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. [Read more →]
The interior designer of Rick’s Roadhouse has done
his her phe’s job. Taking in the surroundings as we waited for our food, my Puerto Rican dinner companion sighed, “This is what I thought America would be like.” It’s basically a glorified dive: walls decorated with miscellaneous Americana trinkets — taxidermied deer; a painting of the Phillips 66 logo; huge f*ckin’ American flag behind the bar — and waitresses wearing shirts that say “Wanna see a nice rack?” There are no windows(!) and plenty of room (including a 16-top table). It’s self-consciously kitschy, tapping into a strange lowbrow nostalgia that might as well be written into the U.S. Constitution.
The roadhouse theme comes through in the menu, too, which boasts sections like “Start Your Engines!” for appetizers and “Hit the Highway” for catering. It’s also reflected in an aggressive disdain for health food: the veggie burger is named “Burger for Bad Hunters,” and of the five salad options, two contain bacon, one contains steak and “fizzled corn tortillas,” and another is made up of iceberg lettuce. Do not order a salad here. It doesn’t make sense and everyone will probably laugh at you. Stick to what Rick’s knows best and we’ll all be happy. [Read more →]
With the proliferation of websites that bring restaurant reviews into the sphere of social networking (Yelp! Chowhound! Urban Spoon! Amuse-Bouche! food blogs everywhere!), bougies and trolls alike are mere keystrokes away becoming the next great food critic. Unadulterated praise is boring, and we at Blog will be the first to say that it’s fun to be snarky when snark is due. So a restaurant named Pakarang Exquisite Thai seems almost to be a challenge, a dare with two possible outcomes: either a truly exquisite meal or the easiest prey imaginable. (Full disclosure: it’s very easy prey.) Investigation was due.
From its post down on South Main, Pakarang attracts lots of people in suits. It’s got a similarly corporate-looking dining room: sprawling, with nondescript furniture, a vast unmanned bar, and strange aquarium-like wall decorations. In these ways, it’s the polar opposite of Sawaddee, the Thai place on the other side of College Hill, whose dining room is roughly the size of an Escalade. What they have in common is that they both fill up at lunchtime — all that space serves Pakarang well. Service is conducive to business lunches: attentive and quick but not all that personable, the waitstaff make it easy to chow down, go over the latest numbers, and GTFO (to your cubicle… or your 1:00 class). [Read more →]
Having just come back from Paris, the land of American-loathing (and self-loathing), I’m well acquainted with negative stereotypes surrounding the land of the free and home of the brave. Unabashedly greasy foods are at the top of the list, so Ugly American‘s name, while marvelously apt, doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
The menu contains renditions of nearly everything in the canon of lowbrow American nosh. The sandwich category is duly represented by the likes of pulled pork melts, BLTs, and beer-battered fish. There’s also a handful of hot dogs — including one, The Godzilla, that combines chili, caramelized jalapeños, and pepper rings in one overwhelmed bun — that are good but not great, with too much bun and not enough dog. Prices are incredibly fair, with sandwiches cheaper than those at the Blue Room (a grilled three-cheese is $3!) and the priciest hot dog weighing in at $2.75. But let’s not joke around. If you go to Ugly American, you must get a burger. [Read more →]
It’s easy to get cozily complacent in the bubble that is College Hill, and for good reason — we have pretty much everything we need, from hip/creepy coffee shops to multiple Irish pubs to the GCB. But Blue Room muffins can only satisfy a sweet tooth for so long, and those cake pops at Starbucks are freaking weird. That’s where Pastiche comes in. Tucked away on a back street of Federal Hill, it’s a whole new world from our collegiate haven… Evidently, a world filled with fancy cake.
The chipper yellow awning and blue-trimmed storefront are reminiscent of cafés on the cobblestone streets of quaint European villages. A dining room that seats about 25 is flanked on one side by a working fireplace and mural of the Italian countryside, on the other by dessert crazytown. A big glass display case contains made-in-house cakes, which are sold whole or by the slice; trays and shelves and towers spill with more treats. Welcome to your dream. [Read more →]
It’s hard to think of a less informative name for a restaurant than “Not Just Snacks” (a few ideas: “Cuisine”; “Sustenance”; “Eat Here So We Don’t Go Bankrupt”), but that’s exactly what one restaurant up Hope Street calls itself. A few more pertinent details: it’s Indian, BYOB and open everyday for dine-in or take-out. And, no, it’s not just snacks, although there’s a big display case of ready-made samosas and such right when you walk in the front door; the restaurant also offers a full lunch and dinner menu. An annex market across the street, Not Just Spices, sells specialty Indian groceries.
