121 Washington Street
Providence, RI 02903
I’ll be going back to Local 121 as soon as I can, and I recommend you mosey on over too.
- Every course was beautifully and fastidiously (thanks Mr. Thesaurus) presented and most were delicious
- Excellent service, though having my notepad open on the table might’ve helped…
- Great ambiance, informal yet romantic
- Affordable wine list, though a bit short (less than 30 bottles to choose from)
- Menu is a great value for the quality
- Provide carafes of water in empty wine bottles and are always kept filled-love it!
- Mark’s Tasty Take-Home Special: When pouring the wine, the server always turned the bottle to ensure the label was facing the owner of the glass. This is that little something extra that set the service apart and caught my attention. Not that I said anything to the waitress-you have to keep them on their toes.
- Serving portions were on the too-large side…didn’t realize I was at the Cheesecake Factory…
- Ran out of their main special by 8:20. What is this, amateur hour?
- Meal felt quite rushed at times (time between soup and main course was less than 30 seconds), and I do enjoy being luxurious with my delectables
- Music changed too frequently in both volume (sometimes I felt like I was in a club) and in genre (ranged from classical to pop to techno-just pick one, we aren’t underground in Berlin)
- Worst Point: The kitchen area, while not visible from the dining room, is very audible from any table near the back, so try and sit near the front if possible
Local 121 is a cozy restaurant in downtown Providence down the block from Gracie’s and adjacent to the Trinity Rep. Their aim is to use locally harvested food and drink, thus the name. The ambiance is fantastic: at the same time cozy and spacious. I felt like I could both be wooed and host a walk-off competition down the center of the room simultaneously. High ceilings and beautiful molding add to the effect, and the huge chandelier-like lamps were just the perfect amount of sexy dim. Tables are far enough apart that you don’t need to shout to hear each other, which can always ruin an otherwise good meal. Besides the main dining room, they also have a super hip bar area that I felt uncool in with a huge selection of delectable alcoholic delights ($8-$16), ranging from Espresso Martinis to Christmas Cocktails.
I started the night with a winter cocktail named the St. Germain, which I of course pronounced with my annoying French accent: champagne, elderflower liqueur, sparkling water, and an orange twist ($10). Whoa! It was all kinds of delicious: sweet, yet not overly so, and adequately appetizing. From there, we moved onto a bottle of 2004 Brillando Sangiovese wine from Tuscany, priced at $29. For the price, I would highly recommend this bottle-if possible, have it opened while you’re having cocktails as it took a while to really get going, but once ready it was medium-bodied, tarty, and had a fruity tang that went perfectly with both cheese and chicken. If that sounded pretentious and completely ungrounded, then you better get used to it.
We began our meal with a cheese platter ($16), all locally harvested, though not from Farmstead like I was promised. It came out delightfully presented, with sides of candied nuts (sins on a spoon), homemade blueberry jam, and toasted Olga’s bread. One cheese I want to highlight specifically was one of the thimble-shaped pieces-it was lavender flavored. Why does lavender go so well in everything? It’s like a wonder drug. I don’t usually have cheese before a meal, but I have to recommend it here because they know what they’re doing.
I moved on to the special soup ($10), a bowl of butternut squash liquid perfection topped with homemade crÃ¨me fraiche. I could’ve licked that bowl clean all night long. The soup, while perhaps a bit on the thick side, was complemented nicely with notes of parsley, basil, and fresh pepper. My only complaint is that the combination of it being so good and so big was that it was too filling. I recommend splitting it, or, even better, not having both a cheese course and another appetizer…but then I would have to stop being a glutton, and that just wouldn’t do.
My main course was the fresh prima pasta (changes daily, $14): homemade pappardelle pasta tossed in grape seed oil with brocollini, fresh garlic, chili flakes and grano padano cheese. Scott was certainly right when he said that brocollini is one of the most unfortunately neglected items in modern cuisine-”it’s broccoli’s slimmer, sexier, tastier cousin”. Totally true, and if you check my “Lists” page, it’s currently the #1 most underused food ingredients. Out of 1. I have mixed feelings about the pasta: it was certainly fresh and was relatively light due to the lack of sauce (turns out grape seed oil is a delicious alternative), but there just wasn’t enough flavor for me. The brocollini was good on its own, but the pasta as a whole just tasted a bit spicy from the chili and otherwise bland. I wouldn’t strongly recommend this pasta, but since the prima pasta rotates daily, you might not even have the same choice.
Finally, we topped off the night with two shots of Illy espresso (served in delightful Illy espresso cup and saucer sets) and a chocolate brownie ice cream partfait. This tower of tasty goodness was made with almonds, homemade vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, and of course homemade warm chocolate brownies. In a word, beautiful. Get it. You won’t regret it.