Stanley’s Hamburgers: a step back in time

Stanley's burger comes topped with onions and pickles.

If you’d like to step back to an anachronistic time when Bobby Vinton songs played on the radio but trans fats were a thing of the past, then Stanley’s in Central Falls is the place for you.

The cheddar cheese fries -- although I personally liked them better plain.

I have to admit, I’ve had a better burger. Nonetheless, Stanley’s most certainly wins on character. The neon menu, metal ceiling fans, red and white vinyl booths, and Casey Kasem’s 1974 top 40 playing in the background (literally) form an ambiance that is not to be missed.

The burgers are topped with pickles and caramelized onions (unless requested otherwise), and they have a selection of fries like no other (dirty fries, chili cheese fries, Quebec-style fries, cheddar fries). We also tried their ham and bean soup — I think the secret ingredient, as Marge Simpson would say, is salt. And just so you know, a “small” means large and a “large” means obscene. To top it off, do what I did, and get a coffee shake with your meal.

535 Dexter St.
Central Falls, RI

Legendary Lovers Collection for Valentine’s Day

The mouth-watering Legendary Lovers collection from Garrison Confections.

The mouth-watering Legendary Lovers collection from Garrison Confections

I know I already wrote about Garrison Confections, but I felt compelled to highlight their Legendary Lovers collection of handmade chocolates for Valentine’s Day. The truth is I adore chocolate, but I generally dislike boxes of chocolates. I find most of them have unappetizing gooey centers so the box ends up filled with half-bitten, abandoned blobs.

But not the Legendary Lovers collection. Each of these little morsels contains a perfect balance of soft interior with a thin crisp chocolate outside, such as the John & Yoko, a homemade pistachio marzipan enrobed in dark chocolate, or the Francois Bouche, a raspberry ganache and raspberry pâte de fruit enrobed in dark chocolate. Of course, expertly made chocolates like these come at a price — $26 for a box of 12 to be exact. The truth is we are lucky to have such an extraordinary chocolatier in our state — chocolate this good is hard to find at any price. It may seem expensive, but like fresh locally grown produce, there’s value in the real thing.

Yesterday, we stopped by their Central Falls location — a modest building with a miniature chocolate shop inside manned by chocolatier Andrew Shotts himself. They are typically not open to the public, but made an exception this weekend and will be open Monday, February 14 from 11 am-6pm, so there’s still time to taste for yourself (they also take online orders). Even better, he shared the news that he’s planning to open a shop in Providence. So I guess I’ll just have to go there myself when they open and eat more chocolates for yet another report.

Garrison Confections
72 Ledge Street
Central Falls, RI (see their Valentine’s collections)

La Sorpresa

At La Sorpresa, this little sampler is ideal.

When I walked into La Sorpresa’s new location on East Avenue, I immediately noticed some thick slices of crisp pork belly. But it was an enticing little sampler dish that the customer ahead of me ordered that piqued my interest.

A fresh paper tray of plantains, morcilla, smoked sausage, tiny potatoes, crisp-skin pork belly and thin, roasted rib meat (seen in the photo, wedged between the morcilla and the plantain, in the center) was prepared for me, and I ate a beef empanada while I waited. I spotted a particularly puffy pastry on my way out, which turned out to be their delicious homemade version of a raised Colombian doughnut filled with dulce de leche.

La Sorpresa Bakery
498 Broad Street
Central Falls, RI 02863-2844
(401) 475-0032

La Sorpresa
385 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
(across from the Modern Diner)

Garrison Confections: Rhode Island’s Chocolatier

Garrison Confections produce delicious artisan chocolates right here in Rhode Island.

Yes, it’s true that I have a new cavity for the first time in decades, and I’ve found a reason worth making more – Garrison Confections. This artisan chocolatier in Central Falls, Rhode Island makes such excellent chocolate that it rivals the likes of Galler in Belgium. Their “turtles” – salty caramel covered with a sliver of dark chocolate and sprinkled with pecans – are definitely addictive. And their hot chocolate mix reminds me a bit of Burdick’s, which I also love (although, in my opinion, you only need 2 heaping teaspoons instead of a 1/4 cup for a steaming mug).

Tasty "turtles"

If you happen to be buying a present for someone with a sweet tooth, they have plenty of pretty designed chocolates in fancy boxes. As for me, I’m sticking with the turtles.

You can visit their factory outlet this month for the holiday season, or you can find them Saturdays at the Wintertime Farmers’ Market in Pawtucket.

Garrison Confections
72 Ledge Street
Central Falls, RI 02863

Top photo by roboppy.