One of the state's leading restaurant rows is enjoying a resurgence. Main Street in East Greenwich as a dining destination has been well-established since the restaurant boom started in the 1990s.
There are no fewer than four new restaurants in various stages of construction and opening. Another 10 have emerged in the last few years. The oldest spot on the street still is Jigger's Diner, which can trace its roots at 145 Main St. back to 1917. The newest is a few minutes' drive south of town on Forge Road, where the place known as Chianti's Italian Cuisine is undergoing rebuilding, planned to reopen in March as what the ownership, Martucci Restaurant Group, is describing as a "new-style neighborhood eatery."
The business district, which had undergone a transformation when I revisited in 2015, is filling in with more restaurants. A modern bar/café called Kai, owned by well-known Rhode Island mixologist Jason Kindness, has moved into a space previously occupied by an Alex and Ani shop, which closed abruptly last year. Kindness has big plans for Kai, which consists of two bars with tables in between and along the walls. Already it has taken its place among the town's restaurant and bar staffers as the place to drop in after a shift. Across the street is another spot under construction. Rocco's Bistro is a sibling restaurant to a Smithfield casual pub called Rocco's Pub and Grub. Chef Jamie Beaulieu says the new place will have a somewhat different menu but is bringing along some menu benchmarks, which include interesting takes on pub fare such as hand-cut fries with togarashi – the Japanese seven-spice blend including chili peppers and hemp seeds – Parmesan and chipotle ketchup.
Fine-dining options are still available with the revived Post Office Café anchoring Restaurant Row at the north end of Main Street and doing well under chef-owner John Granata, and La Masseria in the middle of the downtown area becoming one of the established places in town.
At the other end of the street, construction activity continues. At 455 Main, Red Stripe has taken its place as a consistent "fine casual" destination. Across the side street is a spot known for its consistent inconsistency. In late 2016, Feast Sandwich Co. took over the small space and installed a sandwich grill press and a menu of handcrafted burgers and a section called "Refined Frankfurters."
One commodity that is scarce in town is vacant restaurant space. One of the few – the former Tio Mateo in the CVS Plaza – is becoming the latest location of the Jersey Mike's sub chain. It should be noted some of the new places are taking over addresses that were not previously restaurants, which speaks volumes about the vibrancy of the food-service business in the state. And the places that were new in 2015 are still thriving, from Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar to Tio Mateo Mexican Grille, which, together with its sibling Greenwich Bay Gourmet, moved to larger quarters. Indian cuisine, conspicuous by its absence, returned at about the same time with Sanjiv Dhar's Rasa. Interestingly enough, Dhar taught the restaurateur that opened the town's first Indian eatery how to cook. n
Bruce Newbury's Dining Out radio talk show is heard Saturdays at 11 a.m. on 1540 AM WADK and through the TuneIn mobile app. Email Bruce at Bruce@brucenewbury.com.