On my recent visit to Ives Street on the East Side of Providence, I was struck by the number of restaurants spanning only a few blocks — Asian cuisine, Syrian cuisine, Mexican food, American food, ice cream shops, dive bars, coffee shops and donuts. And as an experienced food tour guide (ahem), I wanted to help Motif readers by putting together my own Tour de Ives.
If you’ve never been on a food tour, you are missing out on one of the greatest developments of human civilization. It’s basically a walking tour that involves a few food stops, a bit of history and an awesome guide (ahem) to lead the way.
Since this is a DIY tour, you will — unfortunately — miss not only my charming personality, but also the pre-orchestrated perks of an actual food tour. Here are some helpful notes:
- Take some friends to maximize the food-tasting experience. Remember, sharing is caring.
- Not all of the restaurants have the same hours. I imagine this tour beginning at lunchtime on a Friday or Saturday.
- Wait times at restaurants vary. Be patient and tip well.
- You can go on this tour more than once, trying a different route (there are options!).
- An asterisk beside the restaurant implies that alcohol is available for purchase. And although it’s not explicitly noted, all of the restaurants listed can accommodate a vegetarian diet and most are vegan friendly.
Without further ado, here’s my suggestion for your Tour de Ives.
FIRST STOP: Coffee and Pastry
As Rhode Island’s first specialty donut shop, PVDonuts opened in 2016 and has since been featured in Cosmopolitan, Food & Wine, and Thrillist. Owned by JWU graduate Lori Kettelle and her husband, Paul, what began as a discussion around a campfire turned into a Rhode Island sensation. Their Friendsgiving Donut and ’90s-themed Dunkaroos put them on the map, but everything they create pushes the envelope of “is this really a donut?”
Here’s as an example of a weekend special: Brioche with cream cheese mousse + bourbon caramel filling, topped with brown sugar glaze, bourbon caramel swirl, pretzel crumble, bacon and a bacon brown butter blondie
These are more than just donuts; they’re an experience.
Note: They may sell out before the 3pm closing time.
Option 2: Silver Star Bakery @silverstarbakery, 150 Ives St
This Portuguese bakery has been running since 1988, when Eduarda Ferreira purchased it with her husband, Pedro. Bringing expertise straight from the Azores, this (predominately women-operated) establishment serves the best breads, rolls and pastries. They’re particularly proud of their Portuguese sweet bread (massa). Also worth trying is their version of custard cupcakes (queijada de nata), the most recognized dessert in Portugal.
Silver Star opens at 5am and closes at 7pm, meaning you can get your fill of pastry both before and after work, all week long.
Option 3): Malachi’s @malachis_cafe; 134 Ives St.
From coffee to smoothies to breakfast sandwiches, this family owned and operated business has what you’re looking for in the morning. Owner Joe Sousa has a connection to Portugal, with the name of the business extending back five generations to the Azores. Malachi’s has been on Ives for a lucky 13 years; they are the quintessential coffee shop.
With options like Peanut Butter Chocolate Cold Brew and Chai-stachio Lattes, they elevate the caffeinated beverage game. (You might even get lucky and snag a PVDonut from here, too.)
SECOND STOP: Small Bites*
Tallulah’s has been a beloved spot in Providence for nearly a decade, dishing out Mexican food staples — like tacos and burritos — that are flavorful, affordable and made from quality ingredients. Owner Jake Rojas knows his Mexican food, having grown up in El Paso, Texas. (For the record, as a native New Mexican who went to undergraduate 45 minutes from El Paso, I can say this is legit.) He moved to New England, the homeland of his wife and co-owner, Kelly Ann, where they first opened “Tallulah” in Newport. For seven years they’ve been in Providence, but they recently returned south and opened a storefront in Jamestown, with talk of a soon-to-be third location on the West Side.
My advice? Go for the tacos. They’re perfect as an appetizer (if you get one) or a meal (if you get 2 or 3). Plus, they’ve got margaritas and a spacious outdoor patio.
Image Credit: Tallulahs
THIRD STOP: Sweet or Savory
Youssef Akhtarini, his wife Reem and their six children, received the most unexpected announcement two years ago: Their bakery was nominated by Bon Appetit for Best New Restaurant of 2019. Having fled from war in Syria, they arrived to Rhode Island in 2016 with nothing except a giant rolling pin they acquired en route to the States. With help from Dorcas International Institute and some friends they made in Providence, they began selling baklava at churches and farmers markets, and soon this bakery became a possibility. When they opened the café in early 2019, they were met with overflowing support from the community.
Their menu includes Youssef’s famous baklava (chocolate pistachio is my favorite), and they offer an array of savory dishes: labneh, hummus and baba ghanoush; falafel and fatayer (a type of flatbread); and a chickpea dish called musabaha that’s my newfound comfort food.
