Monday, May 21, 2012


Avenue N (full name: Avenue N American Kitchen) had a great first year. In the Rumford section of East Providence (20 Newman Avenue, Rumford  401- 270-2836), Avenue N is owned and operated by Nick and Tracy Rabar. It's a small (except in warm weather when there is outdoor space) high-ceilinged bistro in the renovated Rumford Chemical Works (made famous by Rumford Baking Powder) next door to Seven Stars Bakery. Nick Rabar is a CIA (New York) alum with significant local experience including ten years as "corporate" chef for Chow Fun, the local restaurant group which includes 10 Steak & Sushi, XOXO, etc. But what gets cooked here is much better than standard fare at a Chow Fun restaurant.

Avenue N  hit the ground running. It's been busy, not languishing, maybe because the neighborhood was needy, and apparently very hungry. A bar crowd is in place. On my last visit a famous local restaurant-owning duo sat at the bar, eating and talking with their many friends.

The menu is simple - there are about eight appetizers, eight soups and salads, eight entrees and three pizzas. This is not a hip modern menu à la Nicks on Broadway (; it's more in the comfort mode of Al Forno ( only better priced. Avenue N takes advantage of local waters for its crispy calamari (Point Judith) and its delicious fried oysters (Plum Point). And the Fall River mussel bowl skips Belgium (and Thailand) influences in favor of truly local broth made with chourico and kale. Maybe the most popular appetizer is the combo of two hand-battered corn dogs and a not-so-mini pot of mac & cheese (only sane option is sharing). The corn dogs are reminiscent of the Minnesota State Fair (don't be a snob - this is a huge compliment). The Macomber turnip bisque is a winner as is the chicken dumpling and Rumford biscuit soup. Entrees include three beef options (sirloin steak; short ribs; burger), one chicken, one pork, salmon, scallops and porcini ravioli. Biggest praise went to the burger (adorned with cheddar, grilled onions and bacon) and the chicken. I will order the salmon again because it was cooked competently (not dried to oblivion) but, honestly, I order it more to atone for fried oysters or those corn dogs than because I love it. Next time I share a pizza and save room for dessert. The burger is worth a trip.

And a tricky trip it is due to the out-of-commission Broadway bridge. Be intrepid, you'll find it.

Best news: Avenue N is open seven days a week. Monday-Thursday, 4:00 - 10:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4:00 - 11:00 p.m.; Sunday, brunch from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. followed by dinner until 9:00 p.m.

Friendly, no snarky staff; credit Tracy Rabar for this.

Chef, by way of Puerto Rico, Johnson & Wales, and previous work with Nick Rabar, is Esteban Martinez.

The negative? Not enough space and nowhere to wait without hovering by occupied tables.

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