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Underground GPub in Providence, R.I., Reaches New Heights in Gastro Food Pub Favorites

Providence GPub restaurant and Bar in Providence, Rhode Island
Outside entrance to the Providence GPub. Photo credit: GPub.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 10/10/18.

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The first impression of GPub in Providence, R.I. suggests something very different about this restaurant and bar.

Black and white images of vintage Providence saturate the walls of the main entrance, while a staircase leading to the lower-level eating and drinking establishment hints at a 1920s speakeasy-style restaurant.
The large placemat stating "Speak Easy, Eat Well" confirms that observation.

Entrance at Providence GPub in Providence, R.I.
Approaching the Providence GPub.

The 21-step staircase spans far longer than expected, adding to this mystery and hidden restaurant presence that descends about 50 ft. into the former Providence Gas Company site.

Speakeasy-style restaurant: Providence GPub in Providence, R.I.
About half-way down the steps at the GPub.

Although views of the bar and dining area aren't fully apparent while navigating the stairs, it's clear that GPub in Providence isn't your basic cramped, claustrophobic basement restaurant. Almost like a Wizard of Oz scene where a black and white world turns to color, the enormity and personality of the Providence GPub comes to life quickly when arriving at the destination. The space is indeed large -- 10,000 sq. ft. -- with a glorious renovation that would make the folks at HGTV mighty happy. Historic elements like exposed ductwork, columns and beams remain to create a retro, Roaring 20s foundation and ambiance, while the dining and bar area design offer a modern gastro pub look. It's a truly inviting, warm scene.

Providence GPub dining area in Providence, R.I.
Lively scene at Providence GPub. Photo credit: GPub.

Leather booths, tables, a long bar with back-lit frosted windows, sports banners all over the place, 17 LED televisions, billiards, foosball, air hockey and shuffleboard tables create the ultimate restaurant and bar scene.
The scratch kitchen serves delicious food at the top of its genre to go along with the 50-plus beers and seasonal craft cocktails.

B.L.T.A. from GPub in Providence, R.I. - peppered bacon, arugula, fried green tomato, avocado crema and grilled multi grain bread.
B.L.T.A. -- Peppered bacon, arugula, fried green tomato, avocado crema on grilled multi-grain bread. Photo credit: GPub.

The space can accommodate up to 250 people and brings in all walks of life -- from college students at Brown University, Providence College and Rhode Island School of Design to nearby theater and concert goers, families and small and large groups from corporate businesses.

"When you walk in and before heading downstairs, you don't realize how massive it is," said Brendan Chipley Roane, director of marketing and communications at G Hospitality.

GClub is part of the Providence G Building -- a restored collection of historic properties that includes luxury apartments, a concierge, fitness center and garage in the heart of the city. In addition to the downstairs GPub which opened in 2013, there's the Rooftop at Providence G with enclosed glass, firepits and views of the Providence skyline. The Ballroom at Providence G -- ideal for an event -- features original marble floors, crystal chandeliers and Greek key molding. Soon, Sarto will open as a "Rhode Island inspired osteria and salumeria" for breakfast lunch and dinner.

The mastermind chef behind the GPub scratch kitchen

Kevin Smith, chef at Providence GPub in Providence, R.I.
Kevin Smith cooks at the Providence GPub.

GPub Executive Chef Kevin Smith, 40, cooked a lot on his own when younger, but didn't get cooking in his career until many years later. A Raynham, Mass., native, Smith loved cooking from ages 18-23, but never formally entered the field. He worked in the mortgage and HVAC businesses, however, and "just wasn't finding the niche."

"My dad, knowing that I liked cooking, encouraged me to get into the culinary business," said Smith.

Following this dad's advice, Smith attended and graduated from Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and then went to work as a line cook for mentor Brian Rutherford at Bistro Mezzaluna, also in Fort Lauderdale. There, Smith learned all aspects of restaurant operations. Smith came back to New England to work at the Fireside Grille in Middleboro, Mass., in 2009, but then returned to Florida to work again for Rutherford.

"Brian was reluctant to take me back," said Smith. "He told me that because I had already worked at his restaurant that
I needed to get out and work somewhere else to advance in the field."

Smith followed Rutherford's advice by taking on more job responsibility as a sous chef at Shula's 347
(owned by Miami Dolphins legendary coach, Don Shula) in South Miami, Fla. At the 347, Smith gained needed professional experience while also finding his personal life getting a significant upgrade. Smith met his destiny -- that is, Destiny, a New England native and pastry chef with a degree from Johnson and Wales University in Providence. They had their first date on New Year's Eve, which would eventually lead to marriage and two daughters, ages five and three.

