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Elbow-Licking Good!: An early evening chimi crawl gets messy

When I told my boyfriend I was doing a Chimi Crawl, he responded as would most Americans raised on Taco Bell: “I love chimichangas!”

And while there’s much to love about a deep fried burrito, that’s not what I was talking about. I meant a chimichurri crawl, not to be confused with the South American chimichurri sauce that looks like pesto and is used to dress meat and poultry dishes. The chimichurri I was talking about is a Dominican hamburger sandwich with a special sauce.

The idea for a chimi crawl came from my friend Melissa, who texted me after a late night on Broad Street. “Have you ever had a chimi?” Melissa asked. “The Dominican kind?”

As a stereotypical, pumpkin-spice loving white girl, the answer was no.

“There’s a whole other world out there,” she said, describing the dozen or so late night food trucks lined up all along Broad Street, each promising the best chimi around. 

Thus, we set a date. On the Saturday before Providence’s Dominican Festival, an apropos time to try our first chimis, Melissa, her friend Carolyn, and I — the tres blanquitas — set out toward South Providence just after 6pm. Melissa warned me that we might precede the trucks at such an early hour, but I insisted; although the youngest of the group, I am, at heart, an old maid.

The three of us piled into Carolyn’s SUV and drove past all of the markers I recognized on Broad Street, down as far as the entrance to Roger Williams Park, at which point we turned around. Moving north from this spot is where the trucks start to line up. We parked just a few blocks up, right in front of our first stop: Johnny’s Chimi Place.

Johnny’s is a classic, having opened in 1993 as a mobile food truck. Now they’re planted on the sidewalk near Thurber’s Avenue with a few small tables and even a couple of outdoor booths. Even at this early hour, a line was starting to form.

Melissa was our designated speaker since she has the best Spanish (I promised to return the favor if we ended up in a Greek-speaking neighborhood). The painted menu was in both Spanish and English, and we opted for the regular chimi, adding the optional onions and cheese for 50 cents. At the last second, Melissa and Carolyn also got a Pastelitos de Carne (meat pie) from the dollar menu because the golden crispy pies looked so tantalizing from the window.

We sat at one of the shaded booths bedecked with a napkin dispenser — an essential resource, we learned almost immediately. The chimis came on long hoagie-like rolls, perfectly grilled, with a hamburger patty in the middle, topped with cabbage, tomatoes, onions, a sprinkle of cheese and the secret sauce: a combination of ketchup and mayo that tasted nothing like either but oozed from each bite and trailed down our hands.  

“My God, these taste just like New Orleans’ rolls,” Carolyn said.

“This is amazing,” said Melissa. 

I was too busy licking my hand to say anything. As an inaugural chimi tasting, this was the quintessential experience.

“Seriously,” Carolyn continued. “It’s like the perfect Po’ boy roll. You don’t get that in Rhode Island.”

“It tastes vaguely Big Mac-y, but better,” Melissa added.

“But the sauce!” I said, the depth of which I understood, yet could not fathom. Within minutes, all evidence of our chimis was gone, with the exception of a giant pile of napkins. A couple of bites later and the pastelito was also gone, and we were off to our next stop.

La Casa del Chimi was parked less than a block away from Johnny’s, just in front of CVS. This truck came highly recommended from one of Melissa’s friends. In addition to a regular chimi, we ordered one of the “special” chimis, choosing the beef/pork option. The person who took our order spoke English to us, and we stood on the sidewalk for our made-to-order chimis. I texted my boyfriend photos of the first sandwich as evidence that we weren’t eating chimichangas.

We noticed people setting up in the parking lot behind us, either inside their cars or with lawn chairs, which we were unprepared for. Instead, when our food was ready, we took the foil-wrapped chimis to the concrete steps of a church and sat in front of a sign that said, “Cristo te ama.” La Casa didn’t provide us with napkins, so we shared an extra napkin that I happened to carry in my purse, along with plastic cutlery to cut our chimis into thirds. 

In this case, the napkin shortage wasn’t dire because the sauce wasn’t as plentiful. We enjoyed the special chimi with the added pulled pork, and in both cases the meat was juicy, tender and well-seasoned. The flakiness of the roll was magnified without the extra sauce, and the cabbage seemed crunchier, which added texture to each bite. By the end of our second round, we were considerably full and could manage only one more chimi.

Our final stop was D’Colita Chimi, parked in front of Iglesia Visión Evangélica church. This was a Spanish-speaking-only enterprise, so Melissa placed our order and moments later they called us — the chimi was pre-made, wrapped, and ready to go.

We returned to our concrete steps, this time with napkins, and dove into our final burger-sandwich of the night. This version had a good amount of sauce and the beef was juicy and flavorful. The roll was softer, more steamed than flakey, and all the ingredients melted together in a happy harmony. Our first foray into Dominican street food felt like a success.

We noticed Universidad de Chimi roll up just as we were finishing, but our stomachs had reached their max. With several more food trucks on the horizon, it seems we’ll have plenty to look forward to next time.




