I was excited to begin my assignment as a Providence Monthly reviewer at The Grange, a new plant-focused restaurant on Providence’s West Side. The renovation transformed 166 Broadway into a surprisingly roomy space including ample bar seating, dining tables and a casual lounge area. The interior, designed by Kyla Coburn, features creatively repurposed elements that invoke vintage without veering into cloying or homey, from the glass insulators strung together for bar lighting to the thick metal spring used as a vase at our table. On nice days, you’ll appreciate the sliding windows as you get some fresh air and watch cyclists zip down Broadway’s new bike lane.
The Grange was created by the owners of Providence’s longstanding vegetarian stronghold, The Garden Grille – also the former domain of Grange chef Jonathan Dille. This new restaurant describes itself as plant-based cuisine, serving vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Don’t skip the cocktails – The Grange has a well-designed selection. The Bitter Mai-Tai ($12) is a sophisticated riff on the Trader Vic’s original, eclipsing the syrupy version poured at too many bars. Served over crushed ice and garnished with citrus, the drink nicely balanced fruitiness with smoky bitters, an ingredient rumored to make an appearance in the Don the Beachcomber version. The cocktail list includes several originals as well as some classics. We also tried the Toronto, a recipe from a 1922 cocktail book, which combined Old Overholt Rye with Fernet Branca. The selection shows an affinity for interesting bitters, hand-picked spirits and herbal flavors. The beer list also delivers, with seven draughts and several bottles (on our visit, bottles ranged from a $23 oversized bottle of Pretty Things Baby Tree Quad down to a $2 classic Bud “Heavy”).
Cocktails, especially strong ones, are best with a snack, so we ordered some smoked gouda Deviled Eggs ($5). A dot of relish provided the perfect sweet counterpart to the egg’s creamy smokiness.
The menu is divided into small, medium and large plates, providing flexibility for various appetites and creating opportunities to share. Dishes are simply presented as a list of ingredients, which don’t always hint at the preparation, but you can always ask your server what to expect – all the staff we encountered were friendly and attentive.
For his entrée, my dining companion chose the “Chicken Fried” Oyster Mushroom Po’ Boy ($11), listed under Medium Plates, with a side of Pommes Frites ($5). I loved the Po’Boy’s soft pretzel roll; and though we wondered whether the delicacy of oyster mushrooms would stand up to the preparation, we found they were a perfectly tender counterpart to the roll and toppings. The frites were well seasoned, thinly cut and served with a flavorful aioli for dipping.
I ordered the large plate described as “Carrots/Za’atar/Fingerlings/Kale/Fried Olives/Creamed Greens/istachio Puree/Sunflower” ($16). I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of preparation or plating, but was pleasantly surprised. The carrots were slow roasted to tender perfection, sweet on the inside and just slightly blistered on the outside. They were arranged on a base of creamed chopped greens and kale, surrounded by swirls of pistachio cream and green olives fried until slightly wrinkled. Fingerling potatoes were simply boiled without seasoning – preparation that showcased their quality. I was worried that the number of ingredients would be overwhelming, but they were well-balanced, complementary and appropriately prepared.
My dish was a perfect example of The Grange’s original approach to plant-based cuisine. Dille creates vegetable-focused dishes that aren’t self-conscious of their lack of meat, only including proteins like seitan and tofu occasionally and appropriately. The vegetables speak for themselves – expertly prepared and sparingly enhanced by nuts, herbs and spice
All three dessert selections were vegan, but I wouldn’t have guessed that the Chocolate Plate ($9) was dairy-and egg-free. The creamy mousse, fudgy brownie and coffee ice cream were certainly not missing anything. In a fit of indecision, we also ordered a USA Beignet, a salted maple-glazed homemade doughnut with a scoop of coconut ice cream. I’m glad we saved room because these were both worth trying.
Though I think there’s something on the menu for every taste, The Grange will predictably be more of a hit with vegetable lovers. But if your picky meat-a-vore friend shows up, that Po’ Boy we ordered would be a good choice. If you're a tenacious meat-eater, just come for a few cocktails... but you just might be tempted by your neighbor's food.