Mouths to Feed: With schools closed, local restaurants help fulfill a need
Many Rhode Island children receive a bulk of their daily calories from free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches they receive at school. One of the challenges of closing schools for an extended period of time is making sure kids are fed. School districts across the state have planned grab-and-go meals for students to pick up at certain designated locations. Contact your local school district for information about these locations.
In addition to school districts’ plans, local restaurants are helping to feed kids during this time.
UMelt (129 Weybosset St, PVD) will offer a classic grilled cheese, a cup of soup, an apple and a bottle of water to all pre-k through 12 students on weekdays while schools are closed.
Matunuck Oyster Bar (629 Succotash Rd, South Kingstown) will offer children’s menu items free to students while schools are closed.
KFC (421 Putnam Pike, Greenville; 25 Newport Ave, Rumford; 822 Reservoir Ave, Cranston; 824 Tiogue Ave, Coventry) Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a meal voucher for kids out of school.
Trinity Brewhouse (186 Fountain St, PVD) Kids under 12 dine in for free. UPDATE: As of March 16, these meals are offered through curbside takeout.
Duke Kitchen and Spirits (1839 Smith St, North Providence) Between 11am and 2pm, kids can get a free personal cheese or pepperoni pizza. Kids must be present to participate.
Pacquette’s Family Restaurant (315 Waterman Ave, East Providence) From March 17 – 20, kids get a free meal off the kid’s menu with the purchase of an adult meal.
GottaQ SmokeHouse BBQ: (2000 Mendon Rd, Ste 10, Cumberland) Free bagged lunches are available to kids in need and will include a ham and cheese or roast beef and cheese sandwich (gluten-free bread available), a bag of chips, fruit, and water or juice.
Motif will update this list as necessary. If you know of other restaurants helping to feed kids while schools are closed, please email that information to email@example.com
Bolt in Place: Fastening a coffee fixture in Providence
Almost a decade before founding The Dallas Morning News, in 1876 A.H. Belo installed the first commercial telephone in Texas, registering the line to a local coffee merchant whose sons worked for his Galveston newspaper. More than a century later, when A.H. Belo Corporation purchased TheProvidence Journal in 1996 for $1.54 billion, the Dallas-based media group acquired not only the newspaper, but also several television stations and properties in downtown Providence, including the Parkade, a four-story parking garage on Washington Street. The local affiliate of environmental nonprofit Groundwork USA occupied the sole office space on the ground level. After their lease went unrenewed, the storefront sat vacant for years. Before offloading The Providence Journal for $46 million, A.H. Belo Corp. put its real estate up for sale. In 2010 Cornish Associates bought the garage and retrofitted a streetside swath for retail.
For Ellen Slattery, founder of Gracie’s fine dining (194 Washington St), the new space was less than a quarter-mile from her restaurant. In late 2012, she announced the forthcoming arrival of “Gracie’s little sister Ellie’s,” hosting a soft opening before the year’s end. Built into the ground level of the Biltmore Garage, as the Parkade had been renamed, Slattery described Ellie’s as an “intimate” bakery “inspired by the Parisian way of life.” With less than 900 square feet, she anticipated Gracie’s patrons stopping in for takeaway bread and baked goods, such as braided orange and anise brioche dusted with pistachio and rhubarb-custard galettes. Instead, counter seating for eight people inside and sidewalk seating for another eight outside stayed in demand year-round. Ellie’s customers requested a more robust menu.
“There was a craving for some sort of community, coffee, food establishment in that location,” said Slattery.
After Ellie’s opened, the stretch of Washington Street a block from Providence City Hall went on to feature Red Fin Crudo + Kitchen, Figidini, Ken’s Ramen and Downcity Outfitters. The businesses’ staff often met in the back, where shipping containers served as dry storage. In their kitchen, Ellie’s reassessed their menu to include breakfast and lunch sandwiches and specialty coffee with a commitment to sourcing their ingredients from local farms and producers.
“We’re not going to cook things for our own egos,” said Max Hodge, hospitality and service director at Ellie’s. “What do you want to be part of this community?”
After nearly six years on Washington Street, Ellie’s closed in April 2019 to relocate into a larger space (225 Weybosset St) across from the Providence Performing Arts Center. The adjacent unit once rented by Downcity Outfitters had become a workshop and storage space for Big Nazo Lab’s life-size foam puppets and extraterrestrial creations. Cornish divided the creatures’ lair to create two larger units. Urban Fellow barbershop claimed half the space when it moved from Warwick in May. In October, Bolt Coffee Company announced plans to open its first standalone cafe in the other half, returning food and coffee to the former home of Ellie’s.
During winter, strips of white papering covered floor-to-ceiling windows to allow for electrical, plumbing and carpentry work behind the scenes. Besides the permits on display, the sole exterior indicator of Bolt’s intentions was its promise of “coming soon.” By the end of February, sawdust covered an unfinished and unfurnished space. Within a week, however, Bolt finished its interior set-up and posted a photo on Instagram of a table and chair set captioned, “pretty much ready.” The following morning, a Reddit post announced Bolt was set for a soft opening.
On Friday, March 6, when Bolt co-founder Bryan Gibb and his team unlocked the doors to 61 Washington Street, the Instagram and Reddit teasers and word of mouth had spread awareness of the cafe’s preview mode. Customers, both planned and passing, stopped in. At times, a line stretched outside.
“Getting open always takes longer than you hope,” said Justin Enis, coffee director and barista at Bolt, “but welcoming our city into our own space is a very special thought for us all.”
Bolt co-founders Bryan Gibb and Todd Mackey met before working together at New Harvest Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket in 2011. Gibb had remained close to home, having grown up in Foster. Mackey moved to Rhode Island after graduating from the University of Connecticut. Bolt started as a mobile coffee cart in 2012. Mackey registered the business, and Gibb secured the requisite license from the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles to hitch the 6-foot trailer to his car. They started out serving Madcap Coffee from Grand Rapids, Michigan, while catering weddings and other events, then setting up at a pop-up space at 745 Westminster Street on the west side of Providence.
When ASH NYC, a hotel design firm headquartered in New York whose CEO, Ari Heckman, grew up in Providence, announced plans to purchase the Sportsman’s Inn downtown and convert the adult-entertainment lounge and pay-by-the-hour motel into a boutique hotel, the project led to Gibb trading his mobile cart for dedicated counter space. The Dean Hotel (122 Fountain St) opened in April 2014 with Bolt intact in its lobby. Gibb said he worked seven days a week after The Dean opened, and baristas Kacey Silvia and Justin Enis soon joined the effort. The momentum and revenue, said Gibb, enabled Bolt to grow and hire.
By 2016, Gibb and Mackey looked to expand. A proposal for a Biltmore Park waffle bar and coffee stand in the former NBC 10 WJAR kiosk, once a lounge for bus drivers, failed to materialize, but Bolt opened its second location at the RISD Museum that June. Café Pearl honored Pearl Nathan, a former English teacher at Barrington High School who had volunteered as a docent at the RISD Museum for more than 60 years. A month before she passed away at 103, Nathan joined family for a passionfruit doughnut at her namesake cafe.
Alongside Bolt’s expansion, a separate venture co-founded with Adam Lastrina, who had worked at Seven Stars Bakery, led to the 2016 debut of Knead Doughnuts (32 Custom House St) on the ground level of apartments redeveloped by ASH NYC, the firm behind The Dean. Wetherley Rouleau, also of Seven Stars, headed Knead’s kitchen. In 2018, the doughnut shop opened a second location on the East Side of Providence (135 Elmgrove Ave) with a play kitchen for children in the back and a rotating display of old-fashioned cake, brioche dough and fritter specialties with drip coffee up front.
After six years of serving other independent coffee brands, in February2018Bolt roasted its first batch of beans in a 2,400-square-foot former auto-repair shop turned interior-design studio leased in Smith Hill (96 Calverley St). Mackey worked as a training manager and trader at Olam Specialty Coffee, a Providence-based division of the multinational food and agricultural distributor, Olam International, headquartered in Singapore. With access to wholesale coffee beans, Bolt’s team began to explore the taste profiles they wished to create. Their own roasts began to appear at their locations at the Dean and the RISD Museum as well as at Knead. They later made their way to the shelves of Nine Bar Espresso in Somerville, Massachusetts; Silk City Coffee in Manchester, Connecticut; Third Rail Coffee in Manhattan and Ugly Duck Coffee in Rochester, New York. Under the moniker Calverley Club, Bolt has also experimented with toll-roasting, a process of roasting beans to set specifications, with custom work done for the Nitro Bar inside Dash Bicycle Shop (228 Broadway) and Beautiful Day, a granola company employing refugees.
In May 2019, Knead opened a third location and moved its production to the West End (55 Cromwell St). As part of the process, Knead founded the Providence Kitchen Collaborative as a commercial kitchen for startup food businesses. There, Knead’s bakery shares space with Big Feeling ice cream and sorbet, Brown Paper Bounty charcuterie, HG80 tacos and sodas, and Weenie Wizard hot dogs. Serving another center for entrepreneurship, in October 2019 Bolt set up a weekday espresso bar at District Hall, a free, drop-in workspace run by Venture Café (225 Dyer St). Knead also hatched Good Egg as a separate project to serve as a wholesale distributor of baked goods. With its latest cafe, Bolt employs more than 30 people. Together, Knead and Good Egg employ a similar number.
“My mission statement for doing business generally is to bring people together,” said Gibb.
The soft opening at Washington Street will help Bolt to refine its process and staffing needs, said Gibb. The cafe’s eventual hours of operation will be 7am until 10pm seven days a week, with breakfast, lunch and evening nibbles served alongside a lineup of beer, wine and saké. Drip coffee will be brewed during the day, with espresso drinks and pourovers available until late.
“This is the first time we are calling a space our own,” said Enis, “so it was super important to us for it to hit the mark as to how we see Bolt looking and feeling.”
PRŠIĆ & PRŠIĆ, an architecture and design office that neighbors Knead’s bakery in the West End, worked with Gibb to construct the layout. Longtime customers of Bolt at the Dean, the firm’s co-founders Almin Pršić and Cara Liberatore had Bolt cater coffee at their wedding.
“The project emerged from a series of simple, clear ambitions, to create a space where people can gather throughout the day and night, to foster community by blurring the boundary between employee and customer, and to unify two storefronts that had previously been separate spaces,” wrote Liberatore in an email.
High ceilings and expansive windows reveal a C-shaped bar as the central fixture in a room defined by a sense of symmetry. A Linea PB espresso machine from La Marzocco rests at its center, with steel counters set into terracotta hues. The bar was hand-finished by Joshua Kampa, who runs Providence-based PRAXIS Art and Design, a studio and fabrication shop. Bolt’s walls are unadorned beyond potted plants on overhead shelving and spare lighting developed by New York-based Rich Brilliant Willing, a manufacturer founded by three RISD alums. Leon Ransmeier, another RISD alum in New York, designed the bar stools for Danish design firm, HAY. Amidst the contemporary touches are vintage wooden chairs from Germany.
PRŠIĆ & PRŠIĆ also attempted to replicate Bolt’s communal table at the Dean, wrote Liberatore, to encourage “both friends and strangers to informally commingle.” The furnishings can be reconfigured depending on the needs of the day or to accommodate special events or pop-ups. While sidewalk seating has not been set up, the city’s board of licenses approved outdoor dining. As of its first weekend in preview mode, a Bolt Coffee sign hangs out front from the garage overhang, in line with neighbors Red Fin, Tori Tomo, Figidini and Urban Fellow.