Twelve Plants, Five Courses, One Summer Series: Plant-based meals even a carnivore could love

“If this were my situation every night, I’d never eat meat again,” my friend Melissa said of our Twelve (Plants) dinner in Newport. For her birthday, we traveled to Root on Broadway, where Twelve (Plants) was popping up with a 5-course, plant-based, prix fixe dinner. While several restaurants offer vegan cuisine, and several offer a chef’s tasting menu, I can’t think of any other fine dining experience in which every course is designed to be plant-based. And as my friend Melissa pointed out, the food is so magnificent that even the most avid meat-and-cheese lover will not feel deprived.   

Since mid-June, Chef Pete Carvelli and Chef Stefano Mariotta have been collaborating on a biweekly summer dining series, creating unique multi-course menus for each dinner. I asked the chefs in advance what wine might pair well with our meal, since the dinners are BYOB, and the chefs suggested a rosé, which was exciting because Melissa and I love rosé and we’d have probably brought a bottle regardless of the answer. 

We arrived at 6pm for the early seating (the second begins at 8pm), and we were given two wine glasses. Root on Broadway is a plant-based breakfast and lunch spot—in fact, it’s the only exclusively plant-based restaurant in Newport—and by day they offer juices and smoothies, breakfast bowls and grain bowls, as well as sandwiches, teas and coffees. But since summer 2020, owners Paul and Kate Webber have collaborated with Carvelli to host biweekly pop-up dinners. 

The interior is small but bright, with wooden high-top tables, a couple of round tables and window bar seats affixed with vibrant yellow chairs. The scents from the openly designed kitchen wafted to the corner where Melissa and I sat. “This is going to be good,” we both said, eyeing the chefs at work.

We began with an amuse bouche: a chickpea panisse with beet “ketchup” and garlic aioli. This chickpea fritter shaped like a French fry was perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Although I’m not keen on “regular” ketchup, I would buy bottles of this beet version. It was sweet, but not in an artificial way. 

Along with the panisse was a cubed watermelon “sashimi,” topped with avocado purée and served over a bed of toasted panko. Neither Melissa nor I could understand how roasted watermelon could adopt the exact same texture as sashimi; this is a culinary feat of mystical proportions.

The creativity of each dish skyrocketed from there. The first course was a leek cooked in a banana leaf (which we slid off onto a separate plate), with parsley emulsion, bell pepper couli and toasted hazelnuts. The typically tough leek was softened, the hazelnuts gave it a crunch and the parsley was unusually distinct. The second course, a cucumber ceviche topped with sliced radishes, was served with a cucumber dill sauce, avocado and lime crema. Dill is one of my secret favorite ingredients, and the lime crema really took it to the next level, making me feel like I was on a mountaintop in Peru.

Between the third course — seared artichoke hearts with artichoke emulsion, black olive caramel and crispy shallots — and the fourth course (which I’ll return to), we were given a palate-cleansing fennel sorbet. Who makes a perennial herb into a sorbet? It was surprisingly accurate to the taste of fennel, yet also sweetly palatable (as well as cleansing). 

It was the fourth and main course, however, that did me in: a Hearts of Palm “No-Crab” Cake. Served with a spicy dill remoulade and roasted red pepper salsa, it mimicked the very taste and texture of crab cakes. It’s hard to choose a favorite among the plates, but this might have been my favorite. 

We ended the experience with a Lemon Tart, served with seasonal berries, lemon gel and a marsala cookie; it was light, zesty and refreshing. Basically a health food. Best of all, the five courses were of the Goldilocks variety — “just right” in size — allowing us to get our fill without needing to be wheeled out after dinner.  

The Twelve (Plants) summer series extends through August, likely into the fall — but also keep an eye out for a future endeavor between this dynamic duo of chefs as they work on a new project called Fire and Fennel (@fire_and_fennel). If there’s one thing I learned from this entirely plant-based dinner series, it’s that Chef Carvelli and Chef Mariotta will know how to surprise and delight you.

Reserve a spot at TwelvePlants.co or follow @twelve.plants on Instagram; Root on Broadway, 6 Broadway, Newport




Tour de Ives: Try a DIY food tour on the East Side

On my recent visit to Ives Street on the East Side of Providence, I was struck by the number of restaurants spanning only a few blocks — Asian cuisine, Syrian cuisine, Mexican food, American food, ice cream shops, dive bars, coffee shops and donuts. And as an experienced food tour guide (ahem), I wanted to help Motif readers by putting together my own Tour de Ives.

If you’ve never been on a food tour, you are missing out on one of the greatest developments of human civilization. It’s basically a walking tour that involves a few food stops, a bit of history and an awesome guide (ahem) to lead the way. 

Since this is a DIY tour, you will — unfortunately — miss not only my charming personality, but also the pre-orchestrated perks of an actual food tour. Here are some helpful notes:

  1. Take some friends to maximize the food-tasting experience. Remember, sharing is caring.
  2. Not all of the restaurants have the same hours. I imagine this tour beginning at lunchtime on a Friday or Saturday.
  3. Wait times at restaurants vary. Be patient and tip well.
  4. You can go on this tour more than once, trying a different route (there are options!).
  5. An asterisk beside the restaurant implies that alcohol is available for purchase. And although it’s not explicitly noted, all of the restaurants listed can accommodate a vegetarian diet and most are vegan friendly.

Without further ado, here’s my suggestion for your Tour de Ives.

FIRST STOP: Coffee and Pastry

Option 1: PVDonuts,  @pvdonuts, pvdonuts.com, 79 Ives St

Image credit: Kortney Gloska

As Rhode Island’s first specialty donut shop, PVDonuts opened in 2016 and has since been featured in Cosmopolitan, Food & Wine, and Thrillist. Owned by JWU graduate Lori Kettelle and her husband, Paul, what began as a discussion around a campfire turned into a Rhode Island sensation. Their Friendsgiving Donut and ’90s-themed Dunkaroos put them on the map, but everything they create pushes the envelope of “is this really a donut?” 

Here’s as an example of a weekend special: Brioche with cream cheese mousse + bourbon caramel filling, topped with brown sugar glaze, bourbon caramel swirl, pretzel crumble, bacon and a bacon brown butter blondie

These are more than just donuts; they’re an experience. 

Note: They may sell out before the 3pm closing time.

Option 2: Silver Star Bakery @silverstarbakery, 150 Ives St

Image credit: Michael U.

This Portuguese bakery has been running since 1988, when Eduarda Ferreira purchased it with her husband, Pedro. Bringing expertise straight from the Azores, this (predominately women-operated) establishment serves the best breads, rolls and pastries. They’re particularly proud of their Portuguese sweet bread (massa). Also worth trying is their version of custard cupcakes (queijada de nata), the most recognized dessert in Portugal. 

Silver Star opens at 5am and closes at 7pm, meaning you can get your fill of pastry both before and after work, all week long.

Option 3): Malachi’s @malachis_cafe; 134 Ives St.

Image credit: Kristen S.

From coffee to smoothies to breakfast sandwiches, this family owned and operated business has what you’re looking for in the morning. Owner Joe Sousa has a connection to Portugal, with the name of the business extending back five generations to the Azores. Malachi’s has been on Ives for a lucky 13 years; they are the quintessential coffee shop.

With options like Peanut Butter Chocolate Cold Brew and Chai-stachio Lattes, they elevate the caffeinated beverage game. (You might even get lucky and snag a PVDonut from here, too.)

SECOND STOP: Small Bites*

Tallulah’s Taqueria, @tallulahstacos, tallulahstaqueria.com; 146 Ives St.

Tallulah’s has been a beloved spot in Providence for nearly a decade, dishing out Mexican food staples — like tacos and burritos — that are flavorful, affordable and made from quality ingredients. Owner Jake Rojas knows his Mexican food, having grown up in El Paso, Texas. (For the record, as a native New Mexican who went to undergraduate 45 minutes from El Paso, I can say this is legit.) He moved to New England, the homeland of his wife and co-owner, Kelly Ann, where they first opened “Tallulah” in Newport. For seven years they’ve been in Providence, but they recently returned south and opened a storefront in Jamestown, with talk of a soon-to-be third location on the West Side.

My advice? Go for the tacos. They’re perfect as an appetizer (if you get one) or a meal (if you get 2 or 3). Plus, they’ve got margaritas and a spacious outdoor patio. 
Image Credit: Tallulahs

THIRD STOP: Sweet or Savory

Aleppo Sweets, @aleppo_sweets, alepposweets.com; 107 Ives St

Youssef Akhtarini, his wife Reem and their six children, received the most unexpected announcement two years ago: Their bakery was nominated by Bon Appetit for Best New Restaurant of 2019. Having fled from war in Syria, they arrived to Rhode Island in 2016 with nothing except a giant rolling pin they acquired en route to the States. With help from Dorcas International Institute and some friends they made in Providence, they began selling baklava at churches and farmers markets, and soon this bakery became a possibility. When they opened the café in early 2019, they were met with overflowing support from the community.

Their menu includes Youssef’s famous baklava (chocolate pistachio is my favorite), and they offer an array of savory dishes: labneh, hummus and baba ghanoush; falafel and fatayer (a type of flatbread); and a chickpea dish called musabaha that’s my newfound comfort food.

Have some tea and choose your own adventure.

FOURTH STOP: Noodles

Option 1: Bee’s Thai Cuisine; 167 Ives St.

Named for the owner, Bee, whom you’ll likely find running in and out of the kitchen, this is a family-owned business serving authentic Thai food in a casual atmosphere. They took over the Ugly American (a hamburger spot, not just a cruel moniker) about eight years ago and have been a staple for the Brown and RISD crowd ever since.

If you want light fare, the mango spring rolls and Thai iced tea are must-tries. But let’s be real: You’re going to want thepPad Thai, or if you can handle a bit of heat, the spicy drunken noodles.

Note: They are BYOB … and Medeira Liquors is right down the street (just saying). 

Image Credit: Brian S.

Option 2: Noodles 102, noodles102.com, 102 Ives St

Mustafa and Lisa Kuscu opened this restaurant in November 2007, imagining it as a traditional noodle house like those found in China for more than 1,000 years. They are best known for their customizable dishes. For example, for the custom noodle soups, you get to choose the type of noodle, the protein, the vegetables and the broth (chicken, spicy miso, coconut curry or vegetable). Or for the build-your-own rice bowl, you can choose the rice, protein and sauce.

