2023 Food & Drink Awards August 14

RI Food Truck & Drink Awards 2023 

If you didn’t attend this year’s Motif Food Truck & Drink Awards you sadly missed out on a great event. This was my first year attending and it was a great evening away from my normal Monday night routine. Here are six reasons why you should attend next year.


1. Good People, Good Vibes

This event was family-friendly and had games from R1 Indoor Karting as well as cornhole and hula-hoops. There was plenty of parking and indoor restrooms. The music from DJ Nick Bishop and my personal favorite, the Unlikely Strummers, was a great addition to the event.

2. Budget-Friendly Fun

Admission was free unless you wanted to sample local craft beer, seltzer, and cider. $25 bought you unlimited samples and a chance to vote for your favorite brewery. For $5 you could get a generous pour of one of your favorites. There were plenty of food trucks to purchase from and places to sit and eat. As a craft beer lover, I chose to sample from some of RI’s best breweries. Where else can you go to be able to partake in such a fest? 

3. Drink A Beer & Meet The Maker

Samples were available from: Bar on Board Cocktails (Sons of Liberty), Grey Sail Brewing, Linesider Brewing, Lops Brewing, Moniker Brewery, Narragansett Brewery, Proclamation Ale Company, Tapped Apple Cidery and Winery, Six Pack Brewing, Smug Brewing, Whalers, and Vigilant Brewing. This is a great opportunity to meet and talk with some of the team behind some of your favorites.

4. A Time To Say “Thank Youuuu”

Drink Awards were presented from previous online voting in twenty three categories including: Favorite beer styles, cider, wines, spirits, craft cocktails, best name, best can art, truck and brewer with the most write-in votes, and more.

5. Did I mention there is food? Like, lots of food?

Food trucks were also presented awards in favorite food categories, graphics, locally manufactured food, farmers market, new product, new truck, ethnic influences, pop-up and portable-not-quite-truck food trucks, to name a few. 

Food trucks at the event served plenty of options for the foodie in us all: Axelrod’s, a brand new truck making its debut, Cecilia’s Snacks, also marking their debut, plus Boba Wave, Hook & Ladder Pizza, Lulu’s Little Pancakes, Memphis Kelle (beer truck), RaRa’s Surf Shack, and The Hot Potato.

6. More Good People Doing Good Things

This year included representatives from Parent Support Network, a nonprofit that provides free naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray (Narcan) and fentanyl test strips to test drugs. Having an old kit in my car, I was appreciative of this. One of the representatives explained how to use it. He told me his life was saved by Narcan. This is a reminder that we can all be a part of saving lives. 

I am hopeful next year more local breweries, cideries, and vineyards will provide samples. With the ever-increasing numbers of these businesses opening up in our little state, I am sure this will happen.

Cheers and hope to see you next year!

We don’t have the space to fully profile all the amazing winners this year. Here are a few highlights from our Food Truck & Drink Awards, held August 12 at R1 Indoor Karting and sponsored by Ocean State Food Truck Festivals and R1 Indoor Karting.

Mr. Lemon
Favorite Outdoor Treat (not a truck)

While another local frozen treat winner gets all the attention, Mr. Lemon is happy to fly under the radar, making quality flavors of frozen lemonade and conversing with customers. The winner of Favorite Outdoor Treat (not a truck) opened in 1974 and has received rave reviews and repeat customers ever since. The menu always features the classic flavors of lemon, watermelon, and vanilla, and rotates in other flavors throughout the season, which makes every trip to Mr. Lemon an adventure (unless you check their Facebook page first). 

Mr. Lemon has changed their hours of operation the past two summers. They are only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 7pm. I highly suggest getting a jumbo size so it can last the entire week.

The staff always makes sure to have a quick conversation with each customer. Though it only lasts during the scooping of slush and transaction of money, you leave there smiling, feeling important and cared about, along with a delicious treat. The world needs more people like them.

– Bobby Forand

Friskie Fries Overall
Favorite Food Truck

Friskie Fries have made an artform of the ultimate side dish, with a menu that turns the French fry into an entrée. This out-of-the-box thinking has helped them turn their food truck into storefronts in both Providence and Johnston, winning multiple Motif Awards, including Overall Favorite Food Truck.

