Breaktime Bowl & Bar in Hope Artiste Village

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The Wintertime Farmers’ Market remains one of my favorite things about Providence (even though it’s actually in Pawtucket). And it keeps getting better. Last year, the market expanded into another hall of Hope Artiste Village to allow for the growing demand for both more vendors and shoppers, which made it a much more pleasant (and less crowded) shopping experience.

And now, you can take a break from the market with ‘Brunch and Bowl’ at Breaktime Bowl & Bar right upstairs in the Hope Artiste Village. The half dozen lanes feature duckpin bowling, but it’s even more offbeat than that. Here, there is no automatic pin-resetting; there’s actually a person who sets up your pins after each turn.

Plus, the drink menu features some great beers on tap, and the food menu is notches above any bowling alley that I’ve been to: my favorite was the spinach and artichoke dip with parmesan crusted toasts.

And if you miss brunch, they’re open for lunch and dinner with bowling too.

Breaktime Bowl & Bar
999 Main Street
Hope Artiste Village
3rd Floor
Pawtucket, RI or find them on Facebook

Brunch at Barstow Restaurant in Providence, RI

June 2014: Barstow is now closed. Their Facebook page says “The Barstow is now closed. Please look for a new concept and new menu at 800 Allens Avenue coming soon.”

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This Saturday, we had brunch at the Barstow Restaurant in Providence. We arrived about a half hour after they opened at 10 am, and there was no line. In fact, we were the first to arrive — which we decided was either extremely lucky or a bad sign. As it turns out, we were in luck.

I chose one of the specials — a house-made sea salt bagel with Serrano ham, spicy cream cheese, baby arugula and marinated red onion. Apparently, the chef doesn’t always arrive at 5:30 am to make bagels, but I’d certainly be hooked if he did.

The girls shared a mango and ginger steel cut oatmeal with a pomegranate molasses and a buttermilk French toast with grape jam, almonds, and candied ginger. Geoff had the Barstow Benedict — poached eggs, herb-brined pork loin, house bread, and smoked maple hollandaise.

They’ve even got a full bar. Among the brunch drinks, you’ll find a Bloody Mary, a Grapefruit Mimosa, or a Drink Your Cereal with toasted almond scotch, creme de cassis, and Bols yogurt liqueur.

Barstow Restaurant
800 Allens Ave
Providence, RI

Apple Picking and Brunch at Knight Farm

Enjoying an apple straight off the tree.

Each year we try to find a new farm for apple picking in addition to our old favorites. In past years, we’ve discovered Jaswell’s Farm, Hill Orchards, and Sweet Berry Farm. This year, we decided to try Knight Farm, founded in 1800.

Although many farms have stands or shops (Jaswell’s and Sweet Berry Farms are my favorites), few have restaurants. When we arrived this morning, it was clear this was a popular place for brunch and with good reason. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but they serve simple comfort food in a charming and rustic atmosphere. I ordered an egg sandwich, and I was not disappointed.

Knight’s apple orchards feel relatively compact to some of the others (they have about 40 acres versus Jaswell’s 100 acres), but really how many apple trees do you need? We had no trouble picking our own crisp, tasty apples. Of course, the real work came later — peeling apples, rendering lard (from Pat’s Pastured Pork), rolling the crust, and baking the pie. Not that I did any of that. But I did eat a piece of the resulting pie, and it was delicious.

Knight Farm and Restaurant
1 Snake Hill Road
North Scituate, RI

Also see Farm Fresh RI’s Pick Your Own Guide near Providence.

Rue de L’Espoir: Perfect Popovers

Note: Sadly, Rue de L’Espoir has closed.

A basket of homemade popovers and cinnamon buns awaits you when you arrive.

Although Rue de L’Espoir has received mixed reviews, I was surprised to see no one mentioned what I believe may be their show-stopper: homemade popovers.

