Gourmet Heaven

One of the many stocked shelves at the new Gourmet Heaven on Meeting Street.

One of the many stocked shelves at the new Gourmet Heaven on Meeting Street.

It feels like we willed it into existence. The new location of Gourmet Heaven on Meeting Street near Thayer had formerly been occupied by a string of lousy restaurants, in which no one ever ate. Upon their most recent vacancy, Geoff and I agreed it would be a great space for a little market. And, just a few days ago, that’s exactly what it became. Gourmet Heaven, which has another location in Providence (as well as two in New Haven, CT), recently opened its doors with a full line of convenience store items, a salad and hot food bar, a deli counter, and a small produce section.

salad

A hand-picked salad of arugula, romaine, roasted brussel sprouts and onions, string beans, almonds and fresh mozzarella.

Gourmet Heaven seems to model itself after a New York convenience store/deli — rather than just a place to get a package of eggs or some milk, you can find that and everything from shelled chestnuts, Patsy’s tomato sauce, natural candies, and plenty more. I am generally strictly against salad bars, although I’ve found their line of freshly washed lettuces, grilled vegetables, and tomatoes and mozzarella too tempting. I’ve already eaten there twice. And perhaps the best part: they are open 24 hours.

Next on my wish list: a pharmacy near Thayer Street.

Gourmet Heaven

173 Weybosset St. Providence, RI
(401) 536-9000

Note: Meeting Street location has closed.

www.gourmetheaven.com

Lucky Garden: Yum Yum Dim Sum

Our dim sum spread on the lazy susan.

Our dim sum spread across the lazy susan.

We might have been inspired by the children’s book Yum Yum Dim Sum that we had borrowed from the library or perhaps from our lazy morning browsing photos from our Taipei trip–but suddenly we had the urge for dim sum.

Pan Fried Tofu Wraps, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, and Pan Fried Turnip Cakes.

Pan Fried Tofu Wraps, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, and Pan Fried Turnip Cakes.

We arrived at Lucky Garden midday Saturday to find bustling tables filled with both Chinese and American families sampling the dozens of dishes on their special dim sum menu. Our favorites included the crispy Pan Fried Tofu Wrap with chives, the Pan Fried Turnip Cake, Chicken Congee (a porridge-like soup with chicken), Scallion Pancake, Salt & Pepper Homemade Tofu, and Steamed Fried Dough Rice Rolls (basically a doughnut wrapped in a noodle–how can you not like this?). The desserts, also, were excellent–their egg tarts are made with a delicious buttery homemade dough, and although I tend to avoid the more gelatinous desserts, even I couldn’t resist their coconut pudding.

As usual, we ordered way too much, which is why the following weekend, we wisely decided to invite some friends along with us.

Lucky Garden
1852 Smith Street
North Providence, RI
www.luckygardenri.com

Also see their dim sum menu

Dok’s Deli: House-Smoked Meats in Providence

September 2013 Update: Dok’s Deli announced that they would be closing — extremely sad news since they had undoubtedly the best sandwiches I’ve had in Providence (not to mention the best homemade potato chips I’ve ever had). Here’s hoping that they will open again soon in a new location.

"The Pastramisseur" house-smoked pastrami with brown mustard on rye.

“The Pastramisseur” house-smoked pastrami with brown mustard on rye.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted for lunch–until I arrived at Dok’s Deli. The aroma of house-smoked meat had me as soon as we walked in the door. Dok’s smokes their own corned beef, pastrami, turkey, chicken and salmon–all of which you can also purchase by the pound. Since my deli order usually consists of a tuna fish sandwich, I asked to taste their corned beef and pastrami. Geoff found this amusing (even though it was his idea), but the Dok’s Deli guys gladly complied.

After my taste test, I chose the house-smoked pastrami on rye; Geoff ordered the reuben. Both were excellent and came with perfectly browned and salted homemade potato chips (had I known that, I wouldn’t have ordered a side of fries, but we ate them anyway). They even brine their own pickles.

A side of handcut fries with your sandwich and chips?

A side of handcut fries with your sandwich and chips?

Next time, Geoff plans to get a pound of their gravlax to go. I’ll be getting the Wedge Salad made with homemade blue cheese dressing and house-cured bacon. My guess is that we won’t make it through this weekend without them.

