Don’t Forget About Darlington

Last month I said a fond farewell to the East Side and all its hipster glory, leaving behind top-notch establishments like Cook & Brown, Seven Stars and Wurst Kitchen. I loaded my Subaru and made the precarious trek across the Seekonk River to Darlington, and with the move comes a new collection of eateries to explore. The Darlington neighborhood covers a large portion of eastern Pawtucket, just east of Seekonk (think right near the Patriot Cinema in EP).

The restaurants in Darlington aren’t exactly akin to the trendy new places Motif usually reports on. Darlington isn’t the hippest area (though I hear we do have a farmers market in Slater Park), but it also doesn’t pretend to be. If cryptic buzz words like “molecular gastronomy” aren’t essential to your dining experience, some of these may be right up your alley. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that no meal described in this article was “locally sourced” or “farm raised.”

In the span of just a few weeks, I tried to indulge in as many local places as I could to get an idea of the go-to spots. It’s been quite an unhealthy stretch, but it’s all for you, dear readers.

*Disclaimer: I am by no means an authority on this area, and these are first impressions based on one visit, in some cases just for take out.

Kip’s Restaurant

The American Flag adorning the cover of the Kip’s take-out menu is the perfect primer for the vibe. Open since 1959, this greasy spoon diner looks like it hasn’t seen a makeover since then: plastic booths, baked goods under glass, cash only. This is a place where the wait staff consistently forgoes any kind of uniform and is not shy about indicating that they’re about to close. A place where your placemat introduces you to your local mechanics and realtors. But there is something comforting about being at a place that doesn’t take kindly to what’s hip this month. Will this food change your life? No, but you can sup on the ham steak special for just $7.59, and there is no mystery about what you’re getting.

Another reason to rep Kip’s: They specialize in hot wieners! They even offer the cold pack: a dozen wieners, a dozen rolls and a pint of their famous wiener sauce. They might as well just erect a 20-foot gold statue of Roger Williams. The wiener I had was excellent, but I was disappointed that the chef did not utilize his sweaty arm during the construction. It’s probably encouraging news to the health inspector, though.

Kip’s Restaurant, 826 Newport Ave (at Armistice Boulevard)

Sullivan’s Publick House

This Irish Pub-style establishment is owned by Tapp’d restaurant group, purveyors of the Doherty’s empire. I enjoy every one of their places I’ve tried, and this one didn’t let me down. It has a small, intimate feel with a bar and tables and seems to serve as the local watering hole. Sadly there’s nowhere near as much beer as Doherty’s in Pawtucket or Warwick, but I’d say there’s 30+, so hopheads and porter fans alike should be fine.

The menu includes a plentiful offering of signature burgers (like the “3 Little Pigs” with pulled pork, jalepeno bacon, and maple brown sugar bacon), and comfort food choices like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.

The burger I ordered (that had some kind of caramelized onion, I think) was not as good as I’ve had at the sister locations, but I consoled myself by eating 800 calories worth of the delicious buffalo fries that came with it. For the brainy among us, there’s trivia every Thursday night.

Sullivan’s Publick House, 572 Armistice Blvd

Taste of Europe

Taste of Europe may just be the gem of the entire neighborhood. It’s the epitome of an old-school, family-run business, and it will be my go-to for bread and cold cuts. When I sat down for lunch, the granddaughter of the original owner told me to watch whatever I wanted on TV; it is great that there are still places like this around. There are multiple different kinds of pre-made pierogis in the fridge and freezer, and they offer Polish candy, pickled goodies and anything else you can think of.

I ordered a great kielbasa sandwich with sauerkraut that came with pasta salad for under seven bucks. And on my way out, I decided to force down one of the delicious beef empanadas they have by the register. Not because I wanted to, but because Motif readers need to know that it was warm and buttery.

Taste of Europe, 560 Armistice Blvd

Bella Pasta

For those not fluent in Italian, Bella Pasta means “beautiful pasta.” In fact, as I’m writing this article, I’m eating Bella’s beautiful penne alla bolognese take-out. What a rush this gonzo journalism is! Now I understand the way Hunter S. Thompson felt on the campaign trail!

Anyway, this dish is excellent, with a minced beef, Italian sausage and diced veggie sauce. You wouldn’t guess high-quality food like this would come from such an unassuming location. Seventeen bucks for a meal is on the high end for Darlington, BUT my take-out order came with four pieces of bread, dipping oil, and a side of cream of chicken soup!

And to get a sense of what your golden years might be like, they have a pretty generous early bird special: $12.99 for options like seafood ravioli, pan seared Cajun salmon, and haddock puttanesca. It looks like the interior can get a bit cramped, but based on the food, it’s no surprise that it was packed on a Wednesday night.

Their business card says, “Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just a place the Rat Pack would have loved.” I’m not sure the rat pack ever would have rolled through the Bucket, but I think that pretty much sums it up. Of the establishments featured here this would probably the one most likely to bring in Rhode Islanders all the way from PVD.

Bella Pasta, 514 Benefit St

Li Lai Wok

Every neighborhood needs a place to get their General Tso’s, a place that’s just going to give you the  comfort food you grew up with. Li Lai Wok is not reinventing the wheel, but the giant portions and friendly service go down easy.

I had the sweet and sour pork, which was exactly the fried, salty and sweet treat that makes you hate yourself before you even finish the meal (which is exactly what you want). My dining compatriot had the vegetarian chow mein, which was admittedly better, with leeks, onions and bean sprouts. Instead of those fold-up paper boxes, they provide the foil ones with plastic tops (classier, in my opinion), and they offer some serious lunch combos for $6.25 that come with an egg roll and rice.

Li Lai Wok, 655 Central Ave

Honorable Mentions:

Dot’s Dairy Bar, 1476 Newport Ave. This place is exactly what you want from your neighborhood creamery. They have plenty of soft and hard serve ice cream, and they gave me an egregious amount of hot fudge on my sundae, which I always enjoy. Open all year round and has hot food as well.

Darlington Market, 614 Central Ave. On the outside, Darlington Market looks like your regular neighborhood food/cigarette/weed accessories mart,  which it is. But it’s also a secret stash of Middle Eastern riches — think grape leaves, tabbouleh, tahini, etc.

 

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