How many times have you just wandered into a restaurant and felt immediately at home? Rarely, and hardly ever when you’re travelling solo, but that’s what happened when the Accidental Locavore wandered into Pot au Feu in Providence, recently. Gary, the manager at the Biltmore recommended it and I was immediately attracted to it (besides my weakness for anything French) because it was at the end of the route of Waterfire, an almost magical event where they light the river in Providence.
I wandered in and found a seat at the bar. It’s lovely, with beautiful blonde wood and art nouveau liquor cabinets (look on their website as my photos were terrible). Gary asked me to give his regards to Bob (the owner)and as it turned out, that’s who was tending bar that night. We immediately got to chatting and in the small-world, category, it turns out that we both knew the other Pot au Feu–Le Roi de Pot au Feu–in Paris. Bob said he had given them his aprons the last time he was there. Before long, as the bar started to fill up, he was giving me the low-down and introducing me to anyone and everyone who stopped by.
While I was enjoying some amazing oysters broiled with a horseradish cream sauce, Bob was telling very funny and terribly politically-incorrect jokes that even more incredibly, were paired with the food I was eating.
As I moved onto that evening’s special, savory crèpes with blue cheese, chicken tomatoes and olives, Bob was telling me that the restaurant is actually the oldest bistro in the US and showing me photos and documents from the early days. In between that he was mixing drinks for all the regulars, which was everyone (including me) and showing off his bartending finesse. You know there’s that horrible trend now to consider anyone who can mix two alcoholic ingredients together and add ice, a mixologist. Well, Bob is most definitely not a mixologist, he’s a classic (and classy) bartender. Ask him for his signature Sazerac and hear the history of America’s first cocktail and how the New York Times messed up the recipe.
Unfortunately for me, I had been eating all day (ok, all weekend, ok, all week) and didn’t have the appetite to conquer a major meal like pot au feu. I’m sure in a place like that, it would be just perfect. I’ll just have to go back with a big appetite, perch at the bar, say hi to my new buddies and indulge while Bob mixes up more Sazerac’s.