The long-cut fries and recent-menu-addition waffle fries are cooked to near perfection. They have a fresh taste, even after cooling off. The naked fries are a personal favorite (boring, I know, but I’m not all that adventurous). Their unique “dressed fries” have something that can please everyone. They now have delicious-looking “side pieces” to add to their already impressive menu.

– Bobby Forand

Locally Manufactured Food 

The lemon has been an iconic symbol of this state since 1948. The fruit ice treat, which has expanded its flavor selection through the years, is something that should be on the bucket list of every local citizen. It’s really no surprise that Del’s took home a Food Truck Award for Locally Manufactured Food. It’s one of the things that makes Rhode Island so special and unique.

Del’s has store locations throughout the state and trucks filling in the gaps everywhere else. It’s a challenge to not drive by a place selling Del’s during the summer months and even more onerous not to stop. For those who can’t get enough, they sell an at-home mix. Available flavors are lemon, watermelon, blueberry and lemon tea. They have also taken the merchandising path, with a plethora of cool items for sale on their website and at select locations.

– Bobby Forand

The Incred-A-Bowl Food Company
Vegan, Vegetarian, and Cruelty-Free

The winner of the Vegan, Vegetarian, and Cruelty-Free category was The Incred-A-bowl Food Company. They started out under the name, The Salad Man and Juice Bar way back in 2013, offering salads, rice bowls, and smoothies, and customers could not get over how “incredible” the bowls were. When their contract with Ocean Spray ended, they rebranded to a more “true” name – Incred-A-Bowl! Like many food trucks, they are community-minded, beginning a “Fresh Start” employment program and contributing to several nonprofits like Open Doors and Polished Gems. They also recently put down roots in East Providence, where you can find the storefront version of their truck at 1075 S. Broadway.

– Emma Strempfer

Lulu’s Little Pancakes
Favorite Dessert

Lulu’s is always a highlight for an end-of-the-night treat, so it’s no surprise they won Favorite Dessert. Opening in 2021, Lulu’s owners were inspired by their daughter, Lulu, and her love for little pancakes. These food truck owners are tapping into a long European culinary tradition of serving little pancakes, which are relatively unheard of on this side of the Atlantic. Lulu’s mission is to put smiles on people’s faces and what better way to do it than with fluffy, sugary treats served with all sorts of mouthwatering toppings? 

– Emma Strempfer

Haven Brothers
Favorite Burgers

With back to back wins in 2022 and 2023, Haven Brothers remains your Favorite Burger spot. Established in 1893 (yes, that’s an 18), Haven Brothers brings the convenience of mobile comfort food across RI. Their fresh, 100% Angus beef burgers are always a crowd pleaser, especially when you have the option of tripling up on the patties. One of their most popular items is the triple “Murder Burger” served with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and topped with a fried egg. As they say: “You will feel like you died and went to heaven!”  

– Maddie Jarvis

Championship Melt
Favorite Grilled Cheese

No one does mobile grilled cheeses quite like Championship Melt – literally. One of Championship Melt’s unique claims to fame is they are the only wrestling-themed gourmet grilled cheese food truck in the world! With a range of creative melts to choose from, Championship has options for anyone and everyone. Some notable recent menu items include their “Roaring Elbow” (pepperjack, breaded buffalo chicken, and mac & cheese), “Piledriver” (pepperjack, homemade beef & bean chili, Sriracha chili sauce, and Fritos) and “Brother Love” (provolone, mozzarella, bruschetta, and balsamic drizzle). Aside from their delicious sandwiches, Championship also offers homemade sides and fresh-baked desserts. They’re stunning.

– Maddie Jarvis

Presto Strange O Coffee Favorite Breakfast & Brunch
Favorite Coffee

Family-owned company Presto Strange O got its start as a mobile coffee truck in 2010, then expanded to have three trucks and a storefront in Warwick. Though their name and branding highlights their coffee, Presto Strange O is admired for their delicious breakfast and brunch as well. Their menu features the usual crowd favorites, like avocado toast, lox, and egg sandwiches, in addition to some creative dishes like fruit toast (which consists of peanut butter, honey-glazed granola, banana, and berries on toasted multigrain), and their Vermonster (a bacon, egg, and Vermont cheddar waffle sandwich).

