Located in the Jewelry District on Richmond Street, The Village is the newest incarnation for the building that has most recently been home to the Southern-style brunch spot, Succotash.
Heading out on a bright and beautiful autumnal day to catch breakfast at this new haunt, I was keen to see if The Village’s menu would live up to the great brunch sessions I enjoyed at its predecessor.
First, it’s only fair to say that The Village is not exclusively a brunch spot, offering itself as “a café, bruncheonette, bar, and live music and dance club.” The Village is keen to impress a wide demographic.
The first thing that’s immediately noticeable upon entering The Village is the atmosphere; while everyone is polite and welcoming, the decor is clearly geared more to their nighttime set-up. No doubt enhanced by the incredibly bright day we were entering from, the space, with its dark walls, stage and dance floor area, was certainly a stark contrast to the sunny day we stepped in from.
With a little help from a pretty votive candle and the incredibly sunny disposition of our server, we found our table and got stuck into the menu.
One of the first things I noticed (possibly as a non-American to whom mental sales tax arithmetic still causes a major mind-melting moment at the end of the meal) was that tax is included in all the prices. Many a time I’ve seen a crowd of hungover students almost crying with the effort of splitting the bill between 20 of them after a booze-absorbing breakfast. This seems like an incredibly simple and elegant way of making the place incredibly seductive for large groups, the lure for hungover youngsters starting to make sense of the low lighting.
The second thing, also related to price, is how entirely reasonable it was. It’s often tricky to find a happy middle ground between cheap and cheerful diner style dining and upscale fancy brunching; while the menu was concise, it had all the key brunch players in place and didn’t appear to be charging for the privilege of having a votive candle and ice water at the table.
My Bloody Mary (c’mon, it’s brunch — of course I ordered a Bloody Mary) was rich and mellowly spiced, while the coffee was hot, fresh and kept on coming.
We ordered up a bunch of brunch, partly because we were hungry and partly because the prices made it seem rude not to.
Looking around the space while we waited for our orders, there were more signs that The Village is keen to impress its late night crowd. While not to the detriment of the exclusively daytime visitors, it feels a bit like brunch might be geared more toward those who were leaning over the neon-pink-bubble-tube-backed bar the night before, rather than the organic crowd on their way back from the farmers market.
We didn’t have long to take in the surroundings as our food arrived in incredible time. While speed of service is always hoped for, when it comes to breakfast I feel the quicker you can get hungry people fed the far happier they will be. Suffice to say we were delighted.
A basket of warm crumbly biscuits with a pot of sweet butter were up first. Generous in size, rich in texture and delicious with a savory hint of cheddar alongside the sweet butter, these biscuits confirmed we were in for a darn good brunch.
I went for the staple chicken and waffles and my brunch buddy plumped for the hash brown skillet with cheese and egg, which might be my new ‘the morning after the night before’ go-to.
Served up in an individual hot skillet, the base of hash brown was generously topped with egg, cheese, and (in his case) a serious portion of steak. With the option to build your own, the skillet opens up the options for brunch to pizza-like levels, with various available toppings listed according to price to choose from with gay abandon.
Baked in the skillet, the hash soaks up the juices from the toppings, has the egg and cheese melt into it, and crisps around the edges like a stone-cooked Korean bibimbap. Simple in its essence, this all-in-one style cooking was honest, plentiful and delicious.
My chicken and waffles, while not the largest portion of protein I’ve ever been served, was spot-on flavor wise. Again, the emphasis seems to be doing classic or simple cooking well, getting it to the customers quickly, and making the entire transaction easy.
Rather than gargantuan, greedy and somewhat bloated serving sizes that are rife throughout many brunch spots in the city, the portion sizes at The Village are very astute. Though I must admit to at first being a little disappointed with the amount of chicken on my waffles, I finished my meal with waffles to spare, feeling completely replete and rather thankful there hadn’t been another tender daring me to consume it.
Service was attentive, swift and incredibly friendly, with calls of farewell from behind the bar as we left after settling the bill.
The Village is more than ‘cheap and cheerful,’ it is good value with great service. The whole experience is simple, easy and totally geared toward dining with friends, which really is the best way to enjoy brunch. While I’m yet to hit their new dance floor, belt out a karaoke classic or catch the game there, I’m certain that if I do I’ll be back the following morning ordering a skillet.
The Village, 373 Richmond St, Providence, 401-228-7222, thevillageri.com