I had heard of the Blue Room before, but in about the same capacity that I’d heard of Blue Beard. Or Black Beard for that matter. It was something that had been mentioned once or twice in passing; most people didn’t know where it was or how to get there. It was Narnia and dual degree students seemed to be the only ones who knew how to
climb through the wardrobe find it.
It wasn’t until my third year at RISD that I realized it was right in front of me the whole time. There it was, right on the way to Thayer. It wasn’t very blue, but it sold red velvet cupcakes the size of small children, so I was happy. A new place to spend all my income on pastries so close to studio, the Blue Room was a pleasant surprise. But I was a little shocked that it had taken me so long to realize it even existed, and that non-Brown students could go. Then it occurred to me: if I know so little about navigating the Brown greens after three years of living across the street, chances are there are probably a few Brown students who know just as little about RISD. Providence is small community, and yet Brown and RISD, while close in physical proximity, can feel so separate and far away from one another. Food could be a good way to bridge that gap. Because honestly, whats more compelling than a well-made sandwich?
Consider this course in your shopping schedule: a crash course on RISD dining. If you’re looking to return to Providence in the new year with some new places to eat, you probably will find that this course will provide you with invaluable information.
1) The Met
When it’s open: Monday–Friday: 7 a.m.– 11 p.m, Saturday: 8 a.m.– 8 p.m, Sunday: 8 a.m.– 11 p.m.
Predominately a freshman dining hall, it’s attached to the freshman quad and school fitness center on Waterman Street (and yes, we have a fitness center. It’s about the size of your computer screen). The Met has a pizza oven (thin-crust), salad bars, a sushi chef, to-order grill, fro-yo machine, vegetarian/vegan bar, soups, ice cream, desert bar, weekend waffle machine, enough cereal to last through the apocalypse, all day French fries and chicken strips and a wonderful man named George who works and MCs the grill. The vinyl chairs can be sticky if you don’t move around; people have been known to be stuck in the Met refilling on fro-yo for seven to eight hours at a time. If you can, try to make it to gay pride day in the spring: the staff go all out with decorations, music, and the menu albeit with some degree of controversy (e.g. the 2012 heated debate about “homofries” instead of homefries for breakfast). It’s all in good spirit and the staff really care about the students.
2) Portfolio Café
When it’s open: Monday–Friday: 7 a.m.– 8:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday: 9 a.m.– 8:30 p.m.
It’s in the 15 Westminster building where the Fleet Library is located; and if you haven’t been to the Fleet Library, shame on you and your family and your neighbors and pets. The portfolio has a to-order grill, soup, thick-crust pizza, salad bar, a pho (i.e. Vietnamese noodle) bar, muffins and cookies, take-out meals, and snacks. It sometimes has student art work hanging on the walls, but more often it plays graphic nature documentaries on the flat screen in the seating area, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.
3) Watermark Café
When it’s open: Monday–Friday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The Watermark is one of my favorite places to eat on campus. It’s nestled in the back of the RISD Store on North Main up a flight of spiral stairs. The coffee is better here than at the Met or Portfolio, and it’s probably because there’s an espresso machine. There’s a big selection of drinks and to-go items like cheese platters, burritos, pastries, desserts, edamame, and sushi. The to-order food is also more specific and seasonal. Fan favorites are the goat cheese bruschetta, salads, nachos, and anything involving the words pumpkin or squash. The windows overlook the canal and the balcony overlooks the RISD store.
4) Carr Haus Café
When it’s open: Mon–Thurs: 8:30 a.m.–12 a.m., Friday: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday: 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
Carr Haus is across the street from the RISD beach or “green,” which is at the intersection of Benefit and Waterman. As a former employee/makeshift barista at Carr Haus, I will testify that frequenting it too often will make you fat. With the biggest selection of coffee and drinks, Carr Haus also has pastries from Seven Stars bakery, bagels, calzones, pita chips, and to-order sandwiches. Carr Haus has also recently introduced Nutella and bubble tea, and on Fridays, it sells Duck and Bunny cupcakes. The space also functions as a gallery and study area and meeting place. It’s entirely student-run and -operated and the service is notoriously slow, so the gallery part comes in handy while you’re waiting. Just watch out if you go around 1:00 p.m.—it’s really busy right before studio classes start.
5) Jolly Roger Sandwiches
When it’s open: Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Jolly Roger is on North Main Street by the BEB Architecture Building and Industrial Design Studios. It has really good sweet and savory sandwiches and wraps, and all of them come with a free side. You can build your own or go off the menu and get the “A Funky Monkey,” the house special which includes a wheat wrap with fresh ground peanut butter, Nutella, and raspberry preserves wrapped around a whole banana and served warm with your choice of a free side. The women who work there are great and know the inherent beauty and musical stylings of TLC, Lauryn Hill, Aliyah, and Beyonce (with and without Destiny’s Child). You can pick up studio snacks, pieces of cake, and cookies while you jam out to these employees’ favorite artists.
6) The Rosie Food Truck
When it’s open (or out): 10 p.m.–1 a.m.
The Rosie Truck comes out at night—it either sets up camp outside the illustration building on North Main and Waterman or outside the Industrial Design Studio further down the street. It has a slew of greasy, salty food, but it also has healthier options. The Rosie Truck is a great option for a late-night meal.
Come down the Hill and try all of these incredible eateries. You really don’t know what you’re missing. See you there!