Posts Tagged ‘casual restaurants’

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Last night, we thought we’d check out the grand opening of Tom’s Bao Bao on Westminster Street in Providence. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones. After waiting in line for about 10 minutes, we decided to head to Faust down the street for yet another fine meal.

But we promised the kids to return for breakfast—well, Sunday brunch at least. This time, there were only a handful of people in line, and the service was fast.

We tried several kinds of bao—sweet potato, vegetarian, chicken, pork, and beef. For the uninitiated, a bao is similar to the pork buns in  Chinese dim sum—it’s basically a steamed doughy bun filled with vegetarian or meat ingredients. My favorites were the vegetarian, which contained lots of greens and tofu, and the fragrant sweet potato.

Tom’s Bao Bao
326 Westminster Street
Providence, RI
http://www.tomsbaobao.com/

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I’ve now been to Den Den Café for Korean food at least a half dozen times, and it’s one of the few places in Providence that we often bring visitors. Their variety of dishes seems to have something for everyone in the group—noodles, soups, rice dishes, vegetarian or meat-heavy.

Their menu features many of the standards like Stone Pot Bibimbap, Agedashi Tofu, and Kimchi, but I’ve also discovered some new favorites here to add to my list—Kimbap, a korean seaweed roll (my favorites are the vegetable and the tuna rolls), and Tofu Kimchi, a spicy combination of kimchi with soft tofu served on a hot stone plate. Our daughters love the Bento Boxes, especially the Teriyaki Salmon, but my favorite is the Chicken Karaage, ginger garlic deep fried chicken.

When it’s crowded, a host/hostess will help you find a table before you order at the counter, and they always bring your order to your table for you. I’d also recommend reserving a table in advance if you’re planning on showing up with a group on a weekend night.

Den Den Café
161 Benefit Street
Providence, RI
www.dendencafe.com

 

 

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The traditional caprese salad is made even better at Roslina with burrata cheese.

The traditional caprese salad is made even better at Roslina with burrata cheese.

It wasn’t quite a Griswold Christmas Eve, but it was close. First, it was hard to get into the spirit when it was about 65 degrees on Christmas Eve as we walked downtown to see A Christmas Carol at Trinity Repertory Theatre. It got worse when we discovered we had arrived at the wrong time, and the show we had tickets for was just letting out.

Then, later that night after the girls left cookies for Santa, we discovered a bat flying through our house. And it got away.

Gnocchi, also made better with burrata.

Gnocchi, also made better with burrata.

Fortunately, our day was redeemed by a late lunch between those two events at Rosalina, which for me included a caprese salad made with burrata cheese, kumato tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil followed by gnocchi sorrentina baked with tomato, burrata and basil.

The girls both ordered the meatball sandwiches, and Geoff had the eggplant, mozzarella and marinara sandwich. Since there was no burrata in any of the desserts, we settled for some blood orange and coconut gelatos, along with a cheesecake ‘imported’ from the Carnegie Deli.

I think Geoff was a bit disappointed to skip La Vigilia (the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes) – but not me. I’ll take a meal full of burrata and marinara any day, including Christmas Eve.

And things are looking up. We caught the bat. And Trinity Rep kindly helped us get tickets for another night. And it seems it’s finally freezing outside (be careful what you wish for).

Rosalina
50 Aborn Street
Providence, RI 02903
www.rosalina-ri.com

Trinity Repertory Company
201 Washington Street
Providence, RI 02903
www.trinityrep.com

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Providence is not much like Berlin – we’ve got a fraction of their population, we lack subways, and you’ll find a lot less people speaking German. But last weekend, we spent a day in Providence that we could have easily spent in Berlin: using the 3D printers at AS220, skating to music at the Alex & Ani downtown skating center, and eating dinner at Faust.

In my opinion, Faust is German food, only better. I’ve never been a huge fan of wursts, which seems to be the default German food, and of course, Faust has plenty of those. But I also found roasted brussel sprouts with cranberries, schnitzel and mashed potatoes, latkes with apple jam, and warm pretzels with mustard.

