day after a holiday weekend, said that he knows or recognizes over half of the diners on any given night.
We perused the eclectic and imaginative menu, getting much help from Aaron, our friendly and knowledgeable waiter who, like James and many of the employees, has been there for years. We had enjoyed the mussels, hangar steak and swordfish in Narragansett, so we turned to the many items unique to the East Side. After the bartender passed the martini test, we enjoyed their warm (excuse me, hot) sourdough bread.
I ordered the three large crab cakes appetizer ($9.75), served, like every dish, with a flair. Red Stripe is big on presentation, making the food almost too good looking to eat. Joyce loved the escargots ($13), served in a bowl over a combination of garlic, shallots and leeks under a puff pastry, making for a different and most delicious way of serving the treasures from the sea. We shared a beet salad ($9) that also was eclectic and imaginative. The salad consisted of beets, walnuts, poached pears, watercress, red onion and a tasty buttermilk blue cheese dressing. Absolutely delicious!
Many of the menu items come from the original chef and have been enhanced over the years by other chefs, many with that Johnson & Wales touch.
For her entrée, Joyce chose Red Stripe’s signature dish, paella. Filled with shrimp, PEI mussels, littlenecks, chicken and chorizo and served in a large bowl over saffron rice, there is no wonder it is so popular ($18.75).
I narrowed my choices down to about five entrees, calling on Aaron to help me out. He recommended the Duck Confit & Duck Roulade ($15.50), which wasn’t in my top five. I remembered my two impressions – eclectic and Imaginative – and decided to take a chance on a dish I had never eaten.
By cooking the duck in its own fat, the result was a tasty, tender, moist dish that complemented the roulade perfectly. Three piping hot and delicious roulades provided a wonderful flavor. Add some greens and Red Stripe’s famous fingerling potatoes and you have yourself one fabulous dinner.
We returned for their lobster roll, which is served with their fresh-cut fries, thin, hot and tasty, with their own sauce; forget the ketchup ($18). The roll was filled with fresh lobster and just a touch of mayo and, as expected, looking so good we didn’t want to eat it. But we did.
We need to return for their signature lunch item, the Red Stripe grilled cheese and roasted pepper sandwich, served with prosciutto, poached pear and basil, plus more of those house fries ($10).
I watched the waiter bring a plate of sea scallops to the adjoining table and knew we had to return. The Red Devil pasta, served hot with shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops ($18.50) will be Joyce’s selection.
Red Strip is located at 465 Angell St. in the center of Wayland Square. They are open seven days a week. For reservations call 437-6950. Red Stripe is open Monday through Friday for lunch 11:30-3 p.m., late lunch (interesting concept) 3-5 p.m. and dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays they are open until 11 p.m. They serve a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., late lunch from 3-4 and dinner from 4-10.