“They’re moving to such a fun part of that block,” said Hodge of Ellie’s. He said when the bakery moved to Weybosset St, he forgot to remove a plastic bag filled with clean kitchen towels hidden in the ceiling, a tactic to ensure staff would never be without a backup supply.
“We didn’t find the towels,” said Gibb, “but we did keep some of their graffiti in the kitchen.”
As chef, Trinity Auriemma leads Bolt’s approach to food. In his role behind the counter of Café Pearl at the RISD Museum, he worked with a single convection oven and standard refrigeration to maintain a limited, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly menu with his own takes on avocado toast, whipped ricotta toast, and grits mixed with marscapone, scallions, and chimichurri. At the new cafe, Auriemma has access to a custom-built kitchen and line staff, which he said will enable Bolt to have greater capacity and room to be creative.
For the soft opening, a simple menu features four choices: egg scramble with kale and hot sauce on brioche, kale salad in a coconut vinaigrette, a mackerel and pickle plate, and butter bean and parsnip soup finished with kale and charred lemon. A more expansive menu will be available when the cafe opens in full. Auriemma credited local growers Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton and Moonrose Farm in Cranston as well as seafood from Point Judith along the Narragansett Bay for their fare.
“It’s kind of outrageous to think about what can be grown here in such a small radius,” said Enis.
“I’m trying not to be like a kid in a candy store and grab everything at once,” said Auriemma. “I really like food to be super collaborative because it just comes out better.”
Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, Auriemma got his culinary start while in high school, working at Thirty Acres in neighboring Jersey City. The Kickstarter-launched restaurant started by Momofuku alums introduced him to the kitchen work required when preparing an 11-course tasting menu. He moved to Providence to study at Johnson & Wales University. During his sophomore year, Auriemma was hired at North Bakery (formerly 70 Battey St) and began to organize pop-up and private dinners, experiences he said showcased a spirit of community and creativity. He started at Bolt’s RISD Museum location in 2018.
“There’s something to say about Providence as a whole,” said Auriemma, “where I think if you are passionate about something, even if they don’t share your passion, they’re passionate about your passion.”
“I feel like Trinity, when he talks about food and lights up, it’s like me with coffee,” said Enis, who recalled his first day training as a barista at Seven Stars Bakery when Bolt’s future co-founder Mackey introduced him to an Ethiopian pourover made with a Chemex coffeemaker.
Enis later became a quality control technician at Equal Exchange, the largest fair-trade coffee distributor in the United States. He said tasting 25,000 samples of coffee within two years at Equal Exchange informed his palate and now influences his approach to roasting beans with Bolt. He competed in the US Barista Championship twice and in the US Brewers Cup once.
“If someone comes in and just wants your large regular, all day, let’s do it,” said Enis. “If they want to come in and geek out about anaerobic fermentation, great, let’s do it.”
At Bolt’s Smith Hill roastery and headquarters, Enis and other Bolt staff lead coffee tastings and home-brew workshops open to the public, with advance registration requested. At District Hall, Bolt barista Casey Belisle explained a custom-made system to work around water limitations. Without a hookup to the building’s piping, Belisle stirs mineral packets into distilled water to ensure the right qualities for pulling an espresso. At Bolt’s new cafe, a reverse osmosis filtration system protects its espresso machine from the corroding effects of Providence’s water supply.
“Just like our coffee,” said Kat Bishop, who oversees Bolt’s beer and wine selection, “we’re focusing on small growers and sustainable farming and high-quality product.”
Bishop moved to Providence from St. Croix, one of the US Virgin Islands, to study illustration at RISD. She joined Bolt from New Rivers (7 Steeple St) and remains a member of the cooperative Fortnight Wine Bar (79 Dorrance St). She said Bolt will serve “crisp whites, deep reds and weird, funky orange wines,” as well as beers that are both creative and accessible.
While no current craft-beer collaborations are on tap, Bolt has worked with brewers in the past. Integrating coffee from Bolt, Proclamation Ale Company in Warwick released its Moon Destroyer and Zzzlumber imperial stouts and Buttonwoods Brewery in Cranston breathed life into Death + Co, a coffee stout. Enis said he’s looking forward to working on roasts for lighter beers as well.
Bolt maintains a relationship with Night Shift Brewery in Everett, Massachusetts, supporting its move into coffee roasting. At the request of Dolores (100 Hope St), a restaurant from the Meza family behind El Rancho Grande (311 Plainfield St), Bolt developed its Peñas Negras roast, sourcing beans from Pluma Hidalgo in Oaxaca, Mexico. A nascent program to support local businesses and organizations includes an upcoming blend to benefit the Montessori Community School of Rhode Island and another under development for Lang’s Bowlarama (225 Niantic Ave, Cranston).
“We’re a hospitality business,” said Kamila Garay, general manager of operations for Bolt’s new cafe. “We get to facilitate that through coffee, through food, and through beer and wine.”
Garay attended RINIMC High School, a nursing charter school in Providence, located across a parking lot from Bolt when it opened at the Dean. She sometimes skipped class to stay longer, she said, sitting in her nursing scrubs with a cup of coffee while getting to know the staff and customers. When the RISD Museum location opened in 2016, Gibb offered her a job as a barista. Garay said through her work with Bolt she believed coffee could bring people together and good service could play a role in giving people the respect they deserved.
“We just want people to feel like they belong somewhere, like this is a place for them,” said Garay. “Our business is more than just a business. It really is a community.”