"I went 1,300 miles to find a New England girl!" said Smith.

Eventually, Smith would transfer to the former 347 at the Providence Hilton for two years.
In 2013, he became an executive chef with Barrett's Alehouse Corporation in Bridgewater, Mass., where he helped create menus for the five Barrett's restaurants.

"I was like a swing chef at Barrett's, and helped them open the West Bridgewater location. The schedule took a toll on me, though," said Smith. "I found myself with little time outside of working. Home life was not optimal and I took eight months off to reeavulate my direction."

Fortunately, Smith decided to continue in the food industry. The long culinary road led to becoming the executive chef at GPub.

Pasta affumicatta from GPub in Providence, R.I.
Pasta Affumicatti from GPub. Photo credit: GPub.

At GPub, Smith has no allegiance to one style of food -- perfect for a restaurant that prides itself on an eclectic mix of traditional pub favorites.

"I can create made-from-scratch pub food here, braising our own meats, picking our own vegetables.," said Smith. "We get our own seafood from a business out of Warren, Rhode Island (known for its local seafood). I just created a new menu. I love it here."

Small plate at GPub in Providence, R.I.: Twisted Garlic Shrimp
Twisted shrimp small plate from GPub. Photo credit: GPub.

The new menu of small plates, bar snacks, flat bread, greens, sides and soups, artisan hand-helds, tacos and main plates debuts creations like maple ginger salmon and Pasta Affumicatti (gemelli pasta, slow roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, kale pesto, wilted mozzarella and options of grilled chicken or shrimp) with old standbys like the delicious grilled cheeseburger (Wisconsin cheddar, four pepper bacon, fried onion string and sweet barbecue sauce) and fish and chips.

GPub Menu in Providence, R.I.
Menu from GPub Providence in Providence, RI

"We have taken the good from the old menu and added some really great new items," said Smith. "We use cleaner ingredients, have seasonal offerings and basically just elevated things to the next level," said Smith. "I recommend dishes like the cured chicken wings, Whiskey Blue Burger, maple ginger salmon, chicken and waffles and the (sesame crusted) tuna. There's so much more, though. It's hard to recommend just one dish. A lot of hard work has gone into the new menu."

Providence GPub: A "Really Cool Place"

Dining area at GPub, Providence, R.I.
View from the opposite end of GPub.

Nora Grady, a Long Island resident with ties to Providence, now regards the GPub as her family's go-to dining out place when in the area.

"My family travels back to town for Providence College Family Alumni Weekend every year," said Grady. "We are a large group (at least 12) and range in age from three to 49, so it is not always the easiest to find a restaurant that is suitable for all of us. We decided to take a chance at the GPub for lunch before the PC game and we are so glad we did! Awesome food, drinks, service and overall just a really cool place. The food was delicious, we were all pleased with our meals. Biggest hits were the G Nachos and Pulled Pork Tater Tot Poutine that we all shared as starters. Everyone loved their entrees, a mix of specialty burgers and sandwiches, and the kid friendly meals were fabulous.

GPub Providence Whiskey Bleu burger
Whiskey Bleu Burger with homemade whiskey glaze, Guinness caramelized onion, arugula, and smoked bleu cheese. Photo credit: GPub.

As soon as our children finished their lunch, our awesome server Bianca brought over board games for them to play and once they finished that, they headed over to play pool," added Nora. "It was perfect!! I loved our lunch there so much that when I came back to Providence a few months later, I organized a dinner at GPub for my friends. Can't wait to go back next time I am in town."

Pool tables, foosball, air hockey at Providence GPub, Providence, RI.
Pool tables, foosball and air hockey at the Providence GPub.

Without the forced pretentiousness that many modern gastro pubs share, Providence GPub, on the other hand, comes across like one big happy outing that somehow remains cozy and intimate despite the cavernous surroundings. Additionally, the GPub commits to good value for the money and a family-friendly atmosphere that also features a kids menu. It might not be the prototype for an urban gastro pub, but therein lies the vast appeal.

"There's something here for everyone," said Smith. "And then there's the setting. Look at this place. It's amazing. Nothing like it!"

GPub is located at 61 Orange St., Providence RI. Tel. 401-632-4782. Web site:  Facebook fan page: Twitter:

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The Providence GPub in Providence, R.I., is located 60 ft. below ground level at the former Providence Gas Company site. The dining and bar areas have been beautifully restored and the food is fabulous.

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