We liked it so much that we were back just a few days later. And it was just as good the second time around.

Faust
The Dean Hotel
122 Fountain Street,
Providence, RI
www.faustpvd.com

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After living in Providence nearly six years, we finally made the day trip to Block Island. I’m not sure what took us so long exactly, but now I know what we’ve been missing.

Not surprisingly, the first thing we sought to do was eat – although the smell of bacon and long line at Ernie’s suggested it would be worth the wait, we decided to go somewhere we could eat outside without a wait, which turned out to be the Surf Hotel. Breakfast turned out to be perfectly fine (egg sandwiches on brioche, and reasonable kids’ meals).

We decided to rent a car so we could more easily explore. With six of us in our party, we opted for the circa 1980s minivan on the lot, which was offered to us for an absurd fee — oh but don’t worry, it hasn’t been cleaned, it’s on ‘E’ and it may not start. I’m not kidding – the agent actually had trouble starting the car.

With our cool ride, we drove across the entire island (it didn’t take long). We drove past rolling hills with cows and horses and impressive ocean views around nearly every corner. We parked by Settler’s Rock and walked the rocky beach over to the lighthouse.

I’d say the highlight was Mohegan Bluffs, where you climb down a winding staircase of over 100 stairs down to the water. As if that’s not enough of a barrier, the stairway ends abruptly at a treacherous cliff with a sketchy rope to ‘help’ you make your final leg down to the beach. It is quite beautiful once you make it down – with the ocean up against an enormous cliff, and it’s impressive how many people of all ages actually seemed to be able to make it down and back up without harm (including our four-year-old, although I’ll admit to not being very ‘relaxed’ about the whole experience at the time).

After we returned the car, we walked over to Ballard’s Beach, where we sat on the beach, got a snack, and enjoyed our last ocean swim of the season.

I can’t wait to go back (and I definitely can’t wait for it to be summer again). The only thing that’s missing seems to be great ice cream (and no, Turkey Hill ice cream at the Ice Cream Palace does not count, in my opinion), so next time, I’ll plan to stop at the Sweet Spot in Narragansett when I get off the ferry.

Ernie’s
212 Water Street
New Shoreham, Block Island, RI

Surf Hotel
32 Dodge Street
New Shoreham, RI
www.thesurfhotelbi.com

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Fried chicken, cole slaw, fresh corn, creamy mac and cheese - this isn't the TV dinner I remember.

Fried chicken, cole slaw, fresh corn, creamy mac and cheese – this isn’t the TV dinner I remember.

Remember those mushy, gravy-coated TV dinners made in the microwave that ‘revolutionized’ cooking? Well, the TV Dinner meal at The Shanty in Warwick is actually nothing like that — rather, it’s what you had wished a TV dinner could be.

Geoff opted for the burger and fries - another fine choice.

Geoff opted for the burger and fries – another fine choice.

Delivered to your table on a stainless steel plate, you’ll receive two pieces of crispy fried cornish game hen, creamy mac and cheese topped with sprinkled breadcrumbs, coleslaw, fresh buttered corn, and a biscuit with whipped cream and stewed raspberries.

The Shanty
3854 Post Road
Warwick, RI 02886
(401) 884-7008
www.theshantyri.com

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My surfboard on the sand

My surfboard on the sand

Ah, summer. Finally, we’re together again.

Although I do enjoy ice skating and skiing, for me, they just don’t compare to lying on a warm beach, swimming, and surfing. And in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to find everything we need to enjoy summer right here in the Ocean State.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a list of ten of my favorite ways to spend a day during the summer in Rhode Island. I’d love to hear yours too, so post in the comments below!

1.  Surf, Beach, and Mini-Amusement Park in Narragansett

Photo by Dee and Tula Monstah.

Narragansett Town Beach. Photo: Dee and Tula Monstah.