At the end of the 19th century, the Washington Street building was home to Snow & Farnham publishing house, which emerged from the Providence Press Company. While Texas publisher A.H. Belo was getting TheDallas Morning News off the ground, his Providence contemporary Joseph Ellis Coffee Farnham published a travelogue of a trip he took from Providence to Dallas. Over the years, other tenants specialized in elastic stockings, billiard supplies, engraved stationery and women’s hats. The Good Luck Tea & Coffee Shoppe sat upstairs, advertised before World War II as “a quiet place to lunch and rest.” On the back side stood Fay’s Theatre, a vaudeville house and cinema, torn down in 1951. After the block was demolished and rebuilt as the Shoppers Parkade during the 1960s, Winkler’s Steak House and the Buttery Coffee Shop found homes in the parking garage. The Buttery became a Mister Donut before the franchise faded after its acquisition and conversion into Dunkin’ Donuts.
“It was an eyesore,” said Slattery of Ellie’s, “but once they put the awning up, it was amazing how that entire space transformed and I just loved how they were taking a parking garage and turning it into a multifaceted building. So it was really an exciting project to be part of.”
Before Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency due to coronavirus (COVID-19), Bolt held internal meetings about the topic, cancelled an upcoming public cupping at its roastery, and instituted policies of wiping down surfaces every hour with alcohol rub sanitizer and prohibiting the use of refillable travel cups. Enis said Bolt’s other locations will follow the lead of the Dean, the RISD Museum and District Hall on staying open and will determine any changes to their hours or operations based on risks to public health.
“A lot of businesses are in the same position,” said Gibb. “We’re doing our best to keep our staff and customers safe and caffeinated.”
During the first week of Bolt’s soft opening, a steady flow of customers placed their orders. One customer set a helmet on the table beside her lipstick and coffee, leaving her Genuine Buddy 50 scooter parked out front. Another asked a Bolt barista whether a malfunctioning meter out front was a valid parking space. Even with the Biltmore Garage overhead, many of Bolt’s customers walked. Espresso drinks crisscrossed the counter, and a selection of doughnuts from Knead and pastries from Good Egg sat on display plates. Featured roasts included the Pasto from Colombia, the Ramiro Caballero from Honduras, the Sero Bebes from Papua New Guinea, and others packaged for home use. Printed on each bag is Bolt’s ambition: “Hopefully this coffee can help bring people together, or at least make it easier to be around the ones already here.”
Bolt Coffee Company’s new downtown Providence location is currently open in preview mode at 61 Washington St. The cafe will be open from 7am until 10pm seven days a week.
“If We’re Not Meant to Have Midnight Snacks, Why Is There a Light in the Fridge?”: In search of snacks for after hours appetites
Being a night owl and a foodie in the great state of Rhode Island is both a blessing and a curse. True, it’s home to some unique cuisine that’s readily available during daylight hours (Crazy Vanilla Awful Awfuls, anyone?), but there’s just something about a diner omelet eaten at 3am or a 4am chicken parm that hits different, man. Hungry insomniacs, take note — these late night heroes are here to quell your witching hour hankerings.
Ma’s Donuts, 78 West Main Rd, Middletown; Open 24/7
I literally cannot believe how many people don’t know that Aquidneck Island is home to a 24/7 donut shop! Seriously. Ask anyone from off-island, and it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve never heard of the wonder that is Ma’s Donuts. Sure, the donuts are great, but the real crown jewel is the Malasada, a flavorful Portuguese sugar n’ cinnamon fried dough ball that will put your basic Munchkin to shame. Ma’s makes these chewy confections every day, but on Saturday and Sunday mornings, they are particularly winsome. Set your alarm for 7am (or crawl into their shop straight from the club, rhinestone sequin pumps and all) to get your hands on some of these fabulous morsels hot from the fryer!
East Side Pockets, 278 Thayer St, PVD; Open Mon – Sat, 10am – 2am, Sun, 10am – 10pm
This Mediterranean eatery has been a staple on College Hill since 1997, but you don’t need an Ivy League degree to figure out that East Side Pockets’ hummus is literally to die for! They make it in house every day with chickpeas, tahini, fresh garlic and lemon juice, and it’s gluten-free and vegan! Add a bag of pita chips for dipping, a season of “Nip/Tuck” on Hulu for binge-watching, and you’re on your way to an awesome night! (Or maybe that’s just me. Ahem.)
Patriots Diner, 65 Founders Dr, Woonsocket; Open 24/7
Sure, it’s your typical Americana fare, but as Rhode Island’s only non-chain diner that’s open 24/7, I have to give Patriots Diner kudos for providing hungry souls massive portions of breakfast food after it’s socially acceptable to do so. The Raspberry Stuffed Challah French Toast pulls double duty as entree and dessert, and if you can save room for one of their classic chocolate milkshakes, by all means indulge! After all, where else can you chow down on delish and affordable food AND feel like you’re guest starring as a South Side Serpent on Riverdale?
Fuggedabout all the other joints that peddle pizza slices in PVD — WiseGuys Deli in the heart of Federal Hill is the real deal. With a slew of sandwiches named after the OGs of the mob scene, you’ll have your pick of a family of tasty options, like The Bugsy, their tender grilled chicken sandwich named for the famous 1920s gunner, or The Tony Montana, a twist on the traditional Cubano sandwich as an homage to Al Pacino’s classic role. If you really want something worthy of a Godfather, though, try their Chicken Pizzaola Pasta, a flavorful melange of crispy chicken sauteed with peppers, onions and pink vodka sauce. This ain’t your typical late night fare – this would actually make your Nonna proud! Can’t tear yourself away from “The Sopranos” reruns on HBO? WiseGuys delivers ‘till 4am!
When in Roma: Weigh your options at this Wickenden St Roman style pizzeria
At Roma Capoccia you buy pizza by the weight, just like you would on the streets of Rome. This is pizza al taglio, or as we know it, pizza by the slice. But literally it translates, “to the cut,” which is more accurate to what you’ll find in both Italy and Roma Capoccia. Instead of walking into a shop and ordering a pre-cut triangular slice from a big, round pie, you’ll find large rectangular slabs of pizza that are reheated when you order them. (The dough is actually designed to be reheated, due to its high hydration and the fact that it must be fermented for 90-120 hours.) And then you pay based on weight.
In Rome, prices are listed by the kilo (which is why a listed price of €16 may seem alarming, but it’s unlikely you’ll eat two pounds of pizza). At Roma, you’ll find pizza priced by the ounce. This seems like a frightening concept for those of us with an inability to judge what “one ounce” looks like, and for those of us with a proclivity toward one-of-everything-please. I hear you. The first time I got Fro-Yo at a self-serve shop, I ended up footing a $14 bill. I could only imagine that ordering pizza by weight would result in my racking up $75 in charges.
Good news: That didn’t happen. At Roma, I was guided by a pizzaiolo, a helpful employee wielding giant scissors, and she made the final cut. She indicated the size of one ounce by holding her fingers in a small square and told us which pizzas were likely to be heavier based on their toppings. She also gave us an “average” size that people choose, which was a long strip across, about 3” thick. I ordered four of those, as did my friend. It ended up being $13, which means I spent more money on frozen yogurt than I did on pizza.
The best news? Each of those strips was big enough to share, meaning my friend and I got to sample eight different types of pizza! This is bliss, my friends. The menu changes regularly, and the toppings range from traditional (eg, margherita) to inventive (sweet potatoes, candied orange, chestnuts, goat cheese, sage and garlic aioli — this was my favorite). They also offer vegan options, and wine and beer. I recommend the Frescobaldi Rémole red, not only because it’s fun to say, but because it’s delicious.
Rhode Island’s first Roman-style pizzeria is worth its weight … in pizza, and maybe gold, too.
468 Wickenden Street, PVD; @romacapocciapizza
Eat Your Veggies: Saladworks lets you eat healthy on the go
With an anticipated opening of March 25, Saladworks is moving to New England for the first time and settling into downtown Providence.
“There are over 100 locations worldwide,” owner John Pisaturo told me, “but most are in outdoor strip malls. There’s only one other in a standalone downtown location [in Philadelphia] – Rhode Island will be the second.”
John and his wife, Aileen Soriano-Pisaturo, are confident that the walkability of our downtown area and the restaurant’s location — at 75 Fountain Street, where the Providence Journal used to be headquartered — will garner heavy foot traffic. Just to be certain, Pisaturo bought a counter and took data for 10 days, at morning, noon and night, on weekdays and weekends, and discovered that 300 to 400 people were walking past the door every hour. He’s hoping to attract hotel guests, residents from local condos and downtown employees on their lunch break.
Saladworks first opened in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in 1986, long before the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles became common enough to merit a festival. It appears that the franchise is now, finally, “on trend.”
Those who are strictly plant-based, vegetarian, or — as Aileen taught me — “flexitarian,” meaning you’ll eat a greasy burger one day of the week, but will stick to healthier or plant-based diets on the other days of the week — will discover a satisfying meal at Saladworks. Meat-lovers among us shouldn’t worry; also on offer is pepperoni, chicken (buffalo, spicy peanut and honey bbq, to name a few), shrimp, turkey and bacon.
The main attraction is, of course, the salad bowl. You can choose from one of their signature bowls (Aileen recommends the Farmhouse Bowl, with roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash and glazed pecans) or create your own, with more than 60 toppings and 10 different dressings to choose from.
“So, it’s like Subway, but for salads?” I ask.
“More like a Chipotle,” John says.
In addition to green salads, they offer gluten-free grain bowls, sandwiches, soups and wraps (note: any bowl can be made into a wrap).
Saladworks will be open daily, from 11am – 9pm, with delivery service and in-house seating (with a WiFi bar), plus outdoor seating in the warmer months. Next time you’re in need of a healthy quick meal or exhibiting your freedom as a flexitarian, stroll downtown. “There’s something for everyone,” John says, “from the simple to the complex salad lover.”
Yagi Noodles is Newport’s coolest new ramen spot — a pop-up restaurant by Chef Basil Yu, who’s bringing his own creative spin on Asian cuisine to Newport, with a rad menu featuring bowls of freshly prepared whole wheat Japanese ramen noodles in savory broths, Rhode Island-meets-China lobster bao buns and shareable small plates. While the food is fabulous, some might say that the hidden gems of Yagi Noodles are the selection of original spirit-free beverages, developed by owner Kodi Keith, which bring elevated, unique flavors to their beverage program — no alcohol necessary! With quirky monikers like This Sh*t Is Pineapples, made with fresh pineapple juice and black pepper, or Taro Up My Heart, prepared with sweet coconut milk and purple taro root, these concoctions are just as much fun to order as they are to drink! I sat down with Kodi and bartender John Begin to learn a little bit more about what makes a zero proof drink taste 100% awesome, and even got the lowdown on how to create one of their most popular offerings, The Floor Is Guava.
Yagi Noodles’ Five Tips to Create the Perfect Spirit-Free Drink
Use fresh ingredients & purees: At Yagi Noodles, all of the simple syrups and purees, from ginger to blood orange, are made fresh in house, and you can seriously taste the difference.
Add some spice … but not too much: John recommends seeding the Fresno peppers used in The Floor Is Guava so that the spice doesn’t overpower the fruity flavors. It’s all about balance!
If you must use alcohol, get creative: The Floor Is Guava (like all of Yagi Noodles’ spirit-free drinks) would mix well with tequila, Mezcal or vodka.
Pick a garnish that visually represents the ingredients: This one uses a dried blood orange wheel and edible flowers to kick the Instagram-friendly factor up a notch.
Mix and match: There’s a complex arrangement of flavors in this drink, so you don’t even need alcohol.
The Floor Is Guava
Recipe Courtesy Kodi Keith, Yagi Noodles
3 small Fresno peppers, seeded and muddled
1 oz yuzu juice
1 1/2 oz ginger simple syrup
1 oz guava puree
2 oz soda water (or spirit of your choice, if you must!)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake well to distribute heat.
Garnish with a dehydrated blood orange wheel and edible flowers.
Serve it up with John’s signature salute: “Cheers!”
Can’t wait to make it at home? No worries! Stop by Yagi Noodles at 580 Thames Street on Sun, Feb 23, for the “Freaky Tiki Spiritfree Drinky” Cocktail Competition! From 6 – 8pm, bartenders will compete to make the best spirit-free beverage, and everyone who attends will get to sample the delish concoctions! Admission is free with Newport Winterfest Bracelet or a non-perishable food donation for the Martin Luther King Center of Newport.
A classy – and boozy – brunch at Vino Veritas
I should have expected nothing less than napkins folded into roses from a restaurant whose name sounds like an Ivy League university’s motto: Vino Veritas, Latin for “in wine, truth” — which, I would argue, is the unofficial motto for all great institutions of learning. But I had somehow missed this restaurant when it debuted on the corner of Broadway and Harkness, just a stone’s throw away from Nick’s on Broadway, and I realized I haven’t brunched on the West Side in far too long. With the help of my trusty Motif assistant (ie, publisher Mike Ryan), we arrived at high noon on a chilly-but-sunny Saturday.
String lights outline the full-length windows — a twinkling, inviting touch — and underneath the black awning is the entrance. Upon entering through the large lavender door, I was struck by purple. Purple, the color of royalty. Purple, the color of creativity and pride. Purple, the color of ripe grapes at harvest. At Vino Veritas, you’ll find all shades of purple, from the violet rose-shaped napkins to the placemats in stripes of eggplant and periwinkle to the lilac-colored font on their menus. Even the throw pillows on the periphery window seats (not for seating, just for pillows) have purple accents. I loved it — it wasn’t excessive or kitschy, but it did make me feel more dignified.
The space is the perfect size for an intimate gathering, but not so small it’s stifling. The traditional bar is straight to the back, and the Bloody Mary Bar is just in front of it. Had Mike and I understood this was a Bloody Mary Bar from the beginning, it might have altered our beverage selection (shrimp, bacon and squares of grilled cheese sandwiches are available as garnish!), but we took a different, less traditional route for breakfast imbibing.
With three cocktail menus to choose from — Martini, Specialty and Breakfast — we didn’t even consider the restaurant’s namesake of wine. (Sorry, not sorry?) Mike ordered their other namesake drink, the Veritas Martini, with Ketel One, Chambord, pineapple and prosecco. It tasted like a mimosa-meets-martini, and it was delightfully refreshing. I opted for something fit for a Friday evening, the Advoczar (I dare you to say that five times … not even fast, just five times), with Woodford Reserve, Crave Chili Chocolate Liqueur, walnut bitters and Drunken Cherry. This tasted like a boozy version of a Yoo-hoo with a hint of cherry. It proved to be a great pairing for the dark chocolate hot cakes that jumped out at us from the menu.
Both Mike and I were sold on the hot cakes, especially since we saw they came with bourbon maple syrup. Although the menu isn’t huge, it has something for everyone, and multiple somethings for people like us with childlike sweet tooths. (Do we add Portuguese sweetbread French toast or beignets to our chocolate chip pancakes? We chose the latter because of the promise of crème-anglaise and fresh berries — thus making it a health food.) On the savory side, we saw a range of selections, from tofu scramble to Angus burger, with all forms of eggs in between. And as a special that day, they were offering a breakfast flatbread, with scrambled eggs, arugula, bacon, mozzarella and hot peppers. It was a no-brainer; we chose the special.
I expected a typical flatbread, one that I could easily eat by myself but would share with Mike to feel better about my life choices. This, however, was like no flatbread I’ve ever seen. It was served on a wooden board that nearly spanned the length of the table. The dough was thick, like focaccia or Roman-style crust, the hot peppers adding the perfect amount of heat, and it was the first time ever I couldn’t finish my half — and not for lack of trying. This is a flatbread worth sharing … with several people.
We ended on a sweet note, with our dessert-like breakfast plates, the dark chocolate hot cakes and the beignets, and we couldn’t finish those either. Folks, history was being made that day. These pancakes (three) were topped with a snowy layer of powdered sugar, and they stood tall and proud. Like the flatbread, these were thick. The beignets, after being fully submerged in the crème-anglaise (a heavenly sauce) and topped with a slice of strawberry were the perfect ending to my post-January diet resolve.
The best part of this brunch experience was that we didn’t have to wait an hour to be seated. I’ve now added another notch on the Broadway belt of great brunches, and I’m looking forward to seeing this purple palace when the sun goes down. Latin may be a dead language, but Vino Veritas is fully alive and well.
Vino Veritas, 486 Broadway, PVD @vinoveritasri
Kale Yeah!: RI VegFest brings vegan eats to PVD
The number of vegan eateries popping up across our state has to be heartening to those eschewing animal products in their food, whose restaurant options used to be a boring salad with a side of not much. And now there’s a festival starting up in RI to celebrate a love for all things veg. I recently sat down with Robin Dionne, co-creator of Rhode Island VegFest, Rhode Island’s first fully vegan food festival, to get the scoop on this vegtastic event that’s coming to PVD on February 23!
Morgan Capodilupo (Motif): So, how did a vegan food fest come to be?
Robin Dionne: Jim Nellis (from RIFoodFights) and I have been friends for years. We’ve loved working together and collaborating since meeting at a TedxPVD event in 2014. We’re both huge foodies, of course, and I’ve been a vegan since my teens. Jim’s a meat-eater, but was curious about plant-based and vegan diets. We coined the term “#PlantCurious” to describe that sort of thing — people who aren’t necessarily vegan, but want to learn more about vegan food, cooking and just the vegan lifestyle in general. VegFest is for everyone — vegan and PlantCurious alike! We’ve attended VegFests all over the US, and thought Rhode Island should join in the fun, too!
MC: What can guests expect from the event?
RD: Lots of fun! Hungry vegans and #PlantCurious folks happily eating yummy bites from not only well known vegan spots, but also smaller businesses and restaurants that may not be known for plant-based cuisine, but have been exciting to collaborate with nonetheless, like The Dorrance! Our main presenting sponsors are Rhode Island vegan/vegetarian stalwarts Wildflour Vegan Bakery & Juice Bar, The Grange and Garden Grille. We’ll also showcase several makers and vendors of vegan clothing, candles, shoes, accessories and more so you can shop to your heart’s content! All guests will also receive a $10 voucher to be used at one of our restaurant or retail partners following the event.
MC: Who are some of the vendors you’re excited to collaborate with?
RD: Becky Morris from Celebrated Co., who won the RI Food Fights Spectacular Cookie Smackdown two years in a row. Her vegan cookies actually beat out several non-vegan bakeries! As for libations, New Harvest Coffee will set up shop with their signature coffee, plus delicious vegan hot cocoa, and Narragansett Beer will have a bar pouring vegan-friendly beer. It’s a thing!
MC: Any fun non-culinary surprises?
RD: We are excited for a performance by The Tropigals, led by the fabulous Kristen Minsky! Her husband, Brian Oakley, is the general manager of Julians, one of the restaurants that really pioneered plant-based eating in Providence! Julians and sister restaurant Pizza J will be serving up bites at the Fest! We’ll also have Alex Eaves, a filmmaker and “Reuse Pro” who travels the country in his 98 square foot box truck home. He’ll have the box truck for people to see and will also be on hand to answer questions about sustainable living.
MC: What do you hope to accomplish with VegFest?
RD: We love to bring these restaurants and businesses to the forefront, as it can sometimes be hard for folks who follow a plant-based diet to attend an event or find restaurants where everything is vegan and diet friendly for them. Hopefully after they attend, they’ll have some new ideas for places to check out! We’re all about community building, and that’s what VegFest really is — an event for the RI Vegan Community and those who are curious about it as well. The plant-based lifestyle isn’t just about tofu anymore!
MC: One more quick question. Can I get #PlantCurious on a beanie hat?
Butterbang by Bike: The best croissant you’ll ever have on this side of the Atlantic
If you’ve ever visited France, the thought of a croissant conjures pure heavenly bliss: a crispy, buttery and oh-so-flaky delight. You also know that you’re hard-pressed to find an equivalent in New England, and the thought of a Dunkin breakfast croissant throws you into a cataclysmic state of despair. But I have good news: Brian Leosz is creating Parisian-worthy experiences with his business, Butterbang Croissants. From the Classic original, to a sweet Choco Almond, to the savory “Dainty Pig” (prosciutto, gouda and rosemary), all his creations will help you recall those heavenly feelings right here in RI.
When I asked Leosz if he would consider moving to France, he responded without hesitation: “YES.” I like this about him (because that’s how I feel about Greece), and it’s no surprise that he’s returned overseas several times in the last few years — including last May, when he brought his parents to Paris for their anniversary and constructed a “croissant crawl” for them. This — for the record — is my idea of a grand romantic gesture.
Leosz launched Butterbang Croissants while he was living in Colorado. He had left his job in New England and trekked across the country, then after months of job hunting, consented to pursue an idea he’d been churning around for a few years: a bicycle cart selling freshly made croissants. “I figured it was as good a time as any,” he said.
I ought to mention that Leosz left a job in New England in marketing, not in pastry. Leosz is a self-taught baker. “I always had a sweet tooth as a kid, but my mom didn’t want me going to the candy store every day (understandably). I remember visiting my aunt’s house and watching her bake. I was intrigued that you could bake the sweets that you wanted to eat,” he said.
He began experimenting with his mom’s Fannie Farmer Cookbook. “I taught myself basic things, like cookies and brownies, and then progressed to baklava and cakes. It was a hobby that stuck with me throughout adulthood.”
Leosz was successful in Colorado wholesaling his croissants to cafes, but he came to a crossroads: Was Denver the place he wanted to be long-term? “My whole network was still in New England — my family and childhood friends — and it just didn’t feel like the timing was right,” he said. “But I believed I would come back to the business again.”
He moved to Boston, and for the next decade he worked for a company called, ironically, Cake, that was — even more ironically — an online service to help people organize their end-of-life preferences. “I had a great team, and I loved my job; it felt like meaningful work. But every day I was forced to think about death … which can’t help but lead you to consider your own mortality.”
Cake highlighted the obvious, but overlooked truth: time is not guaranteed. “I felt like if you have dreams, why not act on them now, while you’re able to?” So, for the second time, he decided to lean into his passion, this time in the small city of Providence.
Working from a production kitchen in Olneyville, Leosz debuted via bicycle at Brown University in October 2019. “I knew I wanted to start out in retail rather than wholesale because I missed interacting with customers. I’m fueled by knowing if people are enjoying what I produce.”
Plus, a bicycle is a cheap way to break into retail, and it’s free marketing; it’s hard to miss him pedaling a 600-pound bike rig around town.
During the colder winter months, you’ll still find him bicycling (he is a New Englander, after all), as well as popping up at PVDonuts and his own space in Olneyville, where he now hosts a Saturday morning Croissant Counter. (Be sure to check Instagram and Facebook for an updated schedule.) You’re likely to find a special croissant or two, inspired by his travels or the holidays, including Valentine’s Day.
“I have in mind to create something of a ‘blackened heart,’” he says, which makes me like him even more.
Contrary to my method of blackening a croissant — burning it — Leosz is experimenting with activated charcoal. However, if it doesn’t meet his standards of croissant quality, he will go a different route. Either way, “it will be a tongue-in-cheek” play on the Valentine theme.
And since we’re on the topic of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about matchmaking: Leosz is in the market … for a business partner. “It’d be nice to have that camaraderie with someone who’s also in the business, who gets it, who’s really invested. My friends can only listen to so much,” he jokes. Ideal qualities he’s looking for in a business mate include a pastry background and attentiveness to details, especially aesthetics. And because I’m the one writing this advertisement, I’d like to add someone who is thoughtful and kind, and has a passion for travel, as these are all qualities you would share with Leosz.
Despite the Blackened Heart idea, Leosz doesn’t seem cynical. “I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day,” he explains, “but I do think people get lazy in celebrating. Do something creative, like make your partner a nice dinner, or go on a scavenger hunt.”
Or, perhaps, a croissant crawl. A stop at Butterbang Croissants is one way to guarantee you’ll be treating someone you care about — or yourself — with love.
Croissant counter, 8:30am-12:30pm at 11 Aleppo St., Unit 7 (downstairs), @butterbangcroissants, Facebook.com/ButterbangCroissants
Satisfy Your KRAEV-ing: With tortillas, Tex-Mex and maybe some dance moves
It wasn’t long ago that I found myself covered in flour, rolling dough with a glass bottle, reforming an amoeba-like shape into a circle, struggling to make it thin rather than pancake thick — but despite all evidence to the contrary, after twice flipping this “tortilla” and letting it cool just long enough to tear it apart with my fingers, I took that first bite and dissolved into happiness: this was a damn good tortilla.
While I will take credit for the glass bottle I used as a rolling-pin and the naan-level of thickness my masterpiece exhibited, I cannot take credit for its deliciousness, which was a product of the recipe I received from Rene Sanchez, co-owner (with his wife, Kara) of the restaurant pop-up KRAEV, serving Tex-Mex, breakfast tacos and sweets.
That’s right. I said breakfast tacos.
Even as a native of New Mexico, I had never heard this term until I met Kara and Rene and visited KRAEV’s Sunday brunch on the West Side of Providence. (If you noticed that KAra + REne => KRAE, you are correct; the company’s title came from overlapping each of their first names.) But breakfast tacos were a staple for Rene growing up in Texas.
“It’s comfort food: flour tortillas, cheese, hot sauce — I mean, anytime you’ve got melted cheese…” he trails off, then laughs softly. “It sums up the type of food I was craving.”
Working out of the Sankofa Community Kitchen, they’ve decorated the adjacent community room with festive colors: yellow, magenta and mint-colored tablecloths; woven table runners with triangular patterns in every shade of blue; small vases with handmade ornamental flowers. My favorite decorative touch was the soft-colored string lights hanging from the back wall, like a mystical waterfall of light. The vibe in here is both peaceful and vibrant, offering an atmosphere that’s safe and welcoming, but one in which a dance party might spontaneously erupt. (Fun fact: Kara and Rene met at a pop-up dance party in the park the day after Rene moved to Rhode Island.)
Back to the main event: breakfast tacos. They are, as they sound, soft tacos filled with breakfast fixings, such as eggs and chorizo. But what most separates these from any other tacos are the tortillas. After my first bite, I had a “Sweet Jesus” moment, traveling back in time back to when I was 5 years old and my babysitter sat me on the kitchen counter as she made tortillas from scratch. There is nothing in the world that compares to a southwestern style, handmade flour tortilla — soft and chewy, but not leathery, with lightly charred circles where the air pockets puffed up onto the skillet, and a hint of something both savory yet sweet—and not a preservative to be tasted, those demon chemicals that plague all packaged brands. All you need to complete the experience is a swipe of butter and a moment of silence.
That’s a KRAEV tortilla.
Luckily, Sanchez offers tortilla-making workshops, which is how I found myself covered in flour trying to recreate what he had taught us to do. (Let it be known that I have never recreated a cooking workshop at home after participating in one. This was a first, hence my realization partway through that I didn’t have a rolling pin.) Earlier that day, an astonishing 25 people fit into the back room of Urban Greens Co-op, where we worked in pairs to mix ingredients and knead the dough by hand. At the end of our 1.5-hour workshop, we were given a copy of the recipe, including a powerful “secret” ingredient, with all of us “Mmmm-ing” on our way out with the taste of fresh, warm tortillas still in our mouths.
“All I ever wanted was to own a sandwich shop,” Sanchez says. “But when I moved to Rhode Island, I realized Providence doesn’t need a sandwich shop; they need breakfast tacos. No one is making their own flour tortillas. That’s when I became passionate about it because of what it signifies: from the smell to the texture, how it brings me home in that moment.” And home is where Sanchez learned important lessons about life and food, and how the two relate.
“When I was a kid, if I had one dollar in my pocket, I knew I could get food. That’s what I want to offer: the simplicity, affordability and substance of Tex-Mex. No one has to go hungry. If we have food, we share it.”
That’s why KRAEV offers one of their tacos, the bean and cheese, as a “Pay what you want.” “I hope everyone becomes familiar with this breakfast taco,” Sanchez says. The bean and cheese is how you judge a place, almost like a margherita pizza in Italy can be used to judge a pizzeria. “If you went into a place and had a bad bean and cheese, you would never order a carne asada there. But if you had a great bean and cheese, you’d order two carne asada, because if they’re doing this well, they’ll do that well, too.”
One thing that strikes me as I get ready to leave is how both Rene and Kara exude joy. They are passionate about feeding their community with kindness as much as with substantial food (and believe me, two tacos will keep you full for the day). “Part of our vision is creating a better breakfast experience. We aren’t sure what that means yet, we want to do something fun and unique, and food should be a part of that.”