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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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
www.thebarstowri.com

Meeting Street Café: The café that’s really a diner

Spinach salad with apples, pecans, gorgonzola and balsamic dressing.

Spinach salad with apples, pecans, gorgonzola and balsamic dressing.

Sometimes I wish we had a diner on Thayer Street. In particular, I fantasize about the Waverly Restaurant moving in within walking distance to my house.

In the meantime, I can still count on Meeting Street Café for breakfast all day, enormous sandwiches (1/2 sandwich = 1 sandwich), homemade soups, fresh salads, and cookies. If you want meatloaf, your partner wants a salad, and the kids want pancakes, you’re in luck here. Meeting Street Café is one of those places that doctors who studied at Brown’s medical school and move elsewhere still talk about years later–a fact I know because my mother-in-law works as a nurse in Ohio.

On our visit today, I ordered their spinach salad with apples, pecans and gorgonzola and asked for a dollop of tuna on there. Geoff had poached eggs.

I still pine for the Waverly’s challah french toast, but, for now, I’ll have to hop the train to NYC or make it myself (with either Seven Stars Bakery challah or Silver Star Bakery Portuguese sweet bread, of course).

Meeting Street Café
220 Meeting Street
Providence, RI
www.meetingstreetcafe.com

Flatbread Company in Providence

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We haven’t been as excited about a new neighborhood offering since Gourmet Heaven opened last year. A few weeks ago, Flatbread Company, which has restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, opened its first location in Providence on Cushing Street.

Flatbread offers a simple menu of organic salads and a variety of ‘flatbreads’ which, back in New York, we call pizzas. Theirs are made with their own organic tomato sauce (which you can actually see brewing in their giant cauldron) and cooked in their wood-fired clay oven.

Part of Flatbread’s mission is to integrate with the region’s farms and producers which begets great results, both in community-building and in the quality of the food. Plus, the restaurant space is enormous, which makes it ideal for families, parties, and events. They offer kids both crayons and paper (which turn into their menu covers), and they’ll even give them a bit of dough to work themselves. If anyone gets antsy, they can also head over to their library which now has several couches and shelves of books for all ages, or, of course, to their bar.

We’ve been here four times since they opened a few weeks ago, and nearly every time, we ran into friends (with kids in tow). And next Thursday February 6 from 5-9 pm, they’re hosting a fundraiser for the Providence Children’s Film Festival (see details). What’s not to love?

Flatbread Company
161 Cushing Street
Providence, RI
www.flatbreadcompany.com

The Grange

The Grange's Po' Boy sandwich.

The Grange’s Po’ Boy sandwich on pretzel bread.

I used to believe a “vegetarian” restaurant was missing something, along the lines of the old joke “vegetables–it’s what food eats.” But the team behind Garden Grille and Wildflour Bakery made me a convert, and now their new vegetarian restaurant on the West Side, The Grange, has taken it a step further. As they state on their website, they are “all about elevating diners’ perceptions and experience of vegetables,” and that they most definitely accomplish.

I’ve now been to The Grange three times–twice for lunch and once for dinner–and I haven’t met a dish I didn’t like. The tofu in their Sesame Tofu Sandwich is crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside and accompanied by assorted pickles, sprouts, chili, and shiso aioli. Their Po’ Boy would be worth it for the fresh pretzel bread alone, but it’s even better with ‘chicken’ fried oyster mushrooms, cabbage slaw, pickles and remoulade. Both are served with fresh potato chips, although their homemade fries are worth getting too.

For dinner, we loved the roasted cauliflower with sweet chili sauce, green onion, peanuts and cilantro ginger aioli and the crispy pan-seared tempeh with braised collard greens, root vegetable mash and smoked maple mustard. One of our favorites of the evening was the ‘everything crust’ seeded tofu with a curry broth and beet relish.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert. To me, it doesn’t get much better than their chocolate brownie topped with peanut butter ice cream and caramel corn.

The Grange
166 Broadway
Providence, RI
(401) 831-0600
www.providencegrange.com

Bakery Style Pizza (aka Rhode Island Pizza Strips) at Tomato City Pizza

Bakery Style Pizza from Tomato City Pizza.

Bakery Style Pizza from Tomato City Pizza.

After living in Providence for four years, we still didn’t understand what all the fuss was about ‘pizza strips.’ In our experience, it was a cold doughy cheeseless pizza with globs of tomato sauce that looked like this.

However, recently a veteran of the city introduced Geoff to the ‘bakery style pizza’ at Tomato City Pizza in Providence. And now we get it. Their version of the pizza strip is sprinkled with parmesan cheese and features a thinner, crispier crust cooked so well-done that the brown edges actually taste sweet. It’s delicious hot, warm or cold. I can’t promise this is the most ‘authentic’ pizza strip in Rhode Island, but it’s certainly the best we’ve tasted to date.

Tomato City Pizza
1041 Douglas Avenue
Providence, RI

Blount Clam Shack: Summer All Year Long

Blount Clam Shack's famous clam chowder.

Blount Clam Shack’s famous clam chowder.

In an effort to try and pretend that summer is not over, I’ve continued to make regular trips to Eskimo King for soft serve (yes, it’s worth the drive from Providence). It just doesn’t get much better than their medium (okay sometimes large) coffee soft serve cone with chocolate jimmies. Sadly, they closed for their season on October 14.

Blount's seafood dinner for two, a Friday special.

Blount’s seafood dinner for two, a Friday special.