Dual-winner Presto Strange O has also gained well-deserved recognition for their beverages. Much like their food menu, Presto has both recognizable and unique coffees on their menu: you could go for a chai latte or a cold brew, but you could also reach for a Vietnamese iced coffee or a crystal ginger chai. They also have a number of super fun and funky flavored lattes, like Samoa (caramel, coconut, and mocha), Nutella, Peanut Butter Cookie, Cinnamon Crunch (cinnamon bun latte with Cinnamon Crunch cereal), Cinnapunk (pumpkin pie-inspired), and Creme Brulee. Not only does Presto Strange O have a mastery over their coffee, but they have great non-coffee beverages as well. Worth trying are the cotton candy lemonade, cider, and frozen Frostbite drinks, available as vanilla matcha, chocolate almond chai, or RI coffee milk. 

– Maddie Jarvis

Kona Ice
Favorite Frozen Dessert

Any event is instantly more exciting when a bright blue, tropically-decorated K.E.V. pulls up. K.E.V. stands for Kona Entertainment Vehicles, Kona Ice’s chrome-wheeled trucks that play tropical steel drum music.

There aren’t many places in RI that have shaved ice, but Kona Ice makes it easy and accessible to enjoy. The most unique aspect of Kona is your ability to flavor your own ice. This is due to their Flavorwave system, in which each truck has 10 self-serve spigots with their most popular flavors: Blue Raspberry, Tiger’s Blood, Groovy Grape, Island Rush, Lucky Lime, Monster Mango, Ninja Cherry, Pina Colada, Strawberry’d Treasure, and Watermelon Wave. With this system, not only do you get to choose which flavors you want, you get the freedom to decide how many flavors you want. As Kona Ice says, “You do you – Kona style!” 

– Maddie Jarvis

Peanut Butter Jelly Sour (Vigilant Brewing)
Favorite Farmhouse/Saison/Sour

Kevin Amaral expressed his love of having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in beer. Vigilant’s head brewer, John Otero, told me: “After much coaxing I put a quick 5-gallon batch of a sandwich in a glass. At least that is what I envisioned.” This sour pours a light ruby red and has a foamy pink head. Peanut butter and jelly are on the nose and palate. This 5.6% ABV sour is truly a PB&J in a glass… minus the bread.

It is loved by all, including friends I have that claim they don’t like beer. Brittany Martins, one of Vigilant’s beertenders, told me it is her favorite as well. It will be available at the brewery in another two weeks or so on draft and in cans. If you are interested, you need to be there when it releases. Patrons buy cases of it and it goes quickly!

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Vigilant Brewing Overall
Favorite Brewery

Vigilant won the most awards of any of our local breweries: Favorite Blonde/Cream Ale, Favorite New England IPA, Favorite Farmhouse/Saison/Sour, Favorite Beer Name, Favorite Can Art, and Favorite Overall Favorite Drink, aka the brewer that received the most votes across categories.

Vigilant Brewing has only been open a little over 14 months and clearly made a statement this year. They also had the most representation present at the awards. This gave me a chance to congratulate some of the team members who were genuinely surprised and gracious. When I asked head brewer John Otero how this felt he jokingly stated: “Like we could do better next time.” The meticulous long brewing hours, their love and passion for the craft of making beer surely has created some amazing brews!

– Kelly Lynn Currier

SPEC OPS (Vigilant Brewing)
Favorite Blonde/Cream Ale

This American cream ale was a collaboration beer made with Grey Sail Brewery. The proceeds of the collab support the Andrew McKenna Jr’s Memorial scholarship fund that each year awards four $1,500 scholarships in Andrew’s honor to graduating high school seniors in the State of Rhode Island. Bristol’s native, First Sergeant Peter Andrew McKenna Jr. was a brave, fallen Army Special Forces Green Beret who risked his life to save his fellow soldiers. How wonderful it is that two breweries came together to give back to such an amazing cause. Head brewer John Otero stated: “Giving back to the community has been part of our initiative from the inception of the business.”

This cream ale pours a clear golden hue with a thick foamy white head. There is a scent of malt and corn on the nose. This scent follows through to the palate along with notes of cereal and a subtle hop bitterness that is balanced by the sweetness of the malt and corn. This 5.4% ABV cream ale could easily be your backyard BBQ beer.

You can find this at Vigilant Brewing on tap and in to go cans.