Their specialty is the coconut curry broth as well as the Singapore noodles with stir fried skinny rice noodles, scallions, egg, bean sprouts, curry and a choice of beef, chicken, tofu or shrimp.

Note: They are BYOB, and they don’t open until 5pm.

Image credit: Karyssa Edwards

FIFTH STOP: Burgers*

Chomp Kitchen and Drinks, @chompri, chompri.com; 117 Ives St

Image credit: Jenny Currier

After becoming a smash hit in Warren and winning annual awards (eg, from RI Monthly’s Best Burger of the East Bay seven years in a row to the #4 Burger in the Country by the Daily Meal), owner Sam Glynn opened a Providence location in early summer 2020. Despite the pandemic, devoted fans (like me!) were not deterred, and now both the indoor and outdoor dining areas are fully open — blessed day!

Chomp has a scratch kitchen, and this is what I know: As someone who doesn’t consider herself a “burger person,” I was the champion of their Attack the Stack challenge in 2015. These are undeniably amazing, from the House Burger to their specialties, like the Smoky Bandit — beef patty, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, smoky aioli, BBQ, crispy onion strings, pickled jalapeños. And as a bonus for those partaking in adult beverages, Chomp carries more than 30 craft beers, plus cocktails. Their Moscow Mule is perfect for summer.  

SIXTH STOP: Ice Cream

Option 1: KowKow @kowkowfood, kowkowfood.com; 120 Ives St

Owner Vilada (Vi) Khammahavong surprised her parents when she deferred medical school to open a food truck in 2018. In Laos, where her parents are from, khao — pronounced “kow” — is the one of the most common food staples: rice. And when someone wants to emphasize what they’re saying, they repeat the word, which is how Vi came up with the name KowKow. 

This shop specializes in bubble waffles, otherwise known as egg waffles, that have soft chewy “bubbles” instead of indentations via the typical waffle-iron, and this waffle forms the cone to hold gorgeous ice cream scoops. Some favorites include the Oreo Factory, Graham Canyon and Berry Nutty, plus there are weekly specials and vegan options. Get your camera ready: This is one of those spots where you’ll want to take a picture before you dive in.

Image credit: Jenny Currier

Option 2: Like No Udder @likenoudder, like-no-udder.com; 170 Ives St.

Consider them world famous: Like No Udder started the world’s first all vegan soft serve ice cream truck! In the early 2000s, owners Karen and Chris — who have a combined vegetarian/vegan experience of 47 years — opened their first vegan business that specialized in a variety of desserts, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they transitioned to the “Betsy Lou” ice cream truck that later turned into a storefront. 

One would think that an ice cream devoid of dairy, eggs, animal fats and honey would taste … like it was devoid of the best ingredients, but this tastes creamy and rich with flavor. My favorites are the Thai Tea and Key Lime. 

Image credit: Jenny Currier

SEVENTH STOP: The Pub*

Captain Seaweeds @captain_seaweeds; 162 Ives St.

Image credit: Derek B.

My first experience at Captain Seaweeds was in 2014 for a Halloween-themed pub crawl, and what I remember most was that they served beer for a dollar. Even if you aren’t brave enough to try The Captain Seaweed Lager or their “$2 ‘no comment’ Jungle Juice,” it’s worth visiting just for the décor: the walls and ceilings are covered in nautical pictures and posters, pirates, hula dancers and sea creature memorabilia is scattered about — not to mention the outdoor patio. You have to see it to believe it.

As the oldest establishment on the tour — over 130 years in Fox Point! — it’s an institution. You can rest assured that patrons no longer carry knives in their corsets, and now that college students are regulars, it’s less dicey than it used to be. It’s the perfect place to end the Tour de Ives.




Beating the Pandemic with Providence Bagels

Chris Wietecha, owner of Providence Bagel, did not let the pandemic get him down. From the onset of the coronavirus, Wietecha was prepared to help. “My wife works in health care and was on the front lines when the pandemic first happened. She came home and was totally stressed out—they’re at work, they’re not eating, they’re struggling just to stay afloat. Meanwhile, I also saw local businesses struggling, so I thought: If I can get people to donate money, we’ll buy gift cards and we’ll give them directly to healthcare workers so they can have lunch.”

On April 2, 2020, Wietecha partnered with Jim Nellis and Robin Dionne to launch the first of several RI Feeds Our Heroes campaigns, raising more than $30k that went directly to restaurants for gift cards. In addition, Providence Bagel donated another $1,500 in gift cards without accepting any of the money themselves. 

“I knew there were plenty of other people who needed it more than us,” Wietecha explained. “I guess that’s just who I am. And it worked out fine! Maybe it was some sort of karma,” he said with a laugh.

In addition to gift cards and bagels, Wietecha also opened his restaurant for a “Doomsday Drive-Thru” initiative, allowing businesses with no retail space to pop up at Providence Bagels in the evenings. “We gave up our restaurant/facility so that businesses who’d been popping up elsewhere pre-pandemic — at farmers’ markets, breweries, etc. — could continue operating their business at no cost. As long as they cleaned up and respected the space, I didn’t set too many parameters.” Some of the local businesses that used the space include Dips Dips, Basil and Bunny, Wally’s Hot Dog Cart, Dump Truck, Bobby’s Bar Pizza and Lost Boys Taco Shop

“From day one, our biggest priority has been helping the community. We work with the Elisha Project, giving away our extras to them at the end of every day. We never throw stuff away,” Wietecha said. Currently, they are offering Girl Scout Cookie Inspired Coffees, and will donate money from those drinks back to the Girl Scouts.

“At the end of the day it just goes to show that this is a strong community. Through all the things this country has had this year, people can still come together like this, when we need it most.”

@providencebagel; providencebagel.com




True North: The story of North restaurant’s response to COVID

“As a restaurant, we’ve never made any money … ever. So [the pandemic’s financial strain] is less scary because we’re used to the task of running at the edge of a broken system. I don’t want to exploit people or put up financial barriers for customers to access the experience/culture we’re creating. And that’s always been my choice.”

James Mark, the owner of north restaurant and big king tells the story of the year 2020. He took action before the state required it and remained steadfast in his resolve to remain take-out only, even when the state opened again (and then closed again). I recently spoke with him about how his values and his business coexisted in the midst of a pandemic. 

“The year 2020 started really, really well for us. January and February had much better sales than in years past. We’ve spent the last eight years building and expanding — each year it was something new — so it felt like finally it was going to be a good year.

“We were paying attention to what was happening in Europe and Asia, and the severity caught me off guard. We all kind of thought, ‘Yeah, that would suck, but I’m not too worried about it.’

“Then you start seeing the death tolls, and it becomes serious.

“Three days before the state shut everything down, I was working at big king on the floor. I remember talking to guests — students at Brown — who were interested in sake. Then later that night I was looking on the computer at the news and saw confirmed cases at Brown University — and that’s when it hit.”

Mark’s restaurant model is built around face-to-face seating. “That’s intentional,” he explained, “because we believe in human connections. But this is an airborne virus and it’s incredibly dangerous for myself and my staff. That night we shut everything down. We did double our normal business that night, but there was no other choice. 

“We took a week to decompress and think about what being closed means. I immediately got everyone into unemployment before the system got overloaded.

“After a week, Andrew, my chef at north, asked, ‘How do you feel about takeout?’ We knew we wanted to do takeout, and there was a ton of support [in the community] for it, but it was scary because around town you’d see lines of people forming. We didn’t want that, so we scheduled pick-ups so there was only one pick-up every 15 minutes. This helped us feel more comfortable from a community safety standpoint.

“This approach also let us run the restaurant with fewer people — not so we could save costs, but so we could spread people out. It just made sense on a whole bunch of safety levels.”

They started their takeout format with a small menu for big king. “After we realized it was working,” Mark said, “we started the same system at north. We rehired about 80% of our full-time staff, keeping them at pre-COVID wages or higher. That’s huge for us, and we’re proud of that.”

Regarding future plans, James Mark says, “Fifty percent of our staff is vaccinated. By summer, hopefully 100% will be. But it’s still tricky, indoor dining. I have questions surrounding community spread. Do I want to be responsible if a spread event happens among guests, even if my staff are safe? It seems unlikely that big king can open, but north, maybe in the summer we can take over the parking spots in front [on Fountain St.] That will allow us to do a lot.”

In addition, north has always included a financial contribution as part of their business model. When their sales decreased due to COVID, the north and big king team still found ways to give back.

“In 2013 I read a book by the original owner of Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, Anthony Myint, and his wife, Karen. Part of what Mission did was collect 25 cents on every dish they sold, and they donated it to the local food bank. He talked about using his business to affect the community in a positive way — that it could be more than just a transaction between customer and business owner. I found it eye opening. So from the beginning, a portion of sales from each plate went to the Amos House or the food bank.

“During COVID I got involved with activist groups in the city, and learned that there are hungry people downtown every weekend who aren’t benefiting from non-profits. It got me thinking: There are multiple levels of hunger that need to be addressed, and it inspired me to do something. For the last eight months, we’ve been cooking 50 to 60 meals every Monday and walking them down to Kennedy Plaza. This doesn’t address underlying problems and conditions, but if the work we do is a Band-Aid, people still need a Band-Aid.”

When I asked Mark if he’s accepting donations for the Monday meals, he said yes, but his most important suggestion was to “organize yourselves. Meet your neighbors. If you band together with your neighbors, can you address an issue in your neighborhood? Learn to talk to your neighbors. We’re simultaneously more connected and less connected than ever before.”

At the end of the story, it all comes down to values. Here are James Mark’s top three. 

“It’s important to not devalue the work that people do in the restaurant industry. Paying our staff a real wage has always been important to me.

“Second is the culture, and the work that produces culture: food that facilitates conversation, inspires new things, opens people up to try new things and leaves them feeling happy.

