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There are few places worth a 20 minute walk in the bitter cold of a dark December night. But Red Stripe, a self-described casual fine dining spot in Providence's East Side, definitely tops the list.

The best part about Red Stripe, located on Angell Street near Wayland Square, is that it has all the trappings of a fancy restaurant without (necessarily) the expense. Offering "comfort food with a French influence," according to its website, Red Stripe is an interesting combination of classic American dishes and French flair. Servers and a large bowl of peppermints greet prospective diners at the door, often with the news that there may be a 10 to 15 minute wait — reservations are advised. But once seated in the restaurant's cozy atmosphere, diners are treated to the full restaurant experience, complete with a menu offering a wide range of prices, and perhaps most excitingly, fresh sourdough bread.

The restaurant is heavily — if somewhat confusingly — decorated, featuring warm lighting and a great deal of lion statues. The booths and tables are tightly packed together but do not have a cramped feel.

The wait staff is generally attentive but the restaurant is almost always packed, so between the long walk and the wait, Red Stripe is not for those in a hurry.

I have been to Red Stripe six times now — mostly to conduct careful research for this review — and the food never fails to disappoint. By far my favorite dish, and a meal I have convinced over three people to order, is the Red Stripe grilled cheese, prepared with prosciutto, pesto and pears. Sound delicious? It is — and it's only $11. The sandwich is accompanied by fries, tomato soup or a green salad, any of which is a perfect complement. The soup can be slightly spicy — perfect to dip the sandwich in, though maybe too hot to eat alone.

Red Stripe also features a broad selection of desserts, from a more traditional apple tart served with cinnamon raisin ice cream to the very intricate chocolate bourbon pecan tart drizzled in chocolate sauce. The molten chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet and raspberry sauce is a lovely way to top off the sandwich and a good preparation for the cold walk back.

Open for lunch and dinner every day and for brunch on Sundays, the restaurant is great for all occasions. I recommend ordering fancier dishes — like steak frites or any of the fish courses — if your parents are in town, and saving simpler but equally delicious fare for dining on your own dime.



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