I love reading chef interviews about where they go to eat in their free time, because more often than not, they bring attention to small, local spots with a great dish or two that go otherwise unnoticed by most people and the press. Case in point: Jeannette's Bakery.
'Rhode Island' on Serious Eats
At North, the kitchen doesn't just bend rules, but breaks them entirely, confidently, and incredibly skillfully.
Last weekend, I found paradise at a boat yard in Jamestown, Rhode Island. At Dutch Harbor, a strip of parking lot that extends to the water on the western face of this island, the folks behind Newport's well-heeled Tallulah on Thames restaurant are slinging tacos and other traditional Mexican street eats—the stuff that chef Jake Rojas grew up eating.
Luxe Burger Bar might serve unimpressive burgers, but it's a perfectly fine downtown spot for friends to share some drinks and greasy grub.
The highlight of Plouf Plouf's bacon and wild mushroom-topped duck burger is the side of fries that comes with it.
Downcity Providence's year-old tapas joint is as pint-sized as Rhode Island itself, but shows off big flavors through its rotating menu of simple, well-executed small plates.
Sweet Berry Farm is one of New England's best-kept secrets. It's got a little bit of everything—pick-your own fruit, 100 acres of farmland, and some of the best ice cream I've ever had.
This weekend, we jammed out at the Newport Folk Festival. And in between soaking up Alabama Shakes and Jackson Browne (er, plus 25 gallons of rainwater), we searched for some serious food. Choosing lunch was almost as stressful as realizing we couldn't be at three stages at once (The Head and the Heart! vs Of Monsters and Men! vs Tune-Yards!)—but such challenges are ones we'll gladly take on.
Like I said last time I visited Farmstead, I went in for cheese, and got cheese—and a bunch of other stuff. But this time, it was on the other side of the cheese shop's wall at La Laiterie, the adjacent bistro with fabulous cheese plates and charcuterie boards.
When Jen Lighty began selling foraged seaweed on Block Island, Rhode Island, four years ago, "people were absolutely revolted." Seaweed has an image problem, and no matter how much nori-wrapped sushi Americans relish eating, the plant on its own was a tough sell.
Nice Slice is a hipster-slash-hippie slice joint, with RISD-alum Shepard Fairey's Andre the Giant posters plastered on its walls and a substantial portion of their menu friendly to a vegan clientele. A recent visit revealed the thin crust pies make a solid slice.
Al Forno's grilled pizza needs no introduction, but the restaurant's desserts—particularly the free-form tarts—don't get the chatter they deserve. Chef/owners Johanne Killeen and George Germon run three or four of them at a time, filling the same ultra-flaky tart dough (flour, sugar, salt, water, and lots of butter) with a variety of produce: apples, peaches and raspberries, plums—and during the fall months, sugar pumpkins.
This always happens. I went in for cheese, and left with cheese, jars of fancy mustard and ketchup, and an awesome sandwich. Farmstead, Wayland Square's terrific cheese boutique that shares a wall (and a door) with chef/owners Matt and Kate Jennings' beloved bistro La Laiterie, serves lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m, and the roast beef sandwich ($9) came highly recommended by the friendly on-duty cheesemonger.
There are almost 50 farmers' markets in the small state of Rhode Island, and much to the joy of locals seeking fresh produce, they're just starting to open. The Hope Street market at Lippitt Park is one of the biggest and most diverse in Providence. It draws dozens of vendors including fruit and vegetable farms, dairies and cheese shops, bakeries, meat and egg producers, a juice truck, and more.
Al Forno is the place where grilled pizza was born. Judging by the pizzas I tried there last week, it's still on its game. Pizza is served as an appetizer there. Our tip? Forgo a table and just sit at the bar, drinking beer or wine and eating the pizza.
Few joints get as crowded during lunch hour in Providence as Geoff's Sandwiches on Benefit Street. Though the tiny shop is nestled on College Hill beside both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, its clientele treks from all over downtown Providence to try one of dozens of creative sandwiches.
The Brick Alley Pub has been a go-to stop in Newport for over 30 years. Located among the many shops, bars, and restaurants on Thames Street, the Brick Alley Pub greats you with its sunshine yellow facade and awnings. The restaurant is a labyrinth of dining areas all decorated in that kitschy T.G.I. Friday's style except this version isn't tacky.
Louis Restaurant has been an early morning/very latenight staple for college students and Providence locals for decades. The menu is standard diner fare: eggs any way, hash browns, and fluffy pancakes, in addition to off-menu items like tofu scramble scribbled on sheets of paper posted on the wall. The gruff but warm-hearted waitstaff will make you pretty much anything you want, as long as the ingredients are in the kitchen. That's how a friend of mine ended up with this killer reuben.
No state has a closer relationship with doughnuts than Rhode Island. The state has just over a million people, but houses more than 200 doughnut shops. And the doughnut capital, Providence, has over 25 doughnut shops per 100,000 people. Sure, Dunkin' Donuts is responsible for much of the state's pastry offerings, but the market also supports a large number of small, local chains. We tried a few, on a quest to find the best.