Growth at the Renovated Garden Grille

20181021_184335Pawtucket is Rhode Island’s vegan mecca. Nowhere else in this great state can you find an exclusively vegan bakery (Wildflour) alongside a vegetarian/vegan (v/v) eatery.

The Garden Grille opened its doors in 1996. The original bright and colorful decor was more reminiscent of a Mexican establishment than a trendy v/v joint. “Until I met Uschi, my wife, I didn’t have a direction for style,” stated co-owner of both establishments, Rob Yaffe. He credits the direction of both Wildflour, which underwent a renovation in April and May, and the Garden Grille’s major improvement to his wife’s European aesthetic and designer Libby Slader. “If it were up to me, it would be a hippie enclave. This is more zen with a clean look and earthy feeling. The tree was designed by Kyla Coburn and added seven years ago.”

Regulars of the Garden Grille (GG), upon hearing of the renovations, were quick to ask two things: Would the GG keep everyone’s favorite butternut squash quesadillas and the iconic tree? Happily, both are still at the GG. The tree remains exactly where it took root behind the bar, but it’s been cleaned, the twinkle lights were removed and it has a fresh coat of paint on its “treetop.” Rob mentioned, “The tree was a wink and a nod to tree huggers.” And although not many people were hugging trees, the who’s who of regulars were hugging each other and chatting throughout the warm, fresh, more open space during last week’s soft opening.

Meg, Wildflour’s manager, was overheard saying, “I missed all of the crew from Garden Grille,” as she embraced a server. The fact that a conversation could be overheard is a testament to the details considered in this renovation. Manager Nicholas Ventura shared, “This renovation is what the staff and customers deserve.” Rob agreed, “Every detail was carefully considered.”

In the old GG, patrons would often complain that it was too noisy, but unfortunately, due to the previous construction, nothing could be done. Now with a new sound-absorbing floor and drop ceiling, light jazz can be heard floating throughout the dreamily lit space. “The lights are the same,” Rob added, pointing to the round spots of soft light scattered all over the ceiling creating a magical atmosphere. “It’s slightly more refined. It’s still earthy, but the kitchen is bigger so that three or four line cooks can work together to get food out faster.” Rob wanted to make sure that people feel at home in the space. The simple shelves are adorned with plants and framed GG memories. A hand-painted sign behind the new hostess booth requests patrons wait to be seated in new more comfortable chairs, and everyone, especially the staff, seems happy to be back. Vegan regular, Randelle Boots, revealed she ordered the famous quesadillas because she “missed them” but coveted her tablemate’s crispy chickpea wrap. From looking at the menu she was happy to see the break out of tacos. GG has added zucchini and portobello tacos and roasted root tacos alongside the favorite Korean BBQ tempeh tacos because as Randelle says, “Everyone loves tacos!” She was glad they kept many of the favorites and the beloved tree. From a construction standpoint, she was happy that the “weird doorway thing” or vestibule had been removed. GG had corrected its negative air pressure problem and no longer would patrons feel a cold burst of air when the door opened on cold New England nights as they had previously endured.

The fresh and locally sourced food has always been the real reason why v/v have flocked to GG’s door. With a menu and functional kitchen update, the food and flavors served can now be showcased in a grounded, warm and inviting space suitable for regulars, newcomers and staff. “The renovation process is a very organic natural progression,” said Rob. It had been nine years since the last renovation and updates had been made when needed until now. Rob concluded, “It’s still the GG, but it’s now the dining experience I wanted to share with the [v/v] community.”

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