I also finally made my way over to Blount Clam Shack in Providence, which is open year round. We ordered the Saturday special “Seafood Dinner for Two” which as it turned out was plenty for all of us (two adults and two kids) with two cups of chowder, clam cakes,
haddock, scallops, whole belly clams, shrimp, french fries, cole slaw and two drinks. The clam chowder was our favorite with just the right amount of creamy with good hunks of firm potatoes and tender clams, but I definitely prefer the clam cakes at Flo’s Clam Shack. The rest seemed more like your traditional seafood shack fare, although the whole belly clams were quite unique and tasty. Next time, I’ll try the lobster bisque and a lobster roll for a taste of summer decadence in the off-season.

Eskimo King
29 Market Street
Swansea, MA
www.eskimoking.com

Blount Clam Shack and Soup Bar
371 Richmond Street
Providence, RI
http://www.blountretail.com/providence/home
Also see their list of other locations in Warren, Fall River, MA and Crescent Park (Riverside, RI) at http://www.blountretail.com/providence/other_blount_locations

Geneva Diner

A bowl of tripe

A bowl of tripe

With more handwritten signs than items on the menu, Geneva Diner serves lunch everyday and dinner on the weekends. On a whiteboard, I spotted an asterisk next to the word “Tripe,” which produced the spicy, tender bowl pictured at right, smelling faintly of a barnyard.

Geneva Diner
1162 Douglas Ave
North Providence, RI 02904
(401) 353-8333

Figidini Wood Fire Eatery: Pizza in Providence

A margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella and local basil.

A margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella and local basil.

Providence has great food. But I’m still not sure what algorithm causes New York to rank third for Travel & Leisure’s America’s Best Pizza and Providence to rank second. I suppose having grown up in New York City, I will always believe that the thin-crust New York-style pizza (when done right, of course) is the ‘real’ pizza.

Arugula with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, lemon cucumber, and a blackberry yogurt dressing.

Arugula with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, lemon cucumber, and a blackberry yogurt dressing.

Nevertheless, there is also nothing quite like a wood-fired Neapolitan pizza done right, and that you’ll find at Figidini Wood Fire Eatery. They recently opened in Downcity adding to what is turning out to be a great block to grab a bite in Providence.

On our most recent visit, we opted for an arugula salad with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, red onions, and lemon cucumber topped with rock salt and a blackberry yogurt dressing. Geoff chose the soppressata‎ pizza special, while I opted for the plainer margarita pizza — each so different, but both with their signature flavorful, light and tender crust.

It’s not New York pizza, but it certainly is Providence pizza at its best.

Figidini Wood Fire Eatery 
67 Washington St
Providence, RI
(401) 808-6886
www.facebook.com/Figidini

Garden Grille: I Can Be a Vegetarian Too

Reggie's Raw Heaven salad: ugula – Mango – Grapefruit – Avocado Beet Infused Jicama – Cashew Gamasio – Pomegranate Dressing

Reggie’s Raw Heaven salad at Garden Grille.

I am quite publicly not a vegetarian (Exhibit A: hamburger, Exhibit B: corn dog, Exhibit C: meatball). In fact, when my sister decided in high school to become a vegetarian, I immediately took her to Westville West telling her they had great salads (they do), but knowing she’d never be able to resist their hamburger (she couldn’t). Perhaps that’s what makes Garden Grille in Pawtucket especially impressive–it can turn even an avid meat-lover into a vegetarian (at least for a night).

We’ve been to Garden Grille at least a dozen times, and we always leave having eaten well and feeling great. Our favorite salad is Reggie’s Raw Heaven (pictured above) with arugula, mango, grapefruit, avocado, beet-infused jicama, cashew gamasio and pomegranate dressing. We also love the nachos (which we order with ‘real’ cheese although they have a vegan version), the chipotle seitan (which the girls call ‘chicken’), and the sweet potato wedges with barbecue sauce. They always feature unique specials inspired by fresh produce from local farms, and they carry drinks from local breweries and wineries.

Some surprisingly delicious cookies from Wildflour Vegan Bakery.

Some surprisingly delicious cookies from Wildflour Vegan Bakery.

If you want to stick with the theme, you can have dessert a few doors down at Wildflour Vegan Bakery. I was so sure that vegan desserts couldn’t taste good that I didn’t even order one.  I was wrong. I’m not sure what witchcraft they use to replace butter and eggs, but my daughters’ chocolate chip cookie and corn muffin were both surprisingly delicious.

Garden Grille
727 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
(401) 726-2826
http://gardengrillecafe.com/

Wildflour Vegan Bakery
727 East Avenue
Pawtucket RI
(401) 475 4718
http://www.wildflourveganbakerycafe.com/

La Arepa Restaurant

The chicken arepa with sliced avocado, black beans and cheese.

The chicken arepa with sliced avocado, black beans and cheese.

After a trip to Rock Spot Climbing, we all seem to work up an appetite (even though only one of us climbs).  Luckily, La Arepa, an unpretentious Venezuelan restaurant, happens to be on our way home.  We’ve now been there a handful of times and have always loved what we ordered.

This time, I chose an arepa (like a tortilla, but thicker) with shredded chicken, sliced avocado, queso cheese, and black beans, along with a side of fried plantains. Our two-year-old wanted only rice (she’s on a strictly all-carbs diet), which she proceeded to eat while sprinkling all over the table, chair and floor so that the waiter asked politely if she needed a bigger plate. Still, even she ate some of the chicken that we ordered for her–it was that good.

La Arepa
574 Smithfield Avenue
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
(401) 335-3711
www.laarepari.com