Dok’s Deli
146 Ives Street
Providence, RI
www.doksdeli.com

La Crêperie

Digging into the second crêpe — butter and sugar.

We are a crêpe family. We usually have a stack of them in the refrigerator ready to be filled on request: egg and cheese, butter and sugar, banana and chocolate.

Inside La Crêperie, on a tiny street off Thayer.

But this morning the request came, and we couldn’t fill it, so we went to La Crêperie, which serves up traditional French crêpes–wheat or buckwheat–composed with your choice of savory or sweet fillings. They also have Belgian waffles, wraps, salads, and smoothies–none of which we’ve tried yet. Like I said, we’re a crêpe family, and judging by the stream of customers this morning, we’re not the only ones.

La Crêperie
82 Fones Alley
Providence, RI, 02906
http://creperieprov.com/

Gold Stone: Chili Oil Fish

Chili Oil Fish from Gold Stone.

When I go to a new diner, I always order corned beef hash–I find it’s a leading indicator of general diner quality. Is the corned beef homemade? Is the hash crispy and flavorful?  When I first tried  Gold Stone, I came for the Mapo Tofu–my Szechuan corned-beef hash–and it was as satisfying as my standard, from Mary Chung.

When I returned to Gold Stone, I asked them for a specialty that I have been ordering more often than Mapo Tofu: Chili Oil Fish (pictured), which was rich with a thick slick of chili oil and perfectly cooked pieces of white fish (flounder?). It may become my new standard.

Gold Stone
840 Allens Ave
Providence, RI
(401) 781-8887
www.goldstoneprovidence.com

Quickly: Chinese Fast Food in Downcity Providence

The egg puff at Quickly.

The popular California chain Quickly has opened in Downcity Providence to serve Chinese fast food and snacks. After our recent dinner, we walked over to Quickly for dessert — Thai milk bubble tea, mango slush and an egg puff to share. Popular street food in Hong Kong, the egg puff (Gai Dan Jai) reminded us of a homemade waffle still hot off the griddle. Not surprisingly, it was devoured by the family within minutes.

Quickly
Northeast corner of Dorrance & Westminster
Providence, RI
www.quicklyusa.com

Providence Coal-Fired Pizza

Meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella and tomatoes top the coal-fired pizza.

Despite the fact that Providence made it to number three on Travel and Leisure’s Best Pizza in America list, I’ve remained largely disenchanted with my local slice options. For me, all pizza will always be compared to the thin-crusted tomato and fresh mozzarella pie at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, where my grandmother has been eating for over half a century. As a result, Nice Slice, Fellini, and Caserta Pizzeria have left me unimpressed. Of course, the grilled pizza from Al Forno and Bacaro are well worth the trip, but both of these are more special occasion pizzas (Al Forno doesn’t do take out; and Bacaro makes a more  gourmet pizza). They simply don’t satisfy the urge for the casual, classic New York pizza I grew up on.

So yesterday, when Geoff walked by the new Providence Coal-House Pizza in Downcity, he called me and I came down immediately with the kids to sample it. Their custom ovens heat pizzas to approximately 900°F — much higher than traditional or wood fired ovens — which embed the pizza with a delicious smoky flavor. We tried both the margherita and meatball. My favorite was the meatball — the  combination of melted ricotta and homemade meatballs worked well; Geoff preferred the margherita. Although I typically abandon my crust, I ate it all — which says a lot. No, it’s not Mario’s, but I can honestly say this is now officially my go-to local pizza joint.

Providence Coal Fired Pizza
385 Westminster St
Providence, RI 02903
http://providencecoalfirepizza.com

Lobster Rolls and Clam Cakes at Flo’s

The simply plain lobster roll at Flo’s.

‘Tis the season for the lobster roll — and I’ve started with my personal favorite from Flo’s Clam Shack in Middletown (across from Newport’s First Beach). It’s no frills — just chunks of plain lobster meat in a hot dog bun with iceberg lettuce. They serve the Hellmann’s on the side, which is perfect for those (like me) who’d rather go without.  And don’t forget to throw in a side of clam cakes — their fried cornmeal balls with clam mixed in.

Of course, this meal makes more sense when following hours of swimming or surfing, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Flo’s Clam Shack
4 Wave Avenue
Middletown, RI 02842

Park Avenue
Portsmouth, RI 02871

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.

Stanley’s
535 Dexter St.
Central Falls, RI
www.stanleyshamburgers.com

Where to Find Rhode Island’s Past: A Top Ten List

Jerry and Rose take the bus to Foxwoods Casino when they're in Rhode Island.

My step-mother’s parents, Rose and Jerry (aka Bubbie and Zadie), retired to Florida over 17 years ago. Every year, they return to Rhode Island — the state in which they were born, raised their children, and lived most of their lives.

Of course, they come to visit family, but their journey has also become a pilgrimage to their old favorite restaurants and sights. Their carefully culled picks have nothing to do with hot spots that may rise and fall from the Best of Rhode Island lists. Instead, these are the places that have persisted through the generations and have come to represent a moment in time in Rhode Island.

1. At Twin Oaks in Cranston, they always order the baked stuffed shrimp. They say the shrimp are “scrawny” in Florida compared with the five jumbo shrimps at Twin Oaks. But it’s the stuffing they crave. They also like that when you order a cocktail, like a Black Russian, you get “a drink and a half.” Other favorites here include the house salad dressing and the homemade chocolate pudding.

2. Florida may be the “Sunshine State,” but Rhode Island is still the “Ocean State.” Every year, they plan a beach day at either Narragansett Town Beach or Sand Hill Cove (Roger Wheeler). They love the way the land gradually slopes out to the ocean rather than the abrupt way the land drops at the Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale beaches. (Although they admit the Gulf waters on the west coast of Florida are warm, and the beaches have a more gradual dip.) Still, nothing is better than sitting on the sea wall in Narragansett as the sun is rising or setting. Clam cakes and chowder (which they call chowda) are a must at either Aunt Carrie’s, Champlin’s, or George’s of Galilee.

3. At Crow’s Nest in Warwick, they enjoy the lobster salad sandwiches and their sugar-free blueberry pie.

4. Chello’s by the water in Warwick is a must for the Jim Dandy Burger and the banana berry pie, served only in season.

5. Their trip to Rhode Island is not complete without a Conway Bus day trip to Foxwood Casinos in Connecticut. For 24 dollars a ticket, you get bus service to and from the hotel along with food and gambling vouchers. They give you more in vouchers than the price of the ticket expecting that visitors will wind up spending more gambling. But for Rose and Jerry, it’s a deal.

6. They adore the chocolate walnut ice cream from Brickley’s in Narragansett on route 1A. You can also get Brickley’s in Wickford served in the former Ryan’s market.

7. They love to quench their thirst on a hot beach day with a classic Del’s lemonade. Now with locations in over a dozen states, Del’s started in Cranston. Rose still remembers the owner, Mr. Delucia.

8. They love events like the East Greenwich Main Street stroll; concerts in Wickford and Cranston’s Garden City; and tours in Newport, RI and Mystic, Connecticut.

9. They can’t resist the coffee “cabinets” from Newport Creamery.

10. And no trip is complete without some Walt’s roast beef sandwiches.

Twin Oaks (since 1933)
100 Sabra Street
Cranston, RI
www.twinoaksrest.com

Aunt Carrie’s Seafood (since 1920)
1240 Ocean Road
Narragansett, RI
www.auntcarriesri.com

Champlin’s Seafood (since 1932)
See previous post

George’s of Galilee (since 1948)
250 Sand Hill Cove Road
Narragansett, RI
www.georgesofgalilee.com

Crow’s Nest (since 1966)
288 Arnolds Neck Drive
Warwick, RI
www.crowsnestri.com

Chelo’s on the Waterfront (since 1955)
1 Masthead Drive
Warwick, RI
www.chelos.com

Foxwoods Resort Casinos (since 1986)
www.foxwoods.com

Brickley’s (since 1995)
See previous post.

Del’s Lemonade (since 1948)
www.dels.com

Newport Creamery (since 1940)
See previous post.

Walt’s Roast Beef (since 1957)
www.waltsroastbeef.net