I haven’t visited for dinner yet (too many restaurants, too little time) but on our latest brunch outing I found Rue de L’Espoir offers a nice brunch in a cozy atmosphere.  Admittedly it’s not perfect — the omelets, for example, had too much brown on them to be considered a proper French omelet.  And although the pancakes were tasty, they were no match for my personal favorite.  But they served homemade corn muffins with raspberry jam, fresh cinnamon rolls, and, most importantly, deliciously light and airy homemade popovers.

If you’ve never eaten a popover, you may not appreciate the significance of my finding amazing popovers.  When made correctly, it’s basically a giant cream puff without the cream.  And if, like me, you’ve never attempted to make a popover, you might not realize just how difficult it is to achieve a dough that yields a golden brown crust atop a few layers of soft dough covering mostly a giant pocket of air.  But I know a good thing when I eat it, and the popovers at Rue De L’Espoir will not disappoint.

Rue De L’Espoir
99 Hope Street
Providence, RI

Show me the pancakes: a search for Rhode Island’s best

The Gold Standard: My beloved pancakes from the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo by möca.

Why is it that I’m always reading blog posts and newspaper articles about great breakfast places that turn out to be subpar? Surely, I am not the only pancake purist in Rhode Island. After having eagerly gone from diner to hotspot and back again in my quest for Rhode Island’s best pancakes, I’ve decided I am going about this all wrong. When I discovered the best pancakes near Boston, I discovered them not through a blog (if those even existed then) nor through a magazine or newspaper article, but through an accountant friend who happened to live in the area and really liked pancakes.

Here I am with my Deluxe Town Diner pancakes.

Here’s how I know that the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts has amazing pancakes: it is the only thing I order there. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted by tuna melts, homemade stews with fresh (not frozen) vegetables, and burgers with sweet potato fries. But the pancakes made with sour cream and buttermilk are just too good: they rise to thick height and remain fluffy, perfectly browned, made the size of your plate in a stack of three (or two if you so choose, but you’ll be sorry), and smeared with butter with a side of real maple syrup.

I know Rhode Island is the smallest state, but I refuse to shrink my expectations accordingly. So, fellow citizens, I beg of you: show me the (amazingly good) pancakes. Post a comment with your local favorite, and I promise to go, eat and report back.

Surely Not Rhode Island’s Best Pancakes List
(or the places I’ve tried so far)

Note: My criteria for the perfect pancake includes: 1) fluffy texture; 2) neither too wet nor too dry; 3) excellent flavor, more specifically a well-orchestrated recipe of ingredients that culminate in a caramelized flavor balancing salty and sweet; 4) made and served with real butter; and 5) served with real maple syrup.

Despite a wonderful old-fashioned diner atmosphere amidst the strip malls, you won't find the best pancakes at Star Diner.

Atlantic Grille
Middletown, RI
Why not? One of the RI Monthly reader’s choices for best breakfasts, this is truthfully the only place I can stand to eat pancakes on Aquidneck Island. Yet they are no match for the perfect pancake (decent flavor, but not fluffy enough) and fail to provide real maple syrup.

Corner Café
Newport, RI
Why not? Such a cute little spot, but they use margarine — a deal-breaker in my opinion.

Eddie & Sons Diner
Providence, RI
Why not? Here you’ll find decent pancakes (although too light indicated not enough caramelizing butter, sugar, salt), but nothing spectacular, and the diner lacks real maple syrup.

Gary’s Handy Lunch
Newport, RI
Why not? Although I love this place for its atmosphere and enjoy their thin old-fashioned french toast, their pancakes are thin and mealy.

IHOP (The International House of Pancakes)
Middletown, RI
Why not? There is no better option when you absolutely need pancakes at 1 am and are too lazy to make them (yes, it’s happened to me). But, let’s face it, as good as they may taste at that moment, we all know that IHOP is not the real deal.

Providence, RI
Why not? Generally their pancakes have fairly good flavor, although they are always too flat and light. Plus they lack consistency: a few times, the pancakes were metallic, which Geoff says is an indicator of too much baking powder. They serve them with real butter but artificial maple syrup.

Mel’s Diner
East Providence, RI
Why not? According to Providence Journal’s food writer Gail Ciampa, these are “some of the best pancakes around.” No way. Slathered with margarine, these pancakes were bound to lose. They were the right color and thickness, but ultimately too gummy with the wrong flavor.