Clearly these guys want us to know that they’re more than meets the eye… but how much more, exactly? Perhaps more pressingly, what makes this place stand out from Kabob & Curry and Taste of India, both of which provide much more convenient ways to satisfy our masala cravings? For starters, it’s cozier, with a distinctly no-frills, mom-and-pop feel. The brightly lit dining room is more classroom-y than it is ambient, with hilariously kitschy murals of India on the walls to set the mood. [Read more →]
Despite their prevalence today — especially on college campuses, especially at Brown — vegetarians are all too frequently handed the short end of the stick when it comes to dining out. Sure, nearly all restaurants throw their veg patrons
a bone a token meatless dish, but they often get lazy in the process. The result is one too many bland pasta dishes or lackluster heaps of grilled vegetables. Even if you’re a proud carnivore, a restaurant’s vegetarian options should ideally be as enticing as its steak frites or scallops and vanilla leeks.
Enter Garden Grille. From its abode in a strip mall straight up Hope Street and into Pawtucket, it’s pretty unassuming. But inside, it’s pretty freaking cute. Blue-green walls, lantern lights, and fresh flowers on each table contribute to a hip but cozy, casual atmosphere. One downside of this is that you may have to wait for your table, so plan accordingly; alternatively, you can sidle up at the bar if you’re super-hungry (which we were).
Seeing as how it makes good, creative use of lots and lots of fresh produce, the menu changes seasonally. For winter, that means lots of extra-savory, comforting dishes. I had grilled Maitake mushrooms ($16), which came in smoky little clusters atop a mound of red rice (imagine brown rice but nuttier and chewier) in miso broth with crisp baby bok choy, sweet potatoes, and roasted turnips. It was savory and filling and inspired and strange, the polar opposite of those chicken-shit vegetarian entrées at some other restaurants.
I know, I know, you’re wondering the same thing I was: who is Hercules Mulligan, anyway? According to the website Who Was Hercules Mulligan, Anyway?, he was the son of an Irish immigrant and basically a badass patriot during the American Revolution who coaxed juicy tyrannical deets from British soldiers, then tattled on them to President Washington himself. Today, he remains a kind of cult figure who inspires websites like Who Was Hercules Mulligan, Anyway?
Another such homage is Thayer Street’s newest addition, which sits atop Soban in the space that formerly housed Marley’s. Like the original Mr. Mulligan, it packs a big dose of patriotism, reflected in both its hodgepodge of a menu and its avid fandom of the New England football team. Also like the original Mr. M, it’s true to its Irish heritage: giant barrels of Guinness stand in as bar tables, and Flogging Molly blasts through the speakers at all hours and unspeakable decibel levels.
But the restaurant itself is a mutt, evidenced by the abundance of Irish favorites like shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash amidst Caprese salad and pistachio-crusted salmon. Asian food finds a strange home in there, too: spring rolls come stuffed with corned beef, Swiss, and sauerkraut. Likewise, nachos are “Irish-ized” with the addition of potato chips and Irish bacon, as is BBQ sauce with Jameson whiskey. Drinks-wise, there’s a great rotation of beers on tap, plus $3 ‘Gansetts (cool) and the requisite pint of Guinness. Vegetarians: there’s a veggie burger and requisite pasta dish, but you’re probably better off elsewhere. [Read more →]
The identity of the classic American restaurant could well be the topic of its own AmCiv seminar. Most of us have pretty similar mental images of the Classic French Brasserie or the Classic Italian Trattoria or the Classic Mexican Taqueria, but that all kind of falls apart when it comes to American cuisine. The most obvious answers are also the most grim — McDonald’s? Applebee’s? — but it is my greatest hope that, were we to push past such folly, we’d pinpoint something a lot like New Rivers, whose locally stocked kitchen, “melting pot” of influences, and no-nonsense approach are a whole ‘nother breed of all-American.
New Rivers doesn’t look like much from the outside; in fact, you’ve probably unwittingly passed it plenty of times (it’s in a nondescript brick building off South Main Street near where Angell becomes Steeple). But the inside feels like your favorite aunt’s country house: cozy, simple furniture, fairy lights, randomly placed vases of fresh flowers. It helps that, in lieu of one gaping warehouse of a dining room, there are two smaller rooms, so the noise level doesn’t really get out of hand. All these factors alone make it an excellent candidate for February 14, whether you’re participating in Valentine’s Day or Singles’ Appreciation Day. The lowdown on the food, after the jump.
Of all meals, brunch is arguably the one most perfectly suited to college students. First of all, it’s eaten late, which means those of us who sleep in and miss the breakfast train can still revel in the best things breakfast has to offer. Second, later mealtime means lunch foods (and alcoholic beverages) get to come to the party: welcome back, ham and Bloody Mary, we’re so happy to have you. Third, considering you’re eating breakfast AND lunch, the full spread tends to be a pretty good deal.
Correspondingly, there is a plethora of brunch options on campus and beyond. Olga’s is one such place for those who prefer to start the day with a jaunt: it’s a 10-minute walk from Coffee Exchange, a straight journey that does involve changing street names and traversing bridges. When the weather’s nice, umbrella-covered tables are set up in Olga’s white cottage’s charmingly unkempt garden. For now, though, diners stay in the airy dining room inside. What to order, after the jump: