Fine Arts

Locale Profile: Café Pearl at the RISD Museum

PEARL3There’s a new ‘gem’ in town and it’s much too precious not to talk about. Being a museum enthusiast, I headed over to the RISD art museum in downtown Providence. I entered from Benefit Street and was pleasantly surprised when I was met by a new café that has taken up residence just inside the museum lobby. Yes(!), I can gather a beverage and something to nosh on before wandering through the museum — a space that’s most welcoming…

The project came together when organizers were tossing around an idea of creating an inviting space that would bring museum visitors, museum staff and the local community together. A partnership with Bolt Coffee was born and Café Pearl was created. The cafe is named after Pearl Nathan, one of the longest-serving volunteer docents. The environment is unique with exposed light, soft modern architecture and rotating art. Not only is it friendly, spacious and flexible, one can sit, visit, work and just be.

The café serves Bolt Coffee (lots of dedicated followers at their Dean Hotel location), specialty drinks, brioche sandwiches and salads. The menu can be viewed as you walk in (at the base of the staircase) or at the counter. The clipboard has three separate sheets: Drink menu, Food menu and About Bolt. At first glance I was amazed at all the choices of coffee, non-coffee and specialty drinks. I peered at the iced filtered Atticus Blend, then jumped to the double espresso latte with steamed milk, but then my roving eye landed on the specialty drink of blueberry lemonade with Yacht Club sparkling water (optional) over ice. This was the winner. The presentation in cut glass garnished with a lemon wedge was almost too pretty to consume, but I did and it was excellent. Moving on to the food section, the categories were toast, grits (yes grits), sandwiches, salads and yogurt. I dove in for a sandwich. Being one of those ‘allergy food freaks,’ I alerted the server about my allergens and she was able to accommodate me with the prosciutto and apple sandwich. Having thought about the entire menu I probably would have gone in for the avocado toast and/or a fresh kale Caesar salad for a second or third choice. Everything looked yummy.


Sitting at my petite café table, I was comfortable with my solo self and enjoyed not only the beverage and sandwich, but the surroundings. I was able to stop for a few minutes and gather the sounds of life and art, being mindful of the moment. This is a high-five if you are in the vicinity looking for a quick or longer stop to be surrounded by great beverages, food and a social atmosphere. Even if there is no time to navigate the museum, stop in and enjoy the sounds of summer at Café Pearl.

The hours of operation are Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30am – 4pm. With Gallery Night, the café has extended hours. If you are a RISD member, you receive a 10% discount at the café. Additional information can be found at the RISD Museum website: Information on Bolt Coffee can be found here:

Café Pearl at RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St | 20 North Main St, PVD