Have some tea and choose your own adventure.
FOURTH STOP: Noodles
Option 1: Bee’s Thai Cuisine; 167 Ives St.
Named for the owner, Bee, whom you’ll likely find running in and out of the kitchen, this is a family-owned business serving authentic Thai food in a casual atmosphere. They took over the Ugly American (a hamburger spot, not just a cruel moniker) about eight years ago and have been a staple for the Brown and RISD crowd ever since.
If you want light fare, the mango spring rolls and Thai iced tea are must-tries. But let’s be real: You’re going to want thepPad Thai, or if you can handle a bit of heat, the spicy drunken noodles.
Note: They are BYOB … and Medeira Liquors is right down the street (just saying).
Image Credit: Brian S.
Option 2: Noodles 102, noodles102.com, 102 Ives St
Mustafa and Lisa Kuscu opened this restaurant in November 2007, imagining it as a traditional noodle house like those found in China for more than 1,000 years. They are best known for their customizable dishes. For example, for the custom noodle soups, you get to choose the type of noodle, the protein, the vegetables and the broth (chicken, spicy miso, coconut curry or vegetable). Or for the build-your-own rice bowl, you can choose the rice, protein and sauce.
Their specialty is the coconut curry broth as well as the Singapore noodles with stir fried skinny rice noodles, scallions, egg, bean sprouts, curry and a choice of beef, chicken, tofu or shrimp.
Note: They are BYOB, and they don’t open until 5pm.
Image credit: Karyssa Edwards
FIFTH STOP: Burgers*
After becoming a smash hit in Warren and winning annual awards (eg, from RI Monthly’s Best Burger of the East Bay seven years in a row to the #4 Burger in the Country by the Daily Meal), owner Sam Glynn opened a Providence location in early summer 2020. Despite the pandemic, devoted fans (like me!) were not deterred, and now both the indoor and outdoor dining areas are fully open — blessed day!
Chomp has a scratch kitchen, and this is what I know: As someone who doesn’t consider herself a “burger person,” I was the champion of their Attack the Stack challenge in 2015. These are undeniably amazing, from the House Burger to their specialties, like the Smoky Bandit — beef patty, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, smoky aioli, BBQ, crispy onion strings, pickled jalapeños. And as a bonus for those partaking in adult beverages, Chomp carries more than 30 craft beers, plus cocktails. Their Moscow Mule is perfect for summer.
SIXTH STOP: Ice Cream
Owner Vilada (Vi) Khammahavong surprised her parents when she deferred medical school to open a food truck in 2018. In Laos, where her parents are from, khao — pronounced “kow” — is the one of the most common food staples: rice. And when someone wants to emphasize what they’re saying, they repeat the word, which is how Vi came up with the name KowKow.
This shop specializes in bubble waffles, otherwise known as egg waffles, that have soft chewy “bubbles” instead of indentations via the typical waffle-iron, and this waffle forms the cone to hold gorgeous ice cream scoops. Some favorites include the Oreo Factory, Graham Canyon and Berry Nutty, plus there are weekly specials and vegan options. Get your camera ready: This is one of those spots where you’ll want to take a picture before you dive in.
Image credit: Jenny Currier
Consider them world famous: Like No Udder started the world’s first all vegan soft serve ice cream truck! In the early 2000s, owners Karen and Chris — who have a combined vegetarian/vegan experience of 47 years — opened their first vegan business that specialized in a variety of desserts, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they transitioned to the “Betsy Lou” ice cream truck that later turned into a storefront.
One would think that an ice cream devoid of dairy, eggs, animal fats and honey would taste … like it was devoid of the best ingredients, but this tastes creamy and rich with flavor. My favorites are the Thai Tea and Key Lime.
Image credit: Jenny Currier
SEVENTH STOP: The Pub*
Captain Seaweeds @captain_seaweeds; 162 Ives St.
My first experience at Captain Seaweeds was in 2014 for a Halloween-themed pub crawl, and what I remember most was that they served beer for a dollar. Even if you aren’t brave enough to try The Captain Seaweed Lager or their “$2 ‘no comment’ Jungle Juice,” it’s worth visiting just for the décor: the walls and ceilings are covered in nautical pictures and posters, pirates, hula dancers and sea creature memorabilia is scattered about — not to mention the outdoor patio. You have to see it to believe it.
As the oldest establishment on the tour — over 130 years in Fox Point! — it’s an institution. You can rest assured that patrons no longer carry knives in their corsets, and now that college students are regulars, it’s less dicey than it used to be. It’s the perfect place to end the Tour de Ives.