Posts Tagged ‘casual restaurants’

Hot wieners

The star of the show.

Guest post by Allan Miller

“Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog.” Fateful, if slightly existential, and somewhat paraphrased, words from Sigmund Freud. But apparently Freud never had the occasion to visit Olneyville New York System in Providence, because sometimes a hot dog is not just a hot dog, but is instead an Olneyville New York System hot wiener.

Ambiance

Don’t go for the atmosphere.

You won’t want to visit for the faintly greasy-spoon ambiance. You won’t want to visit for the diner-like menu. No, you’ll be going for the same thing that lured me there three times in one week during my short stay in Providence: these are quite frankly the best hot dogs that I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. And I’ve had a lot of hot dogs.

But don’t call them hot dogs. Follow the lead of the friendly and boisterous staff and call them by their true name: hot wieners. Freud would be proud that his name and the name of these heavenly delights share the same Germanic roots.

Here’s your quick tour guide to Olneyville. Get there about 12:30 AM, when life is just starting for the place. Order two hot wieners “all the way” (with meat sauce, grilled onions, mustard, and celery salt), a coffee milk, and a plate of fries. The coffee milk is just a giant glass of milk (take your Lactaid on the way there) with a tinge of coffee flavoring, and serves as an unexpected and delightful complement to the main course. The fries are nothing to write blogs about, but are pretty good and serve as a nice side dish.

Olneyville New York System is something you don’t want to miss if you are in Providence. It’s definitely worth breaking your low-carb diet, as it did mine. See you there in the wee hours.

Olneyville New York System
18 Plainfield Street
Providence, RI
http://olneyvillenewyorksystem.com/

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Note: Sadly, the Pepperoni Grill closed.

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese -- it looks like a New York pizza.

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese — it looks like a New York pizza.

When a friend who grew up in Long Island posted on Facebook that she discovered the “same pizza [she] ate as a little girl,” I knew where we’d be eating out next.

Of course, nothing can ever beat Mario’s Restaurant for me, but there are plenty of New York pizzas that I still love when I’m back in New York City — Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, and Joe’s, to name a few. But since we moved to Providence, I have searched to no avail for an authentic New York pizza. Well, finally, it has arrived.

Last night, at The Pepperoni Grill, we ordered two large pizzas — a pepperoni and a plain. I was impressed with its thin crust, its fresh tomato taste and ‘right’ amount of cheese — this is the New York pizza I remember. The restaurant itself is nothing fancy — but that’s exactly the appropriate ambiance for an authentic NY pizza, in my opinion.

The restaurant has opened so recently that they don’t yet have menus or a credit card processing machine, and they’re not even listed yet on Yelp. They expect to be have their full menu (with salads and pasta dishes) at the end of July. We met the owner, who is a New York transplant who has decided to make a go of it in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He ships his tomatoes from Brooklyn–he says he can’t find anything comparable locally. And he said he plans on having several salads with fresh mozzarella. And as if it couldn’t get any better–they deliver within a three-mile radius, which just barely makes it to our house in Providence.

They also sell them by the slice.

They also sell them by the slice.

The Pepperoni Grill
287 Pawtucket Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
http://thepepperonigrillri.com/

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Ken’s Ramen

Ken's Ramen will cheer you up.

Who says you can’t eat a steaming hot bowl of ramen in the summer?

Many of us think of ramen as something you buy in convenience stores and eat in large quantities as a college student. But you’ve got to figure that something that can be tasty under those circumstances has to be quite stellar when there’s actually some skill and fresh ingredients put into it.

It took us awhile to get to the recently opened and much anticipated Ken’s Ramen in Downcity. There was a long line, or we couldn’t find parking. One time, our three-year-old refused to stay because she thought the music was too loud. So finally, on a weeknight date night, Geoff and I made it over to Ken’s Ramen. I opted for the what they call “the soupless ramen” or Tan-Tan Mazmen, a spicy sesame purée mixed into their special ramen topped with bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, nori and scallions. Geoff opted for the more traditional Paitan Ramen, a chicken broth simmered for over 30 hours, also featuring ramen, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, nori and scallions. Don’t forget to order some of their homemade pork buns (Cha-Siu Pork Belly).

And don’t let anyone convince you that ramen is not a summer food. In Singapore, everyone eats it all year long, so I don’t see why we can’t too…

Ken’s Ramen
69 Washington Street
Providence, RI
www.kenramenpvd.com

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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
www.thebarstowri.com

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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

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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

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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

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