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Dred Red Ale (Vigilant Brewery)
Best Can Art

The Dred Red Ale’s proceeds support Dreadnaught Hook, Ladder and Hose Company in Bristol RI. The beer was released at a fundraiser at the brewery this past June. The beauty of this beer goes beyond the can art. It is one of the best red ales I have ever tasted. Let me add I am not a fan of red ales. The can label has the maltese cross emblem of this firehouse – a well deserved win!

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Bohemian Pilsner (Narragansett Brewing)
Favorite Pilsner/Czech

It was no surprise to me that this won fav Pilsner. I had this for the first time at RI Craft Brewfest 2022. The beertender at the fest told me this would be on tap at the brewery. I was happy to hear this since my other Gansett fav Narragansett Lager is not one of the brewery taps.

This 5.2% ABV Czech-Style Pilsner is made with Saaz hops. It pours a clear golden hue.

There is corn malt on the nose and it is slightly floral. The nose follows through to the front end palate with sweet malt and corn. There is a slight spiced hop on the end sip from the Saaz hops. This is deliciously crushable. You can find it on tap at Narragansett Brewery as well as in cans to go both at the brewery and local liquor stores. This is always in my pint glass when I visit the brewery and it should be in yours too!

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Rise (Whalers Brewing)
Favorite Other IPA

Second-time winner Rise won again this year, although in a different category. (Last year they won fav pale ale.) It has also won best US pale ale at the World Beer Awards on multiple occasions.

This American Pale Ale is the brewery’s flagship beer. It was the first collaboration made by two of the head brewers. I remember the first time I had this beer. It was the changing point for me to discover that I liked the taste of hops. Rise pours a clear yellow color and retains a finger-width foamy, white head. There is a scent of malt and citrus on the nose. The flavor starts off malty with a subtle pine from the hops that lingers on your palate. With an ABV of 5.5%, this APA goes down easy. You can find Rise on draft at the brewery, on tap at some local bars and restaurants as well as at liquor stores.

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Rhody Coyote (Newport Vineyards)
Favorite Cider

In addition to winning Motif’s 2023 favorite cider, Rhody Coyote also won RI Best Cider at the Big E in Massachusetts.

It is made from a family recipe with fresh nearby local apples that are pressed, fermented, and then “its juice is kissed with champagne yeast.” It pours the color of champagne and its effervescence is equally comparable. It is on the drier side making it not overly sweet. This hard cider has an ABV of 7%

You can sip this delicious cider inside or out while overlooking the beautiful grounds of Newport Vineyards. You can also purchase bottles to go or pick some up at a local liquor store.

Located in Newport and also home to Taproot Brewing Company, the vineyard offers beer from the brewery in addition to wine. There is also a farm-to-fork restaurant with seating inside and out with views of the vineyard. Bar seating is also available at the brewery, and they feature periodic themed events and live music.

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Quit Playin’ With Your Dinghy (Vigilant Brewing)
Favorite New England IPA, Favorite Name

“Quit Playin’ with Your Dinghy was essentially a mistake,” owner Kevin Amaral and assistant brewers Chris Drance and Michael Godet confirmed. This mistake led Vigilant Brewing, who celebrated their first-year anniversary in July, an award-winning favorite. “People don’t just buy it for the name, it truly stands up to our promise of being a delicious and solid NEIPA.”

This NEIPA has an orange hazy pour with thin-rimmed head retention. There is grapefruit and citrus on the nose and palate. Grapefruit peel and piney hops take over the palate for a bitter bite that any hop head would set sail for. This NEIPA can be found on draft and in to-go cans at the brewery. The ABV is 7.2%.

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Captain’s Daughter (Grey Sail Brewing)
Favorite DIPA (two years in a row!)

Congrats to head brewer Rich Welsh for making this award-winning beer. Captain’s Daughter is based on a home recipe that was tweaked until it got to its current form.

I asked Rich why he thinks this DIPA stands out against all the DIPAs available from RI breweries. “I am always a little surprised that CD keeps winning when you consider all the quality beers and brewers we have in the state now. I think there’s something to be said about consistency and the level of availability in the market. I also think that it’d become somewhat of an outlier in relation to most IPAs out there. While it’s certainly not the most bitter IPA you can find, it doesn’t shy away from bitterness either. It’s a nice reminder of what people used to think of when they heard IPA, now that New England IPAs are the norm.” Well said Rich! I agree. I hang out with the “Daughter” almost every weekend. 

