Celtic Lounge at Finnegan’s Wake: Comfort food haven
"We do it all,” said Cranstonian Louis Peters, owner of the Celtic Lounge at Finnegan’s Wake in Downtown Providence.
The popular restaurant, located between Trinity Rep and the Providence Performing Arts Center, just two blocks from the Dunkin Donuts Center and surrounded by office buildings, has a varied customer base.
The lunchtime crowd is a loyal cross-section of Downcity office workers, government employees and occasional tourists. Dinner caters to theatre-goers, Providence Bruins and PC fans and customers who have discovered the great comfort food that makes up the huge menu. It is on our list for a meal or snack before or after a Providence Bruins game.
The “After 10” crowd enjoys the atmosphere of a good city bar and lounge, complete with a large selection of beer on tap, including Guinness, Killian and Harp. Local bands, karaoke, a pool table and an upcoming dart league also attract those looking for a fun night out.
Trying to be all things to all people can be a problem for some restaurants, but Peters has found that delicate balance, offering quality restaurant food (“not bar food”) at reasonable prices.
Peters kept the well-known “Finnegan’s Wake” name, adding “Celtic Lounge” to it. While there are some popular Irish beers and dishes to savor, the establishment is much more than an Irish pub.
On one visit, Joyce enjoyed a blackened shrimp quesadilla with Vermont cheddar ($13.99), while I went Irish with a corned beef brisket and Swiss cheese sandwich ($6.99). Note the word “brisket.” This is not your standard deli corned beef. This is corned beef the way it was meant to be cooked: thick, tender and tasty.
Chef Scott Hampson, born and raised in Warwick and now living in Cranston, was mentored by now retired chef Tom Ruggiero, who developed the Governor Francis Inn menu. He has also worked at Bassett’s in Warwick and Capriccio’s in Providence.
For the past five years, Scott has been creating eclectic menus at the Celtic Lounge. My favorites are his Celtic potato salad, a recipe he admits he “borrowed” from his mother, and a chili to die for. The chili is made with the usual beans and meat but has a touch of carrot and celery that gives it a special flavor. His corn bread comes hot, thin and with a taste that will delight you.
“Everything is made fresh,” Hampson said. “We cook a fresh turkey, cut potatoes for our fries and onions for our onion rings, and boil our brisket.”
From the calamari appetizer to the fresh-made pizzas and, of course, fish and chips, everything is fresh and served hot. Peter’s Syrian mother makes the hummus and has advised him wisely on other “comfort food” items.
The young entrepreneur has big plans for the fall, when the theatre, concert and sports crowds descend on Providence.
Peters is developing a pre-theatre package with a one-page menu, with prompt service that will assure that his patrons will be in their seats before the puck is dropped or the curtain is raised. The function room is being renovated for small parties and special events.
Not only did 38 Studios hurt the state’s pocketbook, Peters lost dozens of steady customers who had found a home for lunch and after-work drinks when the employees were let go. His many other “regulars” are still there, and he hopes to find more when the building becomes occupied.
The restaurant caters to families and young children. In fact, it caters to everyone. And you don’t have to be Irish.
So, next time you are Downcity stop and say “hello” to Peters and experience fine dining at reasonable prices in a pleasant atmosphere.
They are open weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m; Saturday noon to 2:00 a.m.; SundayNoon to 1:00 a.m. Their phone number is 751-0290.