At Parkside, a dark mahogany bar with matching leather barstools balances the kitschy fluffed pillows in seating along the walls. It gives the distinct impression that this self-proclaimed “Manhattan-style bistro” would be the perfect place to take your lawyer. The feel is easygoing but professional, comfy but not cozy.
Naturally, the rotisserie section of the menu is a good place to start. The lemon-garlic marinated half chicken is HUGE, centered on a pile of sweet potato and Russet fries. It’s a steal ($12 at lunch and $15 at dinner). The meat is consistently juicy and tender, and the “zippy,” pesto-y herb sauce cuts it nicely. The one flop is the skin: a self-respecting rotisserie should be able to achieve that perfect, crispy shell, but fails to do so here. That makes the difference between good and great.
A few other things are worth a try, especially the lunchtime specials. On one visit, I tried a hearty frittata consisting of Tuscan sausage, broccoli, onions, and peppers. At $9, it was a lot of food and a lot of flavor. At dinner, a portobello Napoleon was layered with buffalo mozzarella and veggies in a roasted tomato sauce. It feels like much more than a concession to vegetarians: it’s robust and dynamic, like the best eggplant parm.
However, the food as a rule is not as tasty or as imaginative as its prices and reputation suggest. Their rendition of the trendy slider–Kobe beef with lobster and arugula–is promising. But then, turning Kobe into a burger is a huge waste. Meat that fancy should be kept simple, and here, it was overcooked and uncharacteristically tough, with shrivelly lobster claws on the side. Spicy crab cakes were similarly played out, filled with roasted red peppers, roasted corn, Cajun spices, and a gritty cornmeal dusting that masked a base of grainy, bland crabmeat.
Most of the menu follows this formula of overwrought, overpriced, and overrated. The price tags would be well worth it if they were backed by intricate, innovative dishes, but in general, Parkside falls short. Providence has a bunch of other incredible restaurants (Gracie’s, Bacaro, New Rivers, Al Forno) to hit up for a big night out. Parkside would be better off lowering its prices, eliminating its pretense, and marketing itself as a casual, affordable hot spot.
High: The rotisserie selections are a safe bet: not mind-blowing, but gigantic and incredibly flavorful. Lunch specials, like the frittata and big elaborate salads, are also reasonably priced and make a satisfying meal.
Low: Parkside gets in trouble when it tries to be something it’s not. I don’t want to pay $32 for an entrée at a casual Manhattan-style bistro. It’s not that the cooking or the quality is terrible; it’s just that they shouldn’t be passed off as top-notch.
Bottom line: Apart from a few standouts, it’s not worth the splurge. Go at lunch or go elsewhere.