Captain’s Daughter is heavily hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops. This 8.5% ABV DIPA has a golden hazy pour and scent of citra that is also dominant in the palate. It packs a delicious bitter bite that lingers on the end sip. You can find Captain’s Daughter at the brewery, local bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.

– Kelly Lynn Currier

Here are the winners from the 2023 Food Truck and Drink Awards:

Favorite Amber/Red/Brown Ale- Angry Crab Amber Ale by Lops Brewing
Favorite Blonde/Cream Ale- Spec Ops by Vigilant Brewing
Favorite Light/Pale Ale- Kolsch Style Ale by Lops Brewing
Favorite Lager/Kolsch- Kolsch by Buttonwoods Brewery
Favorite Pilsner/Czech- Bohemian Pilsner by Narragansett Brewery
Favorite New England IPA- Quit Playin’ with Your Dinghy! by Vigilant Brewing
Favorite DIPA+- Captain’s Daughter by Grey Sail Brewing of RI
Favorite Other IPA- RISE IPA by Whalers Brewing
Favorite Wheat/Witbier- Blueberry American Wheat by Crooked Current Brewery
Favorite Stout/Porter/Strong- Penny by Six Pack Brewing
Favorite Farmhouse/Saison/Sour- Peanut Butter Jelly by Vigilant Brewing
Favorite Hard Cider- Rhody Coyote by Newport Vineyards
Favorite Wine: Red/Rosé- Gemini Red by Newport Vineyards
Favorite Wine: White/Sparkling- Great White by Newport Vineyards
Favorite Spirits: Gin/Vodka-Coffee Black Walnut Vodka by RI Spirits/Rhodium
Favorite Spirits: Other Maple Flavored Whiskey by Sons of Liberty
Favorite Craft Cocktail/Seltzer Strawberry Rhubarb Seltzer by The Guild
Favorite Best Name- Quit Playin’ with Your Dinghy! by Vigilant Brewing
Favorite Best Can Art- Block Island IPA by Lops Brewing
Most Write-In Votes- Ollie by Six Pack Brewing
Overall Favorite Drink- Vigilant Brewing
Overall Favorite Drink Runner Up- Six Pack Brewing
Overall Favorite Drink Third Place- Newport Vineyards
Favorite Burgers- Haven Brothers
Favorite Hot Dogs/Sausages/Weiners- Sam’s NY System
Favorite BBQ- Little B’s BBQ
Favorite Grilled Cheese- Championship Melt
Favorite Other Cheese- Mac Daddy
Favorite Seafood- Iggy’s RI
Favorite Tacos- Poco Loco Tacos
Favorite Latin Influence- Espanglish Empenadas
Favorite Asian Influence- Ming’s Asian Street Food
Favorite Italian Influence- Hook N Ladder Pizza Co.
Favorite Vegan/Vegetarian/Cruelty-Free- Incred-A-Bowl
Favorite Gluten-Free- Chicked Out Nuggz
Favorite Fries- Friskie Fries
Favorite Breakfast & Brunch- Presto Strange O Coffee
Favorite Coffee- Presto Strange O Coffee
Favorite Dessert – Lu Lu’s Little Pancakes
Favorite Dessert: Frozen- Kona Ice
Favorite Food Truck with Storefront- Friskie Fries
Favorite Graphics- Chicked Out Nuggz
Favorite New Truck- Chicked Out Nuggz
Favorite All Weather Warrior- Friskie Fries
Favorite Other Ethnic-The Ish
Favorite Location/Festival- Food Truck Friday at Mulligan’s Island
Favorite Pop-Up- Mac Daddy
Favorite Portable Not-Quite-Truck- Tricycle Ice Cream
Favorite Outdoor Treat (Not a truck)- Mr. Lemon
Favorite Locally Manufactured Food- Del’s Lemonade
Favorite New Locally Created Product- Kristi’s Kraftails
Favorite Farmer’s Market- Farm Fresh RI (PVD)
Overall Favorite Food Truck- Friskie Fries
Overall Favorite Food Truck Runner Up- Chicked Out Nuggz
Overall Favorite Food Truck Third Place- Mac Daddy
Best Potato Products- The Hot Potato RI
Most Unique Offering -Twisted T’s
Most Write-In Votes- South County Barbeque

See the 2022 winners and a video from last year.

Food Trucks: