Amuse Bouche: A Family Weekend brunch guide

In a few days, hundreds of parents will descend upon Brown’s campus for Family Weekend, leaving their kids in a tizzy of where to go and what to do under all of that parental guidance again. Between the a capella concerts and campus tours, you’ll need to find a place to re-fuel – and this weekend is your chance to explore a restaurant that doesn’t accept Meal Credits, Points, or Bear Bucks as forms of acceptable payment. If they’re anything like my parents, yours will be dying to feed you (Honey, I just want to make sure you are eating enough fruits and vegetables?”) and maybe a few lucky friends whose parents don’t love them couldn’t make it this weekend. Here is a list of the best places to brunch this Family Weekend:

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Loui’s Restaurant

Loui’s is a classic Brown brunch choice. Take your family here to experience the authentic hangover or post-all-nighter meal. The family-run restaurant is practically a campus monument, and its food selection ranges from eggs to pancakes to barbecue chicken ravioli. And hey, they can even say they’ve been to a Guy Fieri-approved institution!

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Meeting Street Cafe

Though Meeting Street Cafe is most well known for its desserts, it’s also a great option for a local Family Weekend brunch. Conveniently located right below Pembroke Campus, Meeting Street Cafe features a menu that is almost as large as its inanely-massive cookies. Oh, and it’s BYOB if you’re tempted to explore your new “collegiate” identity with your family.

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The Duck and Bunny 

This “snuggery” tucked away on Wickenden St. appears to have popped right out of Alice in Wonderland and provides a cozy respite from the hustle and bustle of College Hill. Its menu offers classic sweet and savory crepes, as well as specialty creations like their “Creperrito” and “Eggs-Bun-a-Duck.” Make sure to save room for dessert –  their cupcakes are what dreams are made of.

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Amuse Bouche: The Olive Tap

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The newest edition to Providence’s eclectic Wayland Square is The Olive Tap, an artisanal olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting emporium. I think we can all agree that a solid bread-olive oil-vinegar combination can elevate any meal. Looking to impress your next dinner companions? Searching for a way to enhance your favorite salad dressing recipe? The Olive Tap is your next stop for perfecting your future culinary creations.

The Olive Tap, located at 485 Angell St., offers you the opportunity to sample and purchase the finest Extra Virgin and flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars of Modena. Choose from the rows of oil and vinegar dispensed directly from their sealed “Fusti” (serving tanks). The basic premise is as follows: you walk in, greeted by rows of shining silver containers of oil and vinegar, terrines of French bread, and as many tasting cups as you can hold. You’re welcome to try one or all of their delicious offerings, mixed and matched, with bread or straight out of the serving cup, shot style. With flavors ranging from White Truffle Olive Oil to Espresso Vinegar, the  permutations are endless. If that isn’t enough, The Olive Tap has an enormous collection of culinary sauces, marinades, gourmet pastas and international specialty foods for purchase. Continue Reading


Amuse-Bouche: north

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Tucked away in Luongo Square, you might find yourself standing in front of a tiny restaurant with soft lights shining through the window. Inside, you can make out a backlit bar with rows of obscure liquor bottles and, almost without a doubt, a crowd of hungry hopefuls waiting for a table. On the bottom right of the facade, you can vaguely make out a neon sign that reads “north” in blue script writing. Then you will know you’re in the right place.

north (sic), an Asian Fusion restaurant located in East Providence, has food that makes up in flavor twofold what the restaurant lacks in space. It offers dishes that are both irreverent and delicious; seemingly strange, yet expectation-shattering in the best way possible. The chef, James Mark, attributes the restaurant’s success to the collaborative forces that drive the culinary team. Starchefs.com calls Mark not a head chef, but the leader of “a collective, a group of cooks who are making great culinary and community strides in Providence.” The restaurant website features bios of every staff member from head chef to dishwasher; Mark emphasizes that a successful restaurant is only the product of its driven and talented staff members.

Chef James Mark of North – Providence, RI

The menu is small, but it changes daily based on seasonality. A slushie machine swirls behind the bar, filled with a daily alcoholic frozen concoction of the bartender’s choosing. A group of six diners sit at the bar, slurping down raw oysters served on a bed of crushed ice right in front of them. The five-or-so table restaurant is dimly lit and warm; the servers are dressed in ripped denim and clogs, undoubtedly with a facial piercing or two. Make sure you show up dressed casually – and with an appetite.

