With no signage beyond a markedly unflashy “345” posted above a black awning to denote the South Water Street address, Plant City’s new bar concept crept onto the scene late March. Across the parking lot from the vegan food hall, you enter through the bakery and prep kitchen (where friendly cook Julio will likely wave hello), set foot through another door, and find yourself transported.
“We wanted people to have that moment when they walk through that black door in the back of the bakery like Alice in Wonderland falling through the looking glass,” says Kim Anderson, co-founder of Plant City who, along with executive chef Luis Jaramillo, developed the speakeasy-style 345.
If you take a seat at the bar, you might notice a row of seven black pigs with gold feet and wings watching over the space and think they’re just an eclectic accent, but even these unassuming statuettes are a testament to Jaramillo’s penchant for detail. He shares that for months he had been pitching the idea of a speakeasy joint that’s a little bit different to Anderson.
Her answer? “When pigs fly.”
But as COVID restrictions lifted, the time was right, and Anderson greenlit the project a few months ago. Since, plant-based eaters and sippers have been flocking to this intimate bar that’s not simply veg-friendly but veg-celebratory, highlighting rather than hiding savory, earthy flavors.
A weekday visit with friends warranted a few appetizers for the table along with drinks for a truly escapist experience in this space that’s both dimly lit and moody yet lush with green fronds. For a culinary game of chance, I recommend One Out of Ten, a dish that’s deceptively simple. A pile of shishito peppers – known for being generally mild though the occasional pepper packs a punch – are served with black garlic aioli and chili flakes.
The first round of drinks included a Medical-Medium and Phat Beet – two prime examples of Jaramillo’s collaboration with award-winning NYC-based mixologist Darnell Holguin to concoct a unique drink program that goes beyond simply reinventing existing classics. The former, a gin cocktail, goes down like a tonic with subtle savory notes from the celery juice (complete with leafy stalk garnishing it) complemented by citrusy yuzu. Phat Beet stars cachaça (a Brazilian sugar cane spirit) and golden beet juice for the perfect blend of sweet and earthy.
Next came two umami-forward appetizers that quickly became favorites. The Truffle Explosion is a vegan take on arancini that gets a burst of nutty, mushroomy flavor from its namesake ingredient, while Jaramillo’s practiced techniques for working the rice give it a clingy texture reminiscent of its cheesy cousin. The Not Your Average Taco is exactly as described – delightfully crisp hen of the woods mushrooms piled high with shoestring-thin pickled veggies and sprouts. I was pleased to find the black garlic aioli making a comeback in this dish.
I didn’t want to leave without one (okay, two) more indulgences. La Pizza De La Nonna, a new addition to the menu, is a pleasingly substantial pie with a thick crust loaded with caramelized onions, lightly charred peppadew peppers (adding just the right amount of spice), and castelvetrano olives. Gobs of macadamia ricotta are toasted until slightly brown and bubbly on top and offer smooth, creamy bites tempering the crunch of veggies.
This paired nicely with When Pigs Fly, a cocktail as surreal as the name would suggest with a daring blend of carrot juice, miso, and bourbon. With these ingredients, I expected something hearty and filling like a Bloody Mary, but far from it, this drink is sweetened just a bit with brown sugar notes of demerara and lime – yet another happy surprise.
In true Plant City form, these are plant-based eats that aren’t pretending. Omnivores may have fun noticing the meat-like notes accentuated in rich choices like 345’s take on a burger or the porkless chicharones, but each menu item is entirely its own thing without relying on a repertoire of OG meat dishes.
Be warned, you’ll want to keep the night going with at least one more round of drinks (don’t miss a dedicated menu of elevated mocktails!) – and leaving before dark isn’t advisable lest you be blinded by the light when opening the exit door, breaking 345’s spell.
345 by Plant City • 345 S Water St, Providence • 401-347-4429
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