We’ll soon be coming upon the perfect weather to sit outside on Atwells, watch couples strut to fancy dinners and gawk as valets park Lamborghinis. In preparation, we tried a relative newcomer to the street, Federal Taphouse & Kitchen.
As was its predecessor, Providence Prime, Federal Taphouse is connected to the adjacent Providence Oyster Bar, allowing seafood lovers the opportunity to order from the Oyster Bar’s raw bar. Tempted by the dollar oyster specials, we headed out early for “Appy Hour,” which runs from 3-6pm daily. Unfortunately, specials are only available at the packed bar, and our party wasn’t feeling like a crowd. Next time!
Instead, we were seated at a table and decided to check out some of the appetizers on the regular menu. We started with the Southern Style Fried Pickles ($7) and the Poutine ($10). The pickles were well and freshly fried, with an addictively spicy chipotle aioli. The Poutine would have hit the mark if it had not been called poutine, but “short rib cheddar fries.” If you’re a frequent poutine eater, you will miss the cheese curds (or much cheese at all) and the requisite dose of gravy. But take the name out of your mind, and the fries are fine, with the nice addition of a shredded short rib topping. We also shared a Beef Short Rib Flatbread ($12). The bold flavors of Gorgonzola, mushrooms, roasted peppers, garlic aioli and scallions combined well.
This “taphouse” has several draught beers, and there’s plenty at the bar to appease non-beer drinkers too. The beer list is not as illustrious as some of the more beer-focused bars like What Cheer Tavern or Julian’s, but an improvement over other wine-heavy restaurants on Atwells. There’s good local representation and a broad mix of styles. Two of us started with the Dogfish Head Aprihop and two with the Revival White Electric Coffee Stout (both $8/16oz). Beers are available in 16 and 20-ounce sizes, or as a flight.
For our entrees, two of us decided to split burgers. I ordered the Blackbird Farm RI Grass Fed Burger ($14). Made from grass fed beef from Smithfield’s Blackbird Farm, this burger was topped with maple pepper bacon, organic local mushrooms and Gruyere cheese. The patty was substantial and a perfect medium rare as requested, and the ingredients showcased the quality meat. I upgraded my fries to the house cut French Fries with Truffle and Parmesan ($8 when ordered as a side). I traded half of my burger for my friend’s Alaskan Salmon Burger ($12). The generous piece of salmon was garnished with pickles, arugula, caper aioli and onion. Like my burger, this was served on a buttery, glossy brioche bun. We agreed that both burgers were winners.
Another friend tried the New England Lobster Roll ($19), hoping to find an indoor equivalent while it’s still too cold for a clam shack visit. She was pleasantly surprised. The lobster was generous and consisted of a mix of shredded meat and some large pieces of claw. Like our burgers, this came with fries.
My husband had the FTK Chicken and Waffles ($19). A dark wooden plate was laid with four pieces of fried chicken, four quarters of a large round buttermilk waffle, a hefty mound of braised greens and a gravy boat of syrup.
Two of us tried the Founders Backwoods Bastard ($7.50/8oz). It’s served in a small snifter because of the higher alcohol content (10.2%). It has a sweet, dark flavor with a hint of bourbon and is great for slow sipping or to pair with dessert.
Our waitress, Danielle, was attentive and cheerful. She was even able to talk us into sharing a dessert – a peach and blueberry crumble with a macadamia topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($7). This skillet dessert was definitely big enough to share and the two fruits married well.
Federal Taphouse & Kitchen is a good choice for appy hour snacks and drinks on Atwells. It’s casual and friendly, and the food is more thoughtful than typical bar fare.
Federal Taphouse & Kitchen
279 Atwells Avenue
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