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This blog may be dormant for over a year, but I haven't and neither has the Providence food scene.
I don't generally like to write about restaurants that I only dine at once, but given the lack of bits here recently, and the likelihood of getting back to Bistro 19 in Mount Lebanon any time soon, I thought it would be good to practice my typing. (eating is always pretty well practiced)
Bistro 19 is an upscale restaurant on the main drag of Mount Lebanon, just south of Pittsburgh offering America fusion cuisine. An extensive wine list is available, categorized not just by color or type, but also by dominant flavor characteristics, such as spicy and bold, refreshing, etc. We opted for an inexpensive Spanish Rioja.
Salads were a mix of interesting and standard. For the slightly unusual, a pear and beet salad was offered and good, well balanced with a not overly sweet vinaigrette and candied walnuts. Other salads that we tried were the Caesar, spinach and mixed green salads.
Many items on the menu are locally sourced, where possible, but the menu does not maintain a slavish adherence to this, offering tilapia, basa, shrimp and other items from outside the area. I chose the Black Tiger Shrimp entree, which were butterflied and "stuffed". Served with an excellent Risotto, creamy and flavorful, that coupled extremely well with the rich wilted spinach and sauce of the base of the dish. I thought the shrimp and stuffing to be somewhat bland, with the rest of the dish being excellently prepared and thought out to provide very complementary flavors.
My companions ordered the duck breast entree, pumpkin ravioli and crab cakes. While no one was willing to let me taste their dishes, everyone was extremely happy with their entrees. I could see that the crab cakes were compose primarily of lump crab meat, with very little filler added to their very generous sizes. Easily 3 inches across and over an inch thick and served with smashed potatoes.'
While dessert was on offer, with such options as pumpkin creme brulee, with a pumpkin pie waiting at home, we gave these selections a miss.
Salads; $5, Entrees: $15-$30, Wine: $8-$14/glass, $30+ per bottle.
On a recent road trip, I had the chance to revisit an old standby that any city could not do wrong to emulate. In any market, finding a good bar that offers a generous selections of taps that rotate with some frequency is great for those of us who don't have a standard beer. Providence has several such places in the form of Doherty's and Wickenden Pub, and probably others that I haven't heard of or visited yet. The beer connoisseur's pub, as it were.
What I haven't seen in any city besides Pittsburgh, and apparently now also Cleveland, is a pub that combines that with an awesome menu of creative and consistently well executed pub food. Beyond the basic's of burger formulations, wing sauces from mild to waiver required, and other sandwiches, Fatheads offers what I've found to be the best pub food to be found anywhere I've yet tried. And with over ten years of experiencing their menu and ever changing beer selections and staff knowledgeable about the beers that are on offer, every trip to Pittsburgh for me includes a visit to this place for a Headwich, burger, salad, sub or wings.
This isn't to say that every item on the menu is excellent, and errors have occurred. Once, in the long history of coming here, burgers had to be sent back for being improperly cooked. The vegetarian sub isn't very good. And I still haven't tried everything on the menu. Much more challenging now that I live in Providence and get my favorites on each visit.
Image via Wikipedia
My favorites, in no particular order because it all depends on the day, are the Bay of Pigs, an excellent interpretation of a cuban sandwich, the three pepper burger, the jalapeno cheesesteak, beasty barbecue wings and the taco salad that seems to contain an entire head of iceberg lettuce. Oh, and don't overlook the honey-mustard, a must order side for dipping the generous servings of well cooked chips or fries.
Servers have come and gone, been given unkind nicknames and consistently been knowledgeable about the beers on tap and in bottles and willing to put up with the antics of a table for 12 or 14 out to have a good time almost weekly or a table of 4 with a 6 month old in a car seat.
When I and my friends first started coming to the place, it occupied a narrow first floor of an old row home, and could seat about 40 people, with weeknight waits well over an hour. Back then, in addition to the rotating taps, a very large bottle collection was available. Eventually, the dining room was expanded to a second building allowing for seating for about 100 people, and the beer focus shifted almost exclusively to drafts, with about 40 taps and a cask being offered. Most recently they've redone their outdoor seating area to include a roof, allowing another 20 or so, partnered with Rogue for private label brews, and added one cask selection which rotates just about weekly.
And I hear they have desert. And soup. *
* It wasn't until going here for well over 8 years that we discovered that they served desert. it was over 10 years before we knew they had soups...and they weren't recent additions when the servers told us this.