“But we value, number one, the people who work for us. They give their time and their life to the restaurant. The first thing in my head when deciding how to do takeout was, ‘How do we keep ourselves safe?’ If no one dies, no one’s family gets sick, then I’ve won. I’ve beat this pandemic. There’s no dollar value to assign to someone’s life, and I will always put them first.” 




Burgundian 2.0: Waffles and beyond

We’ve been following the Burgundian since they first appeared in Rhode Island and Massachusetts’ breweries and beer halls with their life-changing liege waffles — I even went so far as to offer my hand in marriage to anyone who donated enough money to their GoFundMe campaign to name a waffle after me — and now the Burgundian has expanded their menu beyond waffles to include “well-traveled street food.”

Shane Matlock, the owner and waffle-coffee-beer-street food visionary, spent time overseas and is, himself, well-traveled. For years his dream has included a brick-and-mortar restaurant where he could bring together specialty coffees, craft beer and international cuisine that attracts adventurous people who love good food and good company (in both quality and quantity: the definition of a “Burgundian”). 

Although the Burgundian restaurant is still under construction, located in Attleboro, their new menu is available for takeout every Thursday-Saturday. Some of the must-try items include the Peruvian Pork Sandwich (described by Chef Oliver Williams as “a cross between two of my favorite sandwiches, the Bánh mì and the Cuban,” with crispy pork belly, pickled red onions, chiles, sweet potato puree and an Aji Creole sauce) and the Navajo Fry Bread Tacos — which, as a native New Mexican, I can speak with authority when I say they are perfection. The vegan version, made with jack fruit, will even fool you into thinking its meat. 

The food truck will be back in the warmer weather, but for now, keep an eye on Instagram for local brewery popups where you can find their waffles (sweet and savory), and visit their website to order from their full menu. 

At a time when most of us are all armchair travelers, we can still satisfy our international craving, Burgundian style.

Instagram: @weareburgundians; Website: weareburgundians.com




Come for Brunch, Stay for Dinner: The southern influence of Saje Kitchen finds Fed Hill

“Excuse me, are you a middle school teacher?” a beautiful 20-something with long, wavy locks asked my friend, Mr. M., just as we were finishing up our two-hour brunch/dinner at Saje Kitchen on a late Sunday afternoon.

“I am…” he answered hesitantly.

“Oh my gosh, you were my science teacher in 2009!” she said, and in her what-are-the-odds joy, asked for a photo together.

Now I know what you’re thinking: That’s so Rhode Island. However, neither my friend nor his former student are from Rhode Island, nor do they live here now. But somehow we all had the same idea: to investigate a new addition to Federal Hill that serves creative American fare with a southern twist. (And I’m guessing the table of 20-somethings was very excited about the large cocktail pitchers — Lavender Lemonade or Apple Cider & Gingerbeer, mixed with a spirit of choice). I can safely say we all walked away with more than we expected that day, reunion photos aside.

As I mentioned, Mr. M and I arrived in time for brunch and stayed until dinner. This dining strategy is hard to achieve in most restaurants because they require a transition period, but Saje Kitchen fully accommodates my level of gluttony. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, all in one sitting! The hobbits of Middle Earth might be disappointed, but I was thrilled. 

The restaurant has an eclectic vibe. The décor is very “new age” club, with a backlit bar, various clusters of balloons and velvet green booths. The playlist brought me back to my high school days, and I remember noting that I hadn’t heard “Lose Yourself” by Eminem in quite some time. Meanwhile, the TV above the bar featured an animated penguin movie and Kenan & Kel, a nostalgic throwback I haven’t seen since I was Mr. M’s students’ age. Then there was the menu, creative and classy, with a wide variety of drinks and dishes to accommodate any meal or occasion. 

We began our gluttony with brunch cocktails. Saje Kitchen has the usual contenders, Bloody Marys and Bottomless Mimosas, but Mr. M is an Espresso Martini aficionado (he always opts for Baileys, as one should), and I wanted a Painkiller, which is like the love child of a Mai Tai and a Piña Colada. Contrary to drinking at other Providence locales (perhaps, say, a rooftop), you’re not just drinking juice here — these cocktails were alcohol forward, in the best kind of way, unless dry January really did me in. Thus, we ordered carbs and protein to keep me grounded. 

The Savory Sweet Potato Hash, made with pulled pork and poached eggs, was packed with flavor. The sweet potato was thinly sliced, looking like shaved carrots, and the eggs were perfectly poached. The pico de gallo topping had a spicy kick to it that both of us loved, and it was Mr. M’s favorite dish of the day. We also ordered the Pineapple Coconut Waffle, which was as tantalizing as it sounds: charred pineapple compote, coconut cream and candied walnuts. When the server dropped it off and asked if we needed anything, I wondered if I should ask for syrup, but after one bite, the definitive answer was no — the charred pineapple compote and coconut cream were perfect. A bit smoky and a bit spicy, sweet but not too sweet. Even though I’ve been told the Chicken and Waffles are stellar, and I was curious about the Cajun Eggs Benedict, I would definitely order the exact same thing again.