For more low-key (read: novice) surfers like myself, Narragansett Town Beach generally offers small (one to three foot) waves, and the water tends to be freer of seaweed than some other local surf beaches. You can set up a surf lesson in Narragansett or rent a board with Warm Winds Surf Shop or Narragansett Surf & Skate, or just head out with your own board. The beach is separated by a surf side and a swim side, so if you’re only up for swimming, you can head to the other side of the beach. Note that Narragansett Town Beach has a fee both for parking and for entrance on the beach.

Prepare to get wet on the bumper boats...

The bumper boats at Adventureland.

For lunch, I love Crazy Burger, which has a great selection of burgers, salads and sandwiches for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

If that’s not enough action for the day, then we’ll stop at Adventureland, a miniature amusement park with a carousel, bumper boats and a kids’ raceway.

We usually like to pick up some local seafood at Champlin’s to cook at home later (likely stopping for some ice cream at the Sweet Spot while we’re there), and picking up some local corn at Sunsets Farm on the way home.

2. Bike Ride and Lunch Along the Bay

Stopping along the East Bay  Bike Path.

Stopping along the East Bay Bike Path.

If it’s not too hot, one of my favorite things to do is take a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows the coastline of the bay between East Providence down to Bristol, Rhode Island. The ride isn’t terribly hilly, and it’s so peaceful to ride along the water.

I like to stop along the way at the Audubon Society in Bristol to explore their outdoor grounds or indoor museum.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray's Ice Cream.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray’s Ice Cream.

Although the food is underwhelming, it’s hard to beat the view at Agave in Bristol. Save room for ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream, which is one of my favorites.

3. Rocky Coast Hike and View of the Bay in Jamestown

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown.

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park.

When I’m up for a more adventurous activity, I love to hike up Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with children, and the views of Narragansett Bay are fantastic. If you think ahead, you can pack a picnic lunch. Or, you can make your way into the town of Jamestown to pick a spot along the water.

There’s also the Jamestown Community Playground for kids that need to let off steam before or after their meal.

4. Beach, Boats, Kites and Seafood in Newport and Middletown

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

I usually skip Newport’s Easton’s Beach (“First Beach”) in Newport, and head to Sachuest Beach (“Second Beach”) in Middletown, Rhode Island. The water tends to be freer of seaweed, although the seagulls remain as aggressive as ever here, which is why I don’t recommend lunch on the beach. Plus, who needs lunch when you can go straight from the beach to Frosty Freez for delicious soft-serve.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

We always like to try to make time to take a drive along the coast on Ocean Drive, stopping at Brenton Point State Park, which typically makes for a great kite-flying spot.

We’ve also spent many pleasant hours over the years in the rental boats available at Sail Newport in Fort Adams State Park.

For dinner, I usually head to Flo’s Clam Shack for my favorite lobster roll and clamcakes. Or if I’m in the mood for a more relaxing sit-down dinner, then I head to  Scales & Shells for local seafood or Mamma Luisa for homemade Italian, both favorites that have stood the test of time.

5. Pool, Cake and a Drive-in Movie

Pool-time.

Pool-time.

Although I do love the ocean, swimming in a pool can often be much easier–no waves and sea creatures to contend with.

If you don’t have access to a pool, see if you can find a friend and get invited by someone with a membership to one (guest fees tend to be about $5-10 per person at local clubs).

Wrights Dairy Farm

Wrights Dairy Farm

After swimming (I like to do laps), I like a treat (shocking, I know). Depending on where I am, I might drive to Eskimo King.

Another one of my favorites is an excursion to Wrights Dairy Farm for some coffee milk and strawberry shortcake.

And what better way to finish a summer evening than with an outdoor movie at the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In?

6. Fishing, Baseball and Fireworks

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

What could be more American? Start with fishing and a ride on the carousel at Slater Memorial Park.

