This week at Amuse-Bouche, we’re shaking things up a little. A recent jaunt up Hope Street returned not one but two great finds in the grab-lunch-and-chill-out category. Three Sisters and its neighbor Wildflour are like Tia and Tamara or Mary Kate and Ashley (only a lot less annoying than either set of twins): They share the best things in common, probably have overlapping crowds, and seem the same on the surface, but deep down they’re like yin and yang. Three Sisters, a way-casual café, is known for its home-churned ice cream; Wildflour is vegan. Three Sisters is aggressively no-frills; Wildflour is bougie. Both sell themselves with that beautiful combination of freshly made foodstuffs, coffee and smoothies, free WiFi, and plenty of space for camping out. Only one problem: HOW TO CHOOSE?! Here’s the lowdown on both to help you decide.
As first impressions go, Wildflour brings the swag. Huge windows, a nifty skylight, and minimalist hip décor are enough to make you forget that it’s located in a strip mall (Garden Grille and Rasoi are neighbors). The furniture’s made of stripey blonde wood, which makes everything feel radiant and clean and fresh before you’ve had so much as a sip of fresh juice. A little patio, complete with lawn chair and clutch pocket of sunshine, adds to the charm.
Down the block at Three Sisters, the vibe is more homely and wholesome with a hint of DGAF. Local art hangs on the walls until it’s sold; menus are advertised either on chalkboard wallpaint (adorable… seriously… chalkboard paint is one of the best inventions of all time) or massive sheets of wrinkly butcher paper (kinda janky). Generally, when you walk through the front door, nothing jumps out as impressive or cool. But this is okay! That’s what makes it so ticklingly cozy. When you grab your own silverware and sort your own dishes, you don’t feel pampered, but you do feel right at home.
I’ll admit that as a non-vegan, I figured Wildflour’s baked goods were destined to fail. I was wrong: the banana bread’s rich enough on its own to compensate for a lack of dairy, and the chewy cookies are tasty in their own right, as are the cupcakes (in flavors like raspberry tiramisu, no less!). The more blatantly vegan desserts — raw chocolate ganache and a coconutty spin on the Oreo called a raw-reo — definitely taste vegan, in a good way; they’re not sad imitations but rather a whole new beast (pun intended). Forgo the cardboard-y breadier things like scones and muffins in favor of smoothies and juice from the kitschily named farmacy. The menu, which incorporates the usual fruits and veggies but also leafy greens and exotic stuff, spans from supa-smooth hydraulic pressed juices to dense smoothies. The winner of everything is the breakfast smoothie: Strawberries, blueberries, and soy milk are blended with, somehow, GRANOLA. IN A BLENDER. Are you freaking out? Because I am.
Still, Wildflour deserves some credit for its less-hyped savory snacks. Kale chips are crunchy enough that you’ll feel a little disruptive if you munch ’em in the stacks; salads, like one with quinoa, sesame, kale, and ginger, will generally make you feel like a better person. No word on the raw lasagna or “tuna” salad sandwich, but y’all should try them and report back. Oh, and as a sweet bonus, there’s full coffee service. Biggest drawback? The smugness you’ll get from being so healthy comes with a price: it’s f***in’ expensive. Way around this: leave your card at home and bring only as much cash as you want to spend.
After all this talk of kale, Three Sisters’ dairy fare is a welcome change. Breakfast — eggs, breakfast burritos, pancakes — is easy enough to find near campus and aren’t worth the trip. Instead, go for lunch (or later: they’re open till 10 most nights) for café basics like panini, wraps, and tacos. Petey’s panini brings together perfectly ripe avocado, unbelievably crispy bacon and plenty of turkey in grilled whole-grain flatbread. Nothing dazzling (and $8.95 is a bit much to ask for it), but the few ingredients are of great quality, and the whole is like nothing I’ve found on College Hill. There’s also a chalkboard menu devoted to relaying the message that “IT’S ALL GOUDA.” Not sure why gouda ever left or why it’s only back for a limited time, but melty gouda, bacon, and warm apple on a butter croissant is something you should get while it’s hot.
But the real reason to keep going back to Three Sisters is for dessert. All ice cream is made in-house, down to the nubs of chocolate chip cookie dough, which leaves room for flavors to get pretty interesting (currently they’re offering khulfi, which has cinnamon, cardamom, and pistachio; aptly named Peanut Butter Heaven has Heath bits and generous swirls of PB in a creamy chocolate base). King of them all is Dirty Garden Mint, which tastes nothing like your average mint chocolate chip ice cream and more like a freshly plucked mint leaf. Prices are reasonable ($2.75 for a small), and you also have the option to make it into a FREESTER: think milkshake + coffee. Mmm, caffeeeeeeeine.
For most students, there’s little more beautiful than a sunny place to hang out (for homework, brunch, dates, whatever) that has an endless flow of snacks. Wildflour and Three Sisters are two sides of this lovely coin: The former is a great place for Saturday afternoon whereas the latter is Sunday morning easy. Going into reading period, they’ll be welcome changes to Faunce marathons and the snack cart at the Rock.
How to get there: Take RIPTA #42, outbound, up Hope Street. Three Sisters is on the last official block of Providence, intersecting with Blackstone Boulevard; Wildflour is on the first official block of Pawtucket, where Hope turns into East Avenue.
High: Wildflour: the tasty, healthy, creative food that’ll make our brain cells zing for finals. Three Sisters: the conduciveness to set up camp all day, alternating between panini, ice cream, and freesters at study breaks.
Low: Wildflour: PRICES. You’re killin’ us, smalls. Three Sisters: a little frumptastic.
Bottom line: Go on Hopeful sojourns! Eat lunch! Then have dessert! Be vegan, dabble in veganism, or damn it all and have an ice cream sundae!