Friskie Fries: Motif Overall Favorite Truck Award

Where do the best thoughts come from? A boardroom? The shower? 

For Randy D’Antuono, the best ideas came in the wee morning hours sitting on a street curb in Amsterdam, from some scribbled notes on a bar napkin. That’s where we can trace the origins of his greatest salty, starchy gift to Rhode Island: Friskie Fries. 

From these humble beginnings, the entrepreneur ascended to claim the Motif top truck award this year, Overall Favorite Truck

“Food and memories go hand in hand. We are lucky to be a part of it,” said Darryl Hutto, the Food Truck Manager, who accepted the award. 

Our first question for D’Antuono stumped him: which fries are best? 

“There are so many choices for so many different taste palates,” he said. “The number one seller is Miss Potato Head [Friskie Fries topped with smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, sour cream and scallions] followed by Cluckin’ Hot Mess [Friskie Fries topped with crispy chicken, buffalo sauce and blue cheese]. When the Tiger King [Friskie Fries topped with General Tso’s Chicken, Mandarin Oranges and scallions] was introduced as a special, it was overwhelmingly popular—so popular that customers demanded it to be a permanent item.” 

D’Antuono did confide that his personal favorite menu item is The Dirty Daug, which is a collaboration with another RI culinary legend, New York System. The fries are topped with New York System weiner bits, meat sauce, diced onion, mustard, and of course celery salt. Now there’s an option for those revelrous souls who saunter out of their favorite downtown discotheque and don’t want to make the hike to Olneyville!  Naturally Friskie Fries wouldn’t be Friskie Fries without Tipsy, the business’s feline logo and mascot. D’Antuono told Motif that Tipsy works overtime as both the mascot for Friskie Fries and its sister business the Alleycat Bar in downtown Providence. “For the past 20 years, that famous cat named Tipsy has reminded people of good times, a safe atmosphere and memorable experiences,” he said. “[Since he] was so well known, we wanted to brand Friskie with the same public identification and recognition as the bar: in this case, just sitting on a pile of fries instead of sitting by a martini.”

D’Antuono says that the loyalty of his guests—known as “friskettes”—is incredibly humbling. “Without this following, Friskie would be just another place to get fries,” says D’Antuono. “It is not. It’s an experience.”

Looking to the future, Friskie Fries is headed for the moon: Friskie Fries just built another new truck, plans to expand their presence into Boston and is working to bring the Friskie brand into the franchising world by spring of 2022. “We honestly believe that Friskie can be a nationwide fry-nomenon,” D’Antuono told Motif. After grimacing at the pun, we agreed. 

Friskie Fries has catered hundreds of concerts and corporate events. “Two that always stand out for us are The Salem Food Truck Festival and certainly “The Big E” Fair in West Springfield,” D’Antuono said. “We have a beautiful location in The RI Building on the grounds where we witness two million visitors at the park in a three-week timeframe.”While a few of our questions were tough for D’Antuono, it was easy for him to say what he was proudest of. “This is the easiest question of them all. My staff. Without them, I would have nothing,” D’Antuono told Motif. “I could never pull this off myself. With the constant support of the community, friends and family, Friskie will continue to grow and deliver the highest quality product with a smile and a meow!”

Revival Brewing: Motif Overall Favorite Brewing Award

When we caught up with Revival’s General Manager Paul Baptista, we asked him what drove the brewery’s success. He answered succinctly: Master Brewer Sean Larkin. 

“Sean is a community driven person,” Baptista said. “He pays it forward, and he has a lot of good ideas to bring people into the community.”

Sean Larkin has made his way around the RI beer and culinary scene, working with names like Trinity Brewhouse and Narragansett Brewing Company before striking it out on his own with Revival Brewing. After over a decade in the trade, taking the top brewery award this year is fitting for this son of Providence. 

When asked what he credits to the Overall Favorite Brewery Award, Baptista gave three reasons: “Good beer, good people and good vibes.”

Revival also won for Favorite Belgian with Night Swim’ah, an unfiltered Belgian wheat ale flavored with sweet orange peel, coriander, and natural raspberries. “It’s very tasty, and super popular,” Baptista said. It’s also his favorite. 