The dinner menu offers a range of plate sizes, allowing people to share light bites as well as some of the heavier southern favorites. According to Ethan Jaffe, one of the owners who lived in North Carolina for a few years, “I’d always eat so much [in the south], I couldn’t move! I wanted people to be able to pick and choose, to offer a little something for everyone.” In the spirit of sharing, we ordered one “large” plate, the classic Shrimp and Grits, and two medium plates: the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and the Glazed Baby Back Ribs. 

One thing that is consistent among all the dishes is that play on sweet and spicy, or smoky and sweet. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts, for instance, were crisped to perfection — what I always hope to achieve at home and never do — and pairing them with sweet apple slices and crème fraiche created a flavor profile that was unlike any other I’ve had. The ribs were tangy and sweet, and the meat delectably tender. The shrimp and grits were served with a remoulade that was smoky and savory, with occasional bursts of warm blistered tomatoes. 

Last but not least: the dinner cocktails. One of the highlights of my night was the Flatbush Snush, made with cognac, strawberry, and lemonade. This drink is a vibrant shade of red and arrived with a thin layer of smoke billowing from the top, looking like a volcano. Dry ice — in a drink! “You can get a cocktail anywhere,” Jaffe said, “but we want you to engage in a fun and unique experience.” 

Whether you’re wanting a casual brunch or planning to celebrate a special occasion, Saje Kitchen has got you covered. They’re putting together a Valentine’s Day weekend prix-fixe, which you can learn more about by following them on social media. One thing I feel confident about: you’ll discover both sweet and savory surprises. You might even come for brunch and decide to stay for dinner.

@SajeKitchen

332 Atwells Ave, PVD




All the Single Ladies (and Men): Now, with dinner options

As someone who’s been “uncoupled” on Valentine’s Day for the last decade, with the exception of 2017 when I ate fried Mars Bars with a Scotsman, I can assure you that this holiday is no picnic for single people. Don’t even get me started on the fact that “Galentine’s Day” has been relegated to February 13 so that “real” Valentine’s Day can still happen as usual.

But where there is global distress, there is also a silver lining: Suddenly people are aware of how shitty it is to be alone on special holidays. This year I’ve seen a number of restaurants offering Valentine’s Day experiences for single people. (Two that came across my newsfeed are Angelo’s on the Hill and Mosaic Table, where “smooches” will get you a discount of $20 on a Valentine’s Day experience.)

But Bites By Bre, who we profiled way back in the spring (motifri.com/somethingspecial), fully acknowledges the “double-decker shit sandwich” (to quote her friend) it is to be single in the midst of a pandemic, so Bre Goldsmith is offering a special for Valentine’s Day that will make everyone feel loved.

Here’s what you can expect: three mouth-watering courses (spoiler alert: this includes candied slab bacon and a chocolate whoopie pie with strawberry-infused fluff), flowers, chocolate, complementary add-ons particular to whichever meal you choose (if you’re ordering dinner for one vs. dinner for two), an option to add wine, and heart-shaped dog biscuits, if your Valentine actually comes when you call him.

I might just be looking forward to this holiday after all…

Get your tickets via ExploreTock.com/BitesbyBre. ($48 per person; option to add a bottle of wine for $16.) Choose delivery if in Providence, or pick-up at 11-17 Aleppo Street, PVD.




All the Dates, Please

Whether you are single or coupled this year, Kenza’s Delights is guaranteed to give you the best date of your life on Valentine’s Day, and I mean that most literally: chocolate ganache-filled Medjool dates, dipped in Belgian chocolate, served in a heart-shaped box with a side of flowers. This sweet treat outclasses the typical box of chocolates by blending Moroccan tradition with French patisserie techniques for exquisite flavor wrapped in love.

Kenza Bargach, the owner, has an unlikely story: a native of Morocco with a background in financial auditing built a food business from scratch in Rhode Island during a pandemic. But one of her passions has always been dessert-making, and before joining Hope and Main in 2021, she took classes in Morocco for cake design and French pastry. She applied those techniques to one of her culture’s most prized foods: the date.

The Medjool date is the “king of dates,” due to its superior flavor, consistency and size, and is used as a token of great hospitality, from everyday house guests to royalty. In fact, as soon as a bride and groom in Morocco have taken their vows, they are immediately gifted dates and milk to begin their new life as a married couple.

Therefore, this is the perfect gift for a special person in your life (or let’s be honest: I bought a box for myself) because you’re guaranteed a “date to remember” with Kenza’s Delights.

For more information, follow @Kenzas_Delights




Pandemic Food Babies: A mosaic of new offerings at Hope and Main

What do woodfired pizza, vegan comfort foods and Mediterranean cuisine (with a Middle Eastern flair) all have in common?

They are three of Hope and Main’s new food businesses, or “food babies” as I like to think of them, that they got their start in the middle of COVID-19. And in case you were hunkering down in a closet-sized apartment, wrapped in rolls of toilet paper, baking no-knead bread every night, I’m here to tell you that Basil & Bunny, W’s Mobile Woodfired Pizza and Mosaic Table are worth venturing out for — creative, delicious, soul-nourishing foods to vary your takeout routine. 

