We’re spoiled by the diversity and quality of restaurants in Providence, so I always applaud a new restaurant for managing to find an unaddressed niche in this fairly comprehensive food city. A recent example is Bucktown, who swooped in to relieve all the Southern transplants eager for hearty fried chicken, hush puppies and banana pudding.
Bucktown is small and simple. To put it in Rhode Island terms, think of it as a seafood shack that happens to be in the heart of the city’s West Side (and serves more than seafood). What was once a neighborhood ice cream and snack shop now delivers what is arguably the city’s best fried chicken, easily building a cult following.
We started with some appetizers (a.k.a. “Bites”): an order of Hush Puppies and Southern Fried Shrimp. I was looking forward to the Crispy Oysters, which I’d enjoyed in the past – too bad the restaurant was fresh out. The hush puppies were not too sweet and not too grainy, with specks of green onion. If you like an extra dose of honey on yours, look for the honey bear squeeze bottle at the table. The shrimp hit the spot – hot and freshly fried, evenly coated with well-seasoned cornmeal, tartar sauce on the side.
The heartier portion of Bucktown’s menu has sandwiches (Sandos) and Plates. The plates come with two sides and a choice of sauce; “sando” eaters or the especially hungry can order extra sides for $3 a piece. At Bucktown, it’s almost cafeteria style. You order at the counter, the staff brings out your tray and you bus your own table.
As we waited for our food, we enjoyed some of the beer selection, which is relatively large for a small restaurant: four taps alongside several cans and bottles. My husband had an El Sully by 21st Amendment Brewery, and I tried the Lil Heaven Session IPA by Two Roads Brewing Company in Connecticut. Both are light on the alcohol at under five percent. I preferred the IPA, which had a lot of flavor for a session beer (session beer means low alcohol, as in “you can drink many in a session.”) Bucktown also has a selection of sodas and homemade Hibiscus Punch, which I promised myself I’d try on my next visit.
My father-in-law was considering the Fried Bologna Sandwich but ended up deciding on a Shrimp Po’ Boy. My mother-in-law ordered a Shrimp Plate. The shrimp on the plate are the same as the shrimp appetizer, but they were so good we didn’t mind an extra helping at the table. Seafood fans should also try the Captain’s Platter; the contents may change depending on what’s available but usually include fish, shrimp and oysters.
I was astonished by my Chicken Thigh Sandwich. The flattened, boneless thigh was enormous – almost twice the size of the bun, and maybe even the size of my face. I was happy to have a huge portion to share with the table. My husband had the Fried Chicken Dinner, which comes with two pieces of chicken and two sides. Though I have no qualms about wrestling chicken bones, I thought my sandwich was a great way to experience the delicious dark meat with less hassle.
All of our sides were crowd pleasers. The Collard Greens were some of the best we’ve had in New England, the smoky pork balanced with a touch of sweetness and acidity. The Mac and Cheese was simple and nostalgic. The Cole Slaw was a mayo-free version, which I prefer alongside fried food. We especially loved the Waffle Fries, which were wonderfully seasoned with a hint of spice. I couldn’t stop dipping them in spicy Comeback Sauce, a Southern concoction usually made with mayonnaise and chili sauce, like a daring Russian dressing.
We finished our night with two orders of Banana Pudding. The mini pies were made with vanilla wafers, banana pudding and whipped topping. I’d never had this dessert before, but it brought back memories for my in-laws.
Though I usually fill my plate with greener fare, I’m sure I’ll be back to Bucktown for some comfort food this winter.
471 West Fountain Street