Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood is reminiscent of Boston’s North End. The outdoor seating and live music at De’Pasquale Square is modeled after the classic cobblestone squares of southern Europe and upscale restaurants like Constantinos and Pastiche are known throughout Rhode Island. Although once dominated by the Italian community, the Federal Hill neighborhood now reflects the diversity of Providence. In recent years, the hill has welcomed an array of middle eastern hookah lounges, Mexican restaurants and burger joints. Most people walk past Tina’s Jamaican Restaurant, a tiny hole in the wall on Atwells Ave, without thinking twice. This little known restaurant is one of the city’s best places for authentic food and live music. On weekend nights during the summer, diners are treated to the music of local musicians, August Packard and Jonathan Elyashiv.
This Friday I went to see the show, the first of this season, and was treated with a surprise guest. By a chance mistake of scheduling, the duo was joined by guitar player and singer Jake Menendez, who is also a frequent player at Tina’s. They started out their set with a cover of Daydreamin’ and Blue Eyes by the band Middle Brother, which features Providence’s own John McCauley. The three musicians were clearly getting to know each other while playing and chemistry began to form as the show went on. At one point Menendez took over, choosing to cover guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn. His animated playing style and stage presence added to his clear musical talent both in playing guitar and singing. After a short break, Packard took over the mic once again, and the group finished with some crowd favorites. After playing classics like Stand By Me and A Change Is Gonna Come, they dove into Lauryn Hill’s Killing Me Softly and Akon’s Don’t Matter.
While being entertained by the music, we were also blessed with the authentic Jamaican food of Tina’s. There’s plenty to choose from, beginning with appetizers like coco bread and Jamaican meat pies to platters like the fall-off-the-bone Socca Wings or Jerk Chicken. In an adventurous mood, I ordered the Ox Tails, a Jamaican delicacy that is hard to come by in the states. The rich meat was served with sweet plantains, rice and beans and vegetables. The food is excellent, among the best on the hill and the atmosphere is unique to say the least.
Towards the end of the show, Tina came out of the kitchen to enjoy the final song of the night, Goodnight, Irene, a personal favorite of hers. When the song ended she went over to talk to the performers and some of the diners. That welcoming aspect of the restaurant is part of what gives Tina’s its charm.
You won’t find Tina’s on any “Top 10 Restaurants In Providence” list on Facebook or in any GQ article about the nations coolest city and you won’t read about Packard, Elyashiv and Menendez as a must see show on a Saturday night, but make no mistake, it’s a true Providence experience. You can’t get authentic Jamaican food like that outside of a home cooked meal and you won’t find a live show as personal. Although the group is taking 4th of July weekend off, they will be back at it in two weeks and if you haven’t already been, seeing a show this summer should be a priority.
August Packard: https://www.facebook.com/augustpackardband