Jake's Bar & Grille
An appealing neighborhood bar
by Ian Donnis
373 Richmond St., Providence, 453-JAKE
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Fri until 2 a.m.; Sat, noon-2 a.m., Sun, noon-1 a.m.
Kitchen open daily until midnight
Major credit cards
The best neighborhood bars live on in the collective memory of a community long
after they've passed from the scene. So it is with Leo's, shuttered in 1994
after almost 20 years at the site now occupied by the Atomic Grill, and still
fondly recalled by admirers as a wonderfully polyglot joint where an improbable
cast of pols, artists and other colorful characters mixed for intoxicating
Leo's easygoing spirit was the direct inspiration for Jackie Nichols, who
waited tables there for eight years, when she waylaid her son, Jake, from his
European travel plans with the notion of opening a place of their own. London
and Paris have to wait, but the junior partner got to put his name on the
Located next to an enamel shop in Providence's Jewelry District, Jake's has
established a pleasant presence since opening in July in a former service
garage. With a long bar and a dozen tables set nearby on an elevated dining
area, the renovated space is airy, casual and bedecked with changing works by
local artists. The visual focal point is Jessica Van Daam's striking mural on
the back wall, unveiled by the mighty Bud-I over the summer, which features
Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Frank Sinatra and other luminaries who have passed
from this bash. An outdoor patio is open during warmer weather.
Jake's menu features the traditional bar round-up of appetizers, burgers,
soups, salads and sandwiches, along with a batch of entrees -- including lemon
sesame chicken ($10.95), grilled pork chops ($11.95), seared yellowfin tuna
($12.95), baked penne pasta ($9.95) -- that are served after 5 p.m. Half a
dozen beers, including Bass ($4 a pint), Sam Adams, and Guinness are offered on
tap, and the friendly folks behind the bar make a swinging cosmopolitan
($4.25). Eleven wines are available by the glass, including the crisp Clos du
Bois chardonnay ($4.75) and the undistinguished Jekel cabernet sauvignon
Chef Rabbit Hoffinger (who, like Jake Nichols, cut his teeth while working at
Leo's as a teenager) shows his flare with the nocturnal selection of daily
specials. On a recent visit, these included shrimp risotto with tomatoes and
garlic ($14); prosciutto and caramelized onion ravioli in a Sambuca cream sauce
($13); and grilled salmon in a soy-cilantro sauce with rice and roasted
A cup of black bean-sausage soup ($3), a selection of the day, was hearty even
in its pureed form and offered a pleasantly spicy bite. Jake's steak ($13.95),
a grilled 10-ounce sirloin strip, was tender, well-seasoned and cooked to a
perfect medium, with a bright red center and brown exterior. It was joined by
some nice garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables.
A seeming concession to nervous eaters, a recommendation in the menu
recommends that diners order their seafood and meat thoroughly cooked. But no
timidity was evident in grilling the salmon, which was sushi-grade inside and
tangy and slightly crisp with a concentrated soy flavor on the exterior.
Although the advertised cilantro was MIA, the dish was delectable. A slice of
day waitress Chris Anderson's cheesecake ($4), creamy and rich without being
cloying, made for an excellent finale.
Given the obvious ability of Jake's kitchen, it's hard to understand
occasional shortcomings, such as an overcooked grilled portabello mushroom
sandwich ($6), which was way too salty (this from a salt fan), almost to the
point of being inedible.
On another visit, the Jake's burger ($6.50), stuffed with a little blue cheese
and served with bacon and scallions, was just right. A take-out order of
grilled pizza bianca ($7.25), topped by roasted vegetables, ricotta and romano
cheese and truffle oil, was both greasy and tasty. Slices of roasted red
pepper, mushroom and onion worked well as toppings, but carrot has no business
being astride a pizza.
Only time will reveal where Jake's ultimately places in the pantheon of
Providence's most-loved saloons, but it's off to a promising start.