One of Rhode Island's not-so-hidden gems is our architecture. The first foundations were laid here in the early 1600s, and every era has contributed architecturally to our landscape. Many one-time factories and mills have been repurposed into restaurants. So eat, drink ... and delight in these oh-so-unique backdrops.
Local 121 (121 Washington St.) has to feature one of the most gorgeous interiors of any restaurant in Providence. Delicious farm-to-table food is served among intricately carved woodwork and stained glass windows, all original details from the 1890s. In the basement, a one-time Prohibition-era speakeasy serves as the private event space. Owner Nancy Miller says the Tap Room even houses a few ghosts.
Rhode Island Malleable Iron Works in Warwick once manufactured malleable iron castings. Now, as the Iron Works Tavern (697 Jefferson Blvd.) it serves some of the best casual food in the state and has a festive bar scene. Built in 1867, it burned down in 1918 but some details still remain: the 8-foot, 300-pound, solid oak front door, the high ceilings and beams, along with the brick walls.
Shop and eat at the same time? You can at CAV (14 Imperial Pl.), a Providence institution opened in 1989. Once part of the Imperial Knife Company, its soaring brick walls and enormous windows create an airy space that begs for décor. The setting is enhanced with African masks, kilim rugs, art for the wall and assorted chandeliers, among other things. Everything is for sale, too, and the food has been lauded by Bon Appetit. It's a great adventure.
The Grange (166 Broadway) is taking vegetarian and vegan cuisine to new heights on the West Side of the city. With a nod to the ideals of community and environmentalism, the Grange features a chic, cool interior that is 100 percent repurposed. Worn floorboards, a rough-hewn bar, metal fixtures and mismatched tables and chairs speak of former days serving other duties. And yet it all comes together quite nicely here.