1059 Park Ave
Cranston, RI 02910
Eat'n Park with an Italian influence. If you aren't from Western Pennsylvania, that remark probably doesn't make any sense. Think a dineresque family restaurant, kinda like a Cumberland Farms or Denny's.
Another week, another lunch out with the guys from work. Though this week, half the group ended up having "breakfast" for lunch in the form of giant omelets. The rest of us went for more traditional fare, though all with interesting names, such as the "the Supermodel", "Big Mambo".
Mine was the Big Mambo, a new to me, interpretation of a classic eggplant sandwich. Not an eggplant parm, per se, with no tomato sauce, but rather with bread slathered in a very well put together pesto sauce (disclosure, I'm not a fan of pesto, in general). The eggplant was well fried, the breading being nice and crisp, only mildly oily, and the eggplant cooked to to perfect tenderness without going all the way to mush. For a side I chose the squash seasonal without asking, expecting a fried squash, instead receiving a delicious cup of cubed, sweet butternut squash and raisins. While the squash didn't accompany the sandwich very well, the sweetness being too much of a contrast to the flavors of the sandwich, neverless an excellent preparation.
I apparently had a very disorganized brain, as I also decided to try the eggnog flavored coffee that was on offer. The flavor wasn't strong enough for me to really notice it, but the smell was there, inspiring me to start plotting my eggnog batches over the next several months.
The omelets were huge and reported as delicious. The sausage and cheese omelet reported to contain "real" sausage, instead of some frozen prepackaged food service item.
Atmosphere is typical family restaurant, nothing particularly special to call it out, breakfast served all day, coffee freely flowing (including eggnog and gingerbread flavors).
Price Range: $7-10 for lunch entrees, $5-10 for breakfast items.
Date of Dining: December 5, 2008
3 Steeple Street
125 Canal Street
Providence Rhode Island 02903
Situated in one of the oldest industrial buildings in the country (read their web page for more info), the building has a unique feel with exposed beams and posts and a combination of brick and stone walls. The lighting is kept dim, yielding an intimate feel. Tables are adequately spaced to feel like you have some privacy from neighboring tables. Walking in is an interesting experience, as the front entry is very narrow and cavelike, with nothing to see ahead but an opening onto one end of the bar.
Start out with the awesome. Best Creme Brulee I or my mother have ever had. The custard was perfectly smooth. It was a pleasure to move a bite around the mouth and wait for it to warm up. Absolutely no graininess. The caramelized sugar on top was a thick, even, crisp layer across the entire top. Continuing with the best part of dinner, my dessert was very good.
I'm very picky about my bread puddings, having grown up eating a custard concoction made from day old home made bread, arguably more custard than bread. I find that most restaurants bread puddings are dense, compacted and dry loaves of torn, seasoned bread. I must admit, I was happy to experience a lightly custardy dish of good bread, crisp on the exposed tops of the bread jutting from the custard base, and with the lower bread well integrated with a discernible custard. My mother's only complaint about desert was the lack of espresso and cappuccino.
The rest of our dining experience, while very tasty, had minor issues. All of the dishes that we ordered came out and seemed to be over cooked. My seared Ahi tuna was more to medium than rare and dry as a result. The wasabi mashed potatoes were good, but I found that the wasabi flavor was too subtle for me to detect. Finally, I found the accompanying vegetables very good, with a nice light sauce, reminiscent of a teriyaki, but lighter and better tasting.
My dining companions also mentioned that the chicken and duck seemed to be somewhat overdone or perhaps just cooked too close to the broiler. The Chicken Florentine was very good, but the tough and dry outside layer of chicken and tip detracted from the overall effect, though I was told it was accompanied very well as leftovers with my own homemade chicken giblet gravy. The Samurai Phils 5 Spice Duck was also very tasty, but slightly dry.
For appetizer, we shared the mediteranean plate, which featured an overly parsleyed tabouleh, an extremely good, if garlicy hummus, baba gahoush and fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. The plate had bland canned black olives substituted for the kalamata olives, a dissapointing choice.
We shared a very good bottle of wine, at 3.5 times the per glass cost, we felt it was a reasonable price. The wine menu is limited, covering the basic wine pallet, no outstanding choices, but no poor choices either.
Price Range: $18 - $25 entrees, $8-15 appetizers
Recommended? Needs further investigation. The desert's were great, dinners were good, perhaps just a little off the night I dined. Great, cozy atmosphere.
Date of Dining: November 28.