Due to the nature and size of the dishes, I have found that north is best experienced by going with a group of two or more. The plates vary in size, though most are closer to tapas-sized than full plates. That being said, the dishes also tend to be very rich, so a little often goes a long way. It is best to go with an adventurous group that also favors family-style-dining.

My most recent trip to north was no less exciting than the first meal I had there over a year ago. My two friends and I scoured the menu and, as usual, were able to identify only about half of the ingredients in each dish. (What exactly is quince jam and why do I want to eat it? Hoz-what?) Unfamiliarity aside, we had no issue choosing four dishes to share among us. In fact, the greatest challenge proved to be resisting the temptation to order everything.

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Amuse-Bouche: Yan’s Cuisine

There’s always a sense of anticipation surrounding an empty storefront on College Hill. Sure, we might long for the days when an incredibly useful convenience store occupied the corner of Thayer and Euclid — take the hint, local entrepreneurs — but coupled with that desolation is hope for the future: someday, some new business is coming in there. Eventually.

Brunonians who frequent the eastern end of campus had become used to this feeling while staring at the façade that once was Iron Wok. Luckily, Yan’s Cuisine, a Chinese restaurant reminiscent of its predecessor, opened up a few weeks ago in the once-abandoned storefront on the corner of Brook and Benevolent. The newcomer offers a surprisingly diverse set of options. You can go for dishes typical of Americanized Chinese fare (General Tso’s chicken, steamed pork dumplings, egg rolls, etc.), or you can be brave and try one of an impressive selection of less popular items, like “House Special Neck Bone” and “Lion’s Head Meat Ball.” (Ed. – We’re taking submissions for artistic renderings of the latter dish).

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Amuse-Bouche: Biggie and Brunch at Farmstead

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Are you in search of the weirdest possible dining experience in the greater Providence area? Look no further than Farmstead’s Biggie and Brunch offering on the first Sunday of every month. Farmstead, which usually operates as a popular and trendy cheese shop and restaurant, opens its doors for brunch only once a month. But when it does, it does so in style, with a DJ booth, standing speakers, and absolutely blasted tunes from the one and only Notorious B.I.G.

The menu is split into larger plates listed as “Biggies” and smaller plates listed as, you guessed it, “Smalls.” The dishes themselves don’t seem to be Biggie-themed, though they are certainly a bit unorthodox: the brown sugar waffle comes with fairly sweet ten-spice chicken wings; the only bagels offered are the house pretzel bagels; the “Smalls” offerings include potato latkes served with shortrib. You also have the chance to order one of the several Biggie and Brunch cocktails listed on the cocktail menu under the first four lines of “Juicy.”

Whether you enjoy your Biggie and Brunch adventure is likely a matter of context. The food is probably more appealing to a connoisseuring foodie than to the layman—I found it tasty but perhaps overly experimental at times. And the ambience experiment probably works a lot better for a late morning out with friends or even a really weird hipster first date than it does for an afternoon lunch with your visiting mother. Regardless, the brunch has been a remarkable success, and Farmstead encourages interested patrons to call for April reservations today (seriously) if they hope to get in. If you do secure a spot, you probably won’t forget your Biggie and Brunch any time soon.


Amuse-Bouche: The Grange

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Walking into The Grange on a Thursday evening was a warm respite from the biting Providence cold. Candles in mismatched mason jars light the rustic interior of this spacious restaurant tucked away in Federal Hill, the walls are decorated with eclectic art and menu specials, and a full bar is illuminated by blue string lights. A combination of low tables, high-top seating, and a long communal table is scattered throughout the restaurant, and my party and I were led to a cozy spot in a corner booth. The Grange, brought to us by the same owners of popular Providence eateries Garden Grille and Wildflour Vegan Bakery, is dedicated to “elevating diners’ perceptions and experience of vegetables,” according to the restaurant’s website. Though the menu is limited to vegetarian items, I can assure you that a lack of meat does not take away from the variety and complexity of the food offered here.

The Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule

The dinner menu is broken down into three categories: “Small(ish),” “Medium,” and “Large(r)” plates. The selection ranged from Deviled Eggs and Scallion Pancake Rolls, to a mushroom Po’ Boy and Winter Risotto, all featuring fresh, seasonal produce in innovative combinations with one another. You might categorize the cuisine as “Farm-to-Table” with an Asian influence. The cocktail menu featured classic offerings like the Tom Collins and The Old Fashioned as well as the “Mai Tai Foster,” The Grange’s “House Cocktail of the Moment.” We, however, settled on the restaurant’s “Moscow Mule,” a surprisingly spicy and tangy drink that featured Prairie organic vodka, Grange ginger, and lime.

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