There is a popular saying that goes, “Go big or go home.” It applies to a select number of restaurants in Rhode Island that are proven successes and are at the top of any list of dining traditions in the state. They may even be described as legends. They are large-capacity facilities that operate primarily as restaurants. This distinction is important to note and to separate these giants from banquet halls and hotel ballrooms. Such facilities may hold more patrons but are function venues with catering menus that open, cook and serve for events only. This is a clear difference from an eatery that is open to the public during regular hours, offering a varied menu to its patrons for its entire business day and night.
This phenomenon of big restaurants also appears to fly in the face of the current trend on Restaurant Row, that of small restaurants seating less than 50 and in some cases as few as 12 patrons.
These newer micro-restaurants such as birch, Cook and Brown Public House and Fratelli’s BG&B are culinary creators that offer a focused tasting experience built around a single concept. Some nights at restaurants such as these there may a single prix-fixe menu available.
Rhode Island’s dining legacy is the landmark restaurant where life’s occasions have been celebrated and lives commemorated. Before the restaurant boom, dining out was for the most part confined to special events, from birthdays, anniversaries and memorial gatherings, to team and school award banquets. In most cities of any size there were one or two, or a few, big restaurants that sat hundreds of patrons.
The eatery may have a private room but for the most part its size was to accommodate the masses who queued up on Saturday nights.