Modern Diner
Pawtucket, RI
Why not? Their pancakes had great texture (just a tad wet) and were quite fluffy, yet the flavor was wrong — not sweet nor salty enough.

Nick’s on Broadway
Providence, RI
Why not? In general, breakfast here was terrific, but the pancakes sadly not so. Cinnamon in the batter definitely doesn’t fit the bill.

Oatley’s Restaurant
North Kingston, RI
Why not? I had high hopes here with the homemade breads and muffins, but ultimately the pancakes missed on both flavor and fluffiness.

Star Diner
Rumford, RI
Why not? Pancakes were greasy and burnt. By the taste, I highly doubt they were made with butter in the batter or on the griddle. And they don’t serve maple syrup.

T’s Restaurant
Why not? Pancakes were dense and dry with lousy flavor. They’re also served with a butter ‘blend’ (aka margarine), blanketed with powdered sugar, and a side of phony syrup — need I say more?

Top Photo Credit: möca

Nick’s on Broadway: Great Brunch


In my continued search for the Rhode Island equivalent to the world’s best pancakes, we decided to pick a place for brunch this morning.  One of our readers had recommended Nick’s on Broadway, which sounded great from the reviews.  At 9:30 am this morning, there was already a substantial wait, although that’s not such a bad thing on a warm, sunny day.  After about 30 minutes, they offered us three counter seats together where we directly faced the open kitchen.  I love this.  Not only can you see the action, but you can scope out all the dishes and decide what looks good.


Geoff's breakfast: sliced ham and Eggs Benedict.

In my continued search for the Rhode Island equivalent to the world’s best pancakes, we decided to pick a place for brunch this morning. One of our readers had recommended Nick’s on Broadway, which sounded great from the reviews.

Although I had planned on pancakes, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist getting something that came with what appeared to be the best-looking hash browns ever.  Luckily Madeline always wants pancakes, so we ordered her a short stack (in the shape of Micky Mouse) so I could try them too, and I chose a bacon and cheese omelet with an english muffin and hash browns.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.  The omelet had been perfectly cooked (not runny yet no traces of brown), and the hash browns were as good as they looked: a mix of regular and sweet cut potatoes sauteed with red onions.  As for the pancakes, they were just okay.  It seems they put cinnamon in their batter, a strange choice in my opinion.  Madeline didn’t mind, but I, well, you know.  We’ll be back, but the quest for the best pancakes must continue.

Nick’s on Broadway
500 Broadway
Providence, RI 02909

Oatley’s Restaurant

French toast and corned beef & hash at Oatley's Restaurant.

French toast and corned beef & hash at Oatley's Restaurant.

My dad has lived in Rhode Island for my entire life, but since my parents have been divorced for most of that, my childhood in the Ocean State comprised of a few weeks in the summer.  The rest of the time, my dad dutifully drove down to wherever I was living (somewhere in New York or Connecticut) every other weekend.  I’d joke that he was as reliable as the post office, delivering himself on my doorstep through rain, sleet and snow.  So it’s no wonder our moving to Rhode Island would evoke his enthusiasm.  The other day, he stopped by to mow our lawn.

And this morning, he and my step-mom (who Madeline calls Grand-Donna) treated us to brunch at Oatley’s Restaurant in North Kingstown, RI.  Even the name of it, I liked.  From the outside, it has the woodsy charm of a country store and inside it’s an old fashioned restaurant with several tables and a counter dishing out homemade comfort food.  At 10 am there was a bit of a line, which I took as a good sign.  Since they make their own breads and muffins, I chose the french toast made with raisin bread.  French toast on homemade bread can sometimes be dry especially if it’s sliced too thickly, but this was perfectly eggy and not too sweet.  (I’m glad to report that they don’t blanket their french toast with a mound of powdered sugar).  With some crisp, meaty bacon on the side, it made my ideal brunch.

Oatley’s Restaurant
717 Ten Rod Road
North Kingstown, RI