I first heard of The Vig at the first statewide poutine competition, held earlier this year at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket as part of a celebration of French Canadian culture. I noted the quality ingredients and appreciated the smiles of the adorable young staff who dished out our portions, and who I assume were Chef Guy Charles’ interns – ahem, children. I’d walked by The Vig once or twice since it opened scarcely six months earlier, and the poutine piqued my interest enough to check it out.
The Vig is attached to the Providence Hilton on the downtown side of Atwells Avenue, but it hardly feels like a hotel restaurant. It seems more conceptually linked to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center because of its energy and sports theme. To suit the motif, The Vig took its name from the obscure word “vigorish,” meaning a bookie’s cut of a gamble. If you’re not into sports bars, don’t dismiss this one. The decor is tasteful and understated– think decades-old cricket bats instead of garish jerseys. The restaurant’s stylish design and dim lighting make it just as appropriate for a pre-theater (or, in our case, pre-ballet) date as for hockey tailgating.
The Vig’s menu is best described as creative comfort food – crowd-pleasers with a twist. As you’d expect, there are a few burgers on the menu, but they aren’t basic. One has homemade pub cheese, while another incorporates the flavors of French onion soup with Gruyère and caramelized onions.
We started with a cocktail, the hilariously named “Ball So Hard,” a combination of rye, blood orange liqueur, Campari and rosemary simple syrup. A lot of the cocktails had an herbal bent, incorporating various herb-infused simple syrups, bitters and apéritifs.
To be honest, I wanted to order all of the appetizers, and it wasn’t just because I had a modest lunch. We settled on two: a reprise of the Poutine and the Prosciutto-Wrapped Drumettes. The drumettes satisfied my wing craving while seeming fancy enough for a Friday night. They were topped with a sweet-and-salty bacon scallion jam and the thin part of the drumstick was wrapped in prosciutto. As I mentioned, the poutine is not entirely traditional but this version should be judged as an entirely different dish, and a good one. The thick steak fries are well-seasoned, the cheese curds almost melt, and a rich short rib gravy makes it more a meal than a snack. I wish I had saved my appetite for some Bacon Caramel Popcorn, too.
I thought the beer list could have used a local draft or two, but I appreciated the Dogfish 60 Minute and 90 Minute, always good standbys.
Often, at restaurants that serve burgers and sandwiches alongside more upscale entrees, I perceive an unspoken rule to order from the same part of the menu as your date. Are you having a fancy dinner or a casual meal? It feels out of place to cut into a rare steak while your dining companion munches on a grilled cheese. But this time I broke my own rule and ordered off the “Between Bread” menu while my husband had a proper entree.
My husband tried the Bookmaker’s Toast: a piece of garlic toast topped with a petite filet mignon, caramelized onions and an egg sunny-side up. My choice was the Black Bean, Kale and Quinoa Burger. I’m always eager to try a restaurant’s house-made veggie burger. This one was big on flavor from top to bottom. The smashed avocado’s creamy mildness contrasted with a burst of tangy, bright tomato and jalapeño jam. I was in love with the bun, a glossy, sweet brioche. I also liked the small side salad, which had a variety of fresh greens.
We rounded out our evening with some dessert. Unfortunately they had run out of the Double Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cherries Jubilee, but we enjoyed the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake just as well, topped with some vanilla ice cream and the crunch of toasted coconut.
21 Atwells Avenue
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