Back on Broadway, home also to Julian's (at 318) and Nick's on Broadway (at 500), we've paid several visits to Broadway Bistro (205 Broadway, Providence 401-331-2450), closest to downtown and considered by some a semi-secret oasis. On the small side, Broadway Bistro sits on a corner and has broad windows so there is street-scape to view and a warm balance of light. Decor is simple, thoughtfully executed and not out of a playbook.
It's definitely a bistro, with bistro prices and a lot of modern comfort foods featuring what's local and in season. Like menus at some of its compatriots, Broadway Bistro's is sometimes heavy with the heavy - gnocchi with short ribs, for instance, or jerk pork - but the tastes mostly work. Broadway Bistro uses a little ingenuity and prices reflect that.
On one visit I know I was thinking that my pasta may have been just slightly overwhelmed by the short rib meat and that a roasted beet appetizer may have had too many things going on but all my thoughts, all the positive feelings as well as the not-so, were in one big muddle by the time we left because of absorbing extraneous circumstances. Beside us, a short space away, there was serious, subdued conversation about a failed business venture; it drew our attention because the speakers' voices were so heart-breakingly sad. Turning away from this I mentally jumped back to two distant evenings in a subterranean New York restaurant. At the first, two persons shared a tiny table barely a foot from our own. A young guy, out on what looked like a promising first date, couldn't get past the getting-to-know-a-little-about-you stage without relating the entire boring tale of his divorce, becoming more animated as his recitation ran on with mind-numbing detail. His date, we were sure, was formulating escape plans, a quick dash to the subway maybe, or a cab. In match-making mode months later, we met two friends at the same restaurant. And right at our very table friend "one" began the self-pardoning story of why his wife left him. We could not shut him up; he recognized no signals. And three of us planned an escape. No way anyone was thinking about the menu.
The food at Broadway Bistro is definitely better than the ersatz French we ate at the bad-date site. There have been some terrific appetizers in recent months. Three really good ones: tacos (with chicken confit, tomato salsa and cilantro), split figs (with gorgonzola, bacon and walnuts) and neighborhood arugula (with goat cheese). Delicious. Can't say enough good things about home-grown arugula and the salad is big enough to share. Appetizer prices range from $5.00 (for the tacos or the truffle-oil fries with parmesan) to $11.00 for seared scallops.
Entrèes range in price from $11.00 for the house spaghetti (chopped local tomatoes, basil and parmesan on a recent night) to $20.00 for seared rib-eye or house gnocchi (with short ribs). At a recent dinner we had the following: seared salmon with lentils and broccoli rabe, the evening's special rib-eye, cod cakes with garlicky spinach and chive mashed potatoes and a plate of petite fried trout with a vegetable melange with slow-roasted cauliflower. The steak was ordered rare and arrived medium-rare to medium so it was a bust but the salmon and the cod cakes were delicious. The trout was outstanding, over-the-top excellent - every edible bit was consumed.
And there is NO DESSERT. Amen. Enjoy an appetizer, eat everything, and savor a single, small, excellent, chocolate truffle before you depart.