Haute Cuisine in the Divine City

Photo Essay: The Dorrance

Culture By Photo by MH

When cocktails are made well their names are onomatopoeias. I order the Kentucky Campfire and my wife chooses the Mezteca. Meztecaaa. The drinks, made with small-batch bitters and house-made syrups, bring us farther south than your typical Rhode Islander goes in a day and lend an air of exoticism to the atmosphere. It’s regal and fine, but not out of touch: out come the charcuterie plate and the confit chicken wings, food that no white tablecloth will stop us from eating with our hands.


The Dorrance is the granddaddy of the burgeoning fine dining scene in the capital of the Ocean State. The restaurant lives within the 30-foot walls of a Federal Reserve bank built in 1901; it’s replete with gold-plated leaf and stained glass windows representing crests from all the big-shot bankers of the day. It’s a lofty, if not decadent atmosphere for consuming rich foods, kind of like the joint where Al Pacino does the tango in Scent of a Woman, or the spot where Matthew Broderick does his best Abe Froman in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Swanky and classic and golden in an Old World way. It’s the kind of place you bring your wife to show her you care.

Just don’t get distracted. Sliced petite beef tenderloin accompanied by winter root vegetables. Spaghettini a la guanciale. Bearnaise, brown butter cream sauce, shaved black truffles, percorino crisps and pickled roots. A baked pretzel roll. We sip our highballs slowly as early evening light trickles through the hand-painted glass panes. Everything glitters. I order a double espresso and the pear cobbler. Brown butter crumbles. All of a sudden it’s just after midnight. Time to go home before this Cinderella story ends.

Additional photography by Ashley Hogan and Jeremy Berger.