After 10 years cooking in Chicago, this chef is hosting pop-ups in the former North restaurant space

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When chef James Mark closed his beloved restaurant North at the Dean Hotel in July, it left a hole in Providence’s culinary scene.

In fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “Do you know what’s going on in the old northern space?” Well, here’s the rub: space was never going to stay empty for long.

Thanks in part to Michael Silva, who is in charge of the beverage program at The Dean Bar, the old North Restaurant space is now known as The Place With No Name. There, he helped the hotel launch a cocktail and food collaboration. They’ve had guest chefs like Quinneil Simmons of Fork & Flower, former sous chefs at North, Chef Nikhil Navnish Naiker of Fortnight and many more.

The old North Restaurant in the Dean Hotel on Fountain Street. North, a James Beard-nominated restaurant, closed this year.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

The bar inside A Place Without a Name.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

But then Eric Brown, a native of Wakefield, Massachusetts, who had once attended Johnson & Wales University and had just returned to Providence from Chicago, served there under the name “Fat Neck.” It was a hit.

Throughout the winter, Brown will serve a modern, seafood-focused menu inspired by coastal cuisine. Being able to go to the docks or the local fish markets is something Brown missed during the decade he was away.

“Any chef will tell you how much of a joy it is to cook here when you have access to these kinds of ingredients,” Brown told me after talking about the various producers he works with, such as Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton for his cheese dish with grilled cranberries, pecan and carpenter oysters and White Barn Farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

Roasted and marinated olives with spices and garlic in a thick neck.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Half a dozen Wellfleet oysters from Thick Neck.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

While in Chicago, Brown co-founded Saint Emeric, a speakeasy eatery in a 19th-century church. It was an intimate experience for 12 guests at a time, with a new eight-course menu prepared every week. Part of the concept was that the location was a secret: guests were emailed an address without knowing the atmosphere or the food they would receive.

But there were permit issues and the city ordered him to close.

As Fat Neck, Brown’s will serve a menu that will be updated slightly for each dinner, which will take place on Thursday and Friday nights. Items are available a la carte. There are several nights where you can order everything for $100.

Spaghetti Squash Salad with Burnt Seeds and ParsleyMARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

His standout dishes include his Spaghetti Squash Salad, which he’s been serving on his menu for the past few years, where squash is lightly roasted, dressed in a pumpkin seed, shallot and parsley vinaigrette. Other favorites are raw fish with roasted pumpkin and sumac; cream beans with yuzu kosho, crustaceans and kohlrabi; and sea monk with grilled broccoli and bagna cauda.

Dessert is a cool gjetost – brown Norwegian cheese – with bright persimmons and barley caramel.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the old North restaurant space, I asked Brown what his plans are for the future. He said he and his fiance bought a home on the East Side, and he wants his Thick Neck pop-ups to become a staple.

“I intend to do this for as long as I’m allowed,” he said. “Until someone tells me to stop.”

Sweet and Salty Farm Mini Cheese Donut with Grilled Cranberry and Thick Neck Crackers.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Frozen ghetto dessert with persimmon and caramel barley from Thick Neck.MARK STOCWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

The Thick Neck pop-up is located inside The Dean Hotel restaurant at 122 Fountain St. in Providence, Rhode Island. The Fat Neck Pop-Up by Chef Eric Brown is not currently accepting reservations. The updated ones are posted on Thick Neck’s Instagram.

If you have any suggestions or need a referral, email me at [email protected].

Visit Food and dining in Rhode Island for more. Because everyone has to eat!


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

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