Basil and Bunny

Lyslie Medeiros and her husband, Mathiew, were longtime vegetarians, due to health reasons and a fear of Mad Cow disease, but six years ago they began to see the benefits of switching to a completely plant-based diet. In fall 2019, the couple “took a leap of faith” and left their 15-year industry careers to start a vegan food truck. “It was always that dream we had,” Lyslie said. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we owned our own place someday? We’d be so happy.’”

Their dream began perfectly: Rhode Island VegFest was a success and they booked events for 2020, but then COVID wiped their plans. Thankfully, Mathiew’s background in marketing and Lyslie’s eye for aesthetics allowed them to quickly pivot to putting everything online. They joined Hope and Main, parked their trailer and stayed afloat during the dark days of COVID. “We never gave up!” Lyslie said.

Hardly! Over the summer, they created a recipe for clam cakes with oyster mushrooms and kelp seasoning that was a huge hit. The “Bunny Mac” became a bestseller, as their take on a Big Mac, with two housemade bean and mushroom patties, pickles from Backyard Foods Company, lettuce, grilled onions, vegan cheddar cheese and fancy sauce on a double-decker bun. And for anyone with a sweet tooth, their “MMMBop-Tarts” are like childhood memories living in technicolor, with a rotation of flavors, such as Black Forest: a chocolate cherry pop-tart with vanilla icing and a cherry chocolate drizzle; or Ginger Pear, a pear filled pop-tart with ginger icing and strudel topping.

“Being vegan was a really great challenge for me because I still wanted to create my favorite comfort foods. Just because you’re going vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up the foods you love.”

You can find them, and all of your favorite comfort foods, at Hope and Main’s winter markets or Proclamation Brewery, with pop-up details posted on Instagram: @basilandbunny

W’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza

“I knew going to [Johnson and Wales University] that I wanted my own business,” said Will Fritz, the owner of W’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza. “But I figured I’d graduate and work for someone else while I figured out what I was going to do.” As a May 2020 graduate of JWU, the job market — especially in the restaurant industry — wasn’t exactly booming. So he landed a gig at Greenwich Wood Products.

The owner there, Mike Hendershot, happened to have a pizza oven sitting on a trailer. He’d purchased it 10 years ago, but it wasn’t being used. So they teamed up and, as Will said, “got legitimate.”

The folks at Hope and Main helped with licensing and insurance, and by summer they were selling pizzas at Shewatuck Farm in Exeter. “Being in a field, spaced out, felt safe for people, and I think it helped our business. The first day we sold 50 pizzas and ran out of everything,” said Will. Soon they were selling 120 pizzas in 4 to 5 hours. Their social media grew, breweries starting contacting them and they appeared at outdoor markets.  

“Our pizzas are $15, and all toppings are available all the time. It allows people to be creative while maintaining a flat price,” Will explained. They buy their dough from Pizza Gourmet in Central Falls, but they make their own sauces, slice veggies and meat by hand. They’ve also been known to use the oven to bake cookies and stuffies.

“Normally, pizzas bake at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, but a wood oven gets up to 700-900 degrees, so it cooks in about two minutes. The fire and smokiness create a different flavor in the crust.” And at $2/slice, I can personally attest to trying one of each of the pizza specials. 

They’ll be at Tilted Barn in Exeter this December, and they’re offering 10% discounts on private events for anyone who books before the new year. You can also find them at Hope and Main’s Meet Your Maker event on December 22, and on Instagram: @wswoodfiredpizza

The Mosaic Table

Imagine a mosaic: small bits of glass or ceramic, each with a different energy, a different color, coming together to form a single masterpiece, a beautiful picture. This is what Anat Sagi had in mind when she named her business: a variety of different flavors and different people, coming together to form a beautiful experience.

“Through food and small details, I want to create an environment, a bubble of respite,” Anat said. “I grew up in an Israeli home where dining together and eating together was always an ‘event.’ The atmosphere was built around cooking together and being together, and right now people need a little bit of light in their life. Through food and food experiences, you can be transported to a different place.”

An experience curator. That’s really what drives Anat. “I never realized how much I loved cooking, or how much other people appreciated it,” she said, until COVID hit. “I thought … could I do this for a living?” 

She catered a few small weddings, and that level of intimacy is her ideal. For this reason, she developed A Restaurant Experience at Home dinner kit: a three-course meal, locally made candles, placemats, plates, bottle of wine, a music playlist. “I don’t want to open a restaurant,” she says, “but I do want to create these experiences.”

And Hope and Main was really helpful throughout the process. “I want to give them a huge shout-out because they are rock stars,” Anat said. “I didn’t realize how much of a community you get, let alone their willingness to help every step of the way.” She also praises the other businesses with whom she shares a kitchen, like Secrets in the Kitchen and Newport Salt. They’ll be featured in the dinner kits, too. “There’s so much joy from uplifting each other. If one wins, we all win.”

There are a few pick-up locations for Mosaic offerings aside from Hope and Main, including Urban Greens in Providence and Campus Fine Wines, who have collaborated with Mosaic Table to offer wine pairings for your meal. Follow her on Instagram: @themosaictable and order a Restaurant Experience at Home kit: themosaictable.com