Restaurant: The Red Fez
Location: 49 Peck Street, Providence, RI 02903
Price: Average (~$12 entrees)
Would I eat there again? Yes
The Red Fez sits in a location perfectly suited to its ambiance. Smack dab in the heart of the historic downtown parking district and near the soon to be defunct 195 highway, it is not the first spot you might think of for a restaurant. But hey, at least there normally is parking! Its location fits the mood of the restuarant very well- a little off the beaten path, quirky, yet still clean and comfortable.
Dining is offered on two floors- the downstairs is the fancy dining room (i.e. only one stuffed animal head, almost sufficient lighting, and no pinball machine). The upstairs is where it gets really interesting- PETA activists may want to take a pass on the upstairs, as the red hues and profusion of formerly happy woodland creatures on the walls make quite an impression.
Attitude is everything though, and while they have some of the same ironic hipster feel of Julians, the staff is far more friendly, and the whole dining experience is lower key. The drinks list is not huge, but well balanced, with a good variety of bottled and draft beers ranging from $2-$15, and an acceptable basic wine list. A couple inventive-sounding house cocktails round out their offerings. We enjoyed a Paulaner Hefeweizen on draft, nice and refreshing with a subtle spicy citrus aroma.
The food menu is small, with normally a handful of appetizers, a few permanent menu items, and 3-5 seasonal offerings. Everything I have eaten at The Red Fez has been well done, and I often will dine on a variety of their small plates so we can try more dishes. This evening we started off with corn and ancho fritters and avocado, shrimp and corn tacos. The fritters had just the right consistency- soft and cushy with plump corn kernels liberally scattered throughout. Sweet chili sauce provided a good balance to the fritters. The tacos were tasty, simple and fresh. Not greasy at all, everything tasted like you wanted it to.
We finished off our meal with the pulled pork BBQ sandwich (which comes with local slaw and pickles!) This is a serious dish, two of us were not able to finish it off, despite having only eaten the two appetizers before this. The pork is super moist and tangy- a slight heat rides through the sauce that has a nice touch of sweetness. The bun was pretty hefty, but still collapsed under the power of the pork and slaw. Service was prompt and friendly, and waters never got empty.
The Red Fez is a unique restaurant in Providence that deserves more attention than it gets, although it seems like they might be happy with the way things are. Funky decor, creative dishes featuring local items, and a good drink list put the Red Fez solidly on the ten top list. Well done!