What many Rhode Islanders don’t know about Revival is that the same folks who bring the heat in the brewery also have another outlet to impress the foodies among us: Lost Valley Pizza. At 50 Sims Ave in Providence, Larkin and his team have repurposed a blacksmithing studio’s chimney into a giant pizza oven. “We set out on a path to become #crustworthy,” Lost Valley Pizza’s website reads. Their pizzas build on a myriad of local collaborations, including ones with Born From Pain Baked Goods, Barrett’s Garden, Gotham Greens, and Farm Fresh RI.

Revival’s relatively recent move from Cranston to Providence has helped revive Providence’s Valley Neighborhood. Historically, the Valley was an industrial hub, powered by the narrow and swift Woonasquatucket River. After industry declined, the Valley and its important river were polluted and depleted. Revival Brewing, along with neighbors The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, The Steel Yard, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the WaterFire Arts Center and a number of artist collaboratives, have turned the Valley into an industrial arts hub for all its residents and visitors to enjoy. 

Whether it be a crust, a Belgian, or a neighborhood, it seems that anything Revival touches turns to gold.

Poppy’s Waffles: All Weather Warrior

Steve Gilman, the Owner of Poppy’s Waffles, went home with the Motif Food Truck All Weather Warrior Award for his dedication to the food truck trade. No matter the month—even in the dead of winter—fans of Poppy’s Waffles have enjoyed his gourmet treats. 

Gilman’s menu items—his favorite being the banana nut waffle with caramel whipped cream—are often inspired by events in his life. The waffles, he says, “bring me back to my younger days working in a bakery. You create something people enjoy, and make them smile when they eat it.” Gilman also sells kettle corn out of his truck, inspired by his and his wife’s favorite snack at Fenway Park. “We always got kettle corn and enjoyed it, so we knew it would be a hit.” 

The Poppy’s Waffles namesake is actually Gilman’s father-in-law, Peter. Gilman explained that he and his wife always called Peter Poppy, and that Poppy loved working in the business. 

Gilman was clear about what keeps him going: “If the people want to come out and eat, I’m willing to be there to serve them, and put a smile on their face with some good food.” 
Gilman also just informed us that after four years in the food truck biz, he’s planning to retire down to North Carolina, and he’s taking Poppy’s with him. While we wish a big congratulations to Gilman, let this be a reminder to all of the Rhode Island waffle-lovers out there: Poppy’s Waffles is headed south on I-95 soon, so strike while the (waffle) iron is hot!

Motif Food Truck and Drink Award Winners: Event Roundup

On Monday, September 13th, fans of vehicle-based victuals, local libations, and awards show excitement gathered at the Motif 2021 Food Truck & Drink Awards. The anticipation was palpable as would-be winners of awards such as “Favorite Tacos” and “Favorite IPA” listened closely for the judges to call their names. 

The event was not without star power. Laura Afonso, RI food influencer who started @bunsandbites in 2017, was joined by Jenny Currier, Motif’s top food writer, in presenting awards. The event was emceed by none other than Eric Weiner, owner and founder of Food Trucks In, a national business connecting foodies with the food trucks they love. 

And what would a food truck award show be without food trucks? Poppy’s Waffles, Atomic Blonde Icecream, Bonetown Burgers & BBQ, Juice Junkie, and Haven Brothers Diner were all serving up signature dishes for attendees. And for a small fee, visitors enjoyed unlimited tastings from some of their favorite Rhode Island brewers: 12 Guns Brewing, Sowams Cider Works, Union Station Brewery, Foolproof Brewing Company, Beer on Earth, Buttonwoods Brewery, and Narragansett Beer. 

The awards presentations were punctuated by two musical groups. The Unlikely Strummers (a local ukulele troupe—who knew?) kicked the event off with a lot of four-string energy. Then, to keep it all going, Man and Wife—an appropriately named Americana duo of Kris and Tara Hansen—kept the mood light. The awards were held outside R1 Indoor Karting, the largest (and only?) indoor karting track in Rhode Island, who also was the event’s primary sponsor. 

The attendees were enthralled: but honestly, what’s not to like? Good food, good beer, catching up with old friends on a comfortable late summer evening and celebrating the trucks and brewers that make Rhode Island’s culinary scene one in a million. There’s nothing more Rhody than that.