Then head to a Paw Sox game at McCoy Stadium, where you can grab some beers and a Super Pretzel, some shelled peanuts, or hot dog, and spread out on the lawn to watch the game. If you pick a night with fireworks after, then you can end the night with a close-up show.

7. Beach, Cocktails and Oysters

One of my favorite state beaches is East Matunuck Beach–it’s a bit rockier than some, but it’s has a great atmosphere for children. Plus, you can eat at the waterfront Matunuck Oyster Bar before or after. Am I the only one who finds the beach makes them hungry?

If I’m looking for a more lively beach day, I might head down to Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI and have cocktails and lunch at The Andrea’s newly restored bar, right on the beach.

8. An All-Providence Summer Day

Breakfast sandwich from Pat's Pastured.

Breakfast sandwich from Pat’s Pastured.

On Saturday mornings, you’ll typically find us at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Lippitt Park, Providence. There are dozens of farm vendors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and throughout the summer, the produce increases in variety. You’ll also find the Pat’s Pastured Pork stand for breakfast sandwiches, or Tallulah Tacos for lunch. There’s even a series of local craft vendors if you want to do additional shopping.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

On other days of the week, I might head to Venda Ravioli, where you can eat outside in DePasquale Square on Atwells Avenue.

You might not think of the zoo as too appealing on a hot summer day, but the Roger Williams Park Zoo now has Hasbro’s Big Backyard with sprinklers and water play for the kids (and I suppose, over-heated adults). Don’t forget to squeeze in a few minutes to see some elephants, giraffes and gorillas while you’re there.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Then, it’s hard to deny the tourist appeal of Providence’s Waterfire. It was the first event that brought us into Providence before we moved here, and its success has led to its adoption in other small cities. It’s one of the only times you’ll see actual traffic in downtown Providence, as a novelty, I appreciate it, especially since I don’t have to drive.

In my ideal day, I’d begin with watching them light the fires, then enjoy a meal at Figidini or Gracie’s, and finish off with a concert at Lupo’s.

9. Berry Picking and Wine Tasting on Aquidneck Island

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

When I get sick of the beach (it takes a lot of beach days in a row for this to happen), I love going to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown for berry picking. They also have a small gourmet grocery shop with other tasty treats.

Then, I’d enjoy a relaxing snack and glass of wine at Newport Vineyards at their outdoor seating overlooking their rows of grapevines.

10. Biking and Surfing on Block Island

Ok, this one is actually on my ‘to do’ list.

It’s a bit absurd to admit, but even after living in Providence several years, I have failed to make the short ferry ride to Block Island. But I’m determined that this will be the year.

List of Places Mentioned (without links):

Narragansett Town Beach
39 Boston Neck Rd.
Narragansett, RI
www.narragansettri.gov

Crazy Burger
144 Boon St.
Narragansett, RI
www.crazyburger.com

Sunsets Farm
www.farmfresh.org

Audubon Society of RI
1401 Hope St
Bristol, RI
www.asri.org

Agave
805 Hope Street
Bristol, RI
www.agavebristol.com

Jamestown Community Playground
41 Conanicus Ave.
Jamestown, RI

Sachuest Beach
474 Sachuest Point Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.visitrhodeisland.com

Brenton Point State Park
Ocean Drive
Newport, RI
www.riparks.com

Sail Newport
60 Fort Adams Dr.
Newport, RI
www.sailnewport.org

Scales & Shells
527 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.scalesandshells.com

Mamma Luisa
673 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.mammaluisa.com

The Andrea
89 Atlantic Ave.
Westerly, RI
www.andreabeachbar.com

Hope Street Farmers’ Market
Lippitt Park
1059 Hope Street
Providence, RI
www.farmfresh.org

Venda Ravioli
265 Atwells Ave.
Providence, RI
www.vendaravioli.com

Gracie’s
194 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.graciesprov.com

Lupo’s
79 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.lupos.com

Newport Vineyards
909 E Main Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.newportvineyards.com

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