Craig Fear and I decided to take the day off and embark to Providence with an edible “wish list”. We completed all of our wish list items in one day. Because I am tired of reading blog articles that are too long, I decided to break our day into 3-4 shorter blog articles. Here’s the final article about one of the most memorable restaurants I have ever been to, North.
North leaves an impression on you.
“You’re going to go right past it” warned our friend who suggested the restaurant YEARS ago back when North was located in the West End of Providence. He was so right. My boyfriend and I drove past the restaurant at least twice trying to find it. Back then, only a tiny neon sign spelling out “North” lit up a tiny window.
We arrived just 10 minutes after they opened but the narrow dining room (at most there were maybe 7 tables and 5 bar seats?) was already full. Names of people waiting were scribbled in a battered looking spiral notebook. Loved it.
We took advantage of two tiny stools that opened up at the bar. We squished shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, tucked in our elbows, and tried to see what everyone was eating. It all looked delicious, especially the big bowls of ramen. I fell in love with the menu, the neighborhood vibe, and how the bartender had a mini-mountain of crushed ice on hand for plating shucked shellfish and for making boozy slushies.
Was ham carved behind the bar, too? Please comment and let me know if I remember the set-up correctly!
While I recall the food being scrumptious, comforting, and completely restorative (a Manhattan, delectable ham biscuits, rich ramen, oysters, and my first encounter with dan dan noodles), what I really remember and savored was the hospitality and humility of it all.
It was a dark and cramped space, but the folks working there were glad you found them. They were going to take care of you, treat you as a welcomed guest in their space in their own way. They were not going to force smiles, jokes, or a party-atmosphere onto you because that is someone else’s idea of “hospitality”, not theirs. Nope. I recall the staff being cool, welcoming, and totally humble about how awesome North is.
So when Craig asked “Where do you want to go in Providence?”, North was such an easy answer. While I heard they moved to a new location at the foot of the old-school styled Dean Hotel, I hoped the hospitality and the humility remained.
It has. And now there’s more elbow room.
Their current space is open, simple and fresh. The hostess sat Craig and I by the window (score!). I settled in with a cocktail of mezcal and figs.
These were our final seafood dishes of the day and they made us SO SO happy.
Spring Squid w/ cucumber
A whole squid was quickly grilled, then sliced. The lightly charred rings and tentacles were paired with paper-thin cucumber slices, a spicy yogurt, and a cucumber cashew relish. Light and delightful
I just recently learned of the 2 - 20 minute rule when it comes to squid - cook it for less than 2 minutes or more than 20 minutes. Anything in between results in the dreaded rubbery texture. At North, they take the less than 2 minutes approach.
squid and mutton dan dan
Squid made another appearance in the next dish - dan dan noodles.
While dan dan noodles refer to a traditional Chinese dish of homemade noodles with sichuan pepper, chili oil, and fermented vegetables, I think chefs are using traditional components of dan dan as a base for something more.
North’s dan dan bowl combined local squid, fermented chili, house noodles, braised mutton, a good portion of cilantro, and rice cakes. Such an awesome bowl of addictive flavors and textures! It was the first time Craig was exposed to dan dan and my first time with mutton. North easily created another dan dan (and mutton!) fan.
surprise ham biscuits
It happened again! Just like when we were at Providence Oyster Bar, kitchen magic happened with one of North’s staple menu items. Our lovely server came by and said “The kitchen made an extra batch of ham biscuits. Would you like them?”
There were 3 fluffy miniature biscuits with a schmear of mustard and a shaving of country-style ham.
So special. So delicious. Still as delectable as I remembered.
Monkfish w/ pepita broth
I had to order this dish. Brown buttered monkfish in pepita broth with kholrabi.
Monkfish is one of those fish that I struggle to cook at home (probably because I try too hard!) so I get super excited when it’s on a restaurant menu.
The colors of this dish are beautiful and the photo below does not do it justice. The outside of the monkfish had a lovely crust of brown butter that crisped and melted in your mouth at the same time. The inside of the monkfish was rich and succulent. The pepita broth was such a pleasant and delicate compliment to the warm buttered fish and roasted kholrabi.
While all of the dishes were absolutely wonderful, this monkfish dish was my favorite. Whenever someone doubts the luxury of monkfish - which happens way too often- I talk about this dish and send them to North.
North will always be a solid choice. But next time I’m in Providence, I’ll be heading to North’s sister restaurant, Big King . Stu from Fearless Fish Market recommended it. I. Can’t. Wait.
Exploring local seafood in Providence was a blast! While I’m sure we would find new options every season since seafood availability changes every few months, we also want to visit other iconic seafood hubs in New England.
Where do you think we should go next?
New Bedford? Boston? Portland? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch on Instagram @ourwickedfish !