I've been to Rí Rá in Providence quite a few times, but not till recently have I been there to eat. Rí Rá is a very Irish pub right in downtown Providence on the Exchange Street Terrace with neighbors such as Capital Grill and Union Station. For the bar goer, Rí Rá offers darts, live bands several nights a week, trivia nights, and a lively crowd, especially on weekends and St. Patty's Day. The night time bar crowd consists of younger adults from mid-twenties to a mid-thirties crowd. Whenever I thought about eating at Rí Rá, I thought corned beef, cabbage and Guinness.
I was pleasantly surprised that it was a whole lot more. In addition to being a great place to go for a pint, they had a pretty interesting menu and tasty food to back it up. The items that we got were quite good and the menu offered enough options that we'll definitely go back another time. I started out with a potato leek soup, and Amy ordered the Soft Ale Pretzels. The potato leek soup runs the risk of being a little plain. Without the right combination of spices and ingredients, it will be a little lackluster, but the potato leek soup at Rí Rá had a nice combination of base flavors of the potato and leek with a perfect balance of salt and other spices. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what gave it so much character. The soft pretzels were warm and delicious. They were so good they inspired us to try to make soft pretzels at home. Our home attempt was less successful than the ones at Rí Rá. The only thing that could have made it better was a less runny mustard sauce with bolder flavor.
As an in between course I got mussels from the specials menu. It was mussels tossed with green onion and Irish rasher with a Coleman's mustard cream sauce. Thanks to Google, I can now tell you that rasher, and specifically Irish rasher is a type of pork product best described as English bacon or back bacon. Amy is anti-seafood and wouldn't go near mussels. I'd give the mussels about a 5 out of 10. They were O.K., but it seemed like there was something to the mussels that was a little off. I'm no expert on mussels, but I don't think it had anything to do with the preparation, it just seemed like the mussels lacked a fresh from the sea taste. I really couldn't get a good read on the broth that the muscles were cooked in because of it, and therefore couldn't get a taste of the Irish rasher.
For the main meal, Amy went with the beef and Guinness Stew and I went with fish and chips. Both were excellent. Having recently been to London, I was hoping for some good fish and chips. I've been on a fish and chips kick, and I've ordered at least three in the past couple months at different places trying to get some that satisfy. Rí Rá fish and chips did just that. The fish was nice and crispy without being super oily and greasy inside. It flaked apart like good fish and chips will, and the tarter sauce wasn't too heavy on the pickley relish flavor. It was on the tart side versus sweet. Just how I like it. The chips were plentiful, and matched the flavor and quality of the fish.
Amy's Beef and Guinness Stew was equally impressive. As mentioned before, Amy is a sucker for braised meats, and the beef in the beef stew was tender and easy to pull apart. There was a perfect balance of mashed potatoes, meat, and stew. All of the flavors came together very well. The potatoes could never be mistaken for instant. Irish do their potatoes right. The brown liquid gravy part of the stew was robust, and taste home made, certainly not like something made in large quantities in a restaurant.
The menu at Rí Rá was surprising and a welcome experience to add to our list of dining in the area. Traditionally somewhere I just thought of for the night life, the food delivered a level of quality and comfort that was surprising. A good surprising. The service was great too. Rí Rá promises "the best wings in Providence," and I look forward to putting them to the test. They've also got a block on the menu with "Irish Toasties." They are Irish style grilled cheeses with various meats and toppings. All of which sound fantastic. They have Amstel Light on tap, which isn't that common, and plenty of Irish whiskeys and scotches. We had two entrees, two apps, plus muscles. I cannot remember the exact price of the bill, but I think it was just under $70, and we didn't have any alcohol to drive up the bill. I recommend Rí Rá highly for an outing that is outside the standard options. It's good Irish home cooking.
Oh, I almost forgot! They have a nice big patio for outdoor seating!