monster vs. monster

v.i.p. : brickway
March 23, 2010, 12:12 pm
Filed under: vegan in providence | Tags: ,

Brickway on Wickenden is one of those places where omnivores love to brunch, and it’s great to be able to share that experience. The vegan options are not many, but what Brickway lacks in veg-friendly fare it makes up for in atmosphere. Its quirky wall colors and mismatched chairs and tables lend it an artsy, big-city small-cafe feeling, and the bottomless cup of coffee means you can stretch your morning out a bit. I’ve been here on super crowded days (Sat & Sun, prepare for a wait) but I’ve never felt rushed through my meal.

The breakfast menu (which they serve all day) is mostly omelets and meaty sides, so don’t come expecting to fill up on hearty, greasy soy sausage. You will find, however, once your eyes move beyond the standard fruit-cup and wheat-toast-with-jam side dishes, that for six bucks you can order the most delicious bowl of oatmeal you’ve ever eaten in your brunchy life.

Topped with maple syrup and brown sugar, Brickway oatmeal has raisins and whole almonds mixed in to add a bit of creaminess, a bit of tang, a bit of substance to the dish. Amazingly, it’s neither mushy nor sticky, neither chunky nor runny, neither dry nor overly moist. This is Goldilocks oatmeal. It is just right. I don’t tend to be a fan of oatmeal, but this staff-certified fully vegan version, with all its trappings, has me sold. Plus, a bowl of this stuff is warm and filling – perfect for a light breakfast – and if you throw in some OJ and several cups of coffee, you’ve got a nice, satisfying, long-lasting meal.

I don’t know whether Brickway offers soymilk (I drink my coffee black) or whether they have earth balance available for toast (I’ve always gotten preserves), but I have every intention of finding out. Thus far the waitstaff has been nothing but friendly, helpful, and patient with questions, and they seem generally willing to accommodate special needs – especially since one of the waitresses is a vegan herself. In addition to oatmeal, Brickway has a couple of vegan lunch options – a hummus veggie wrap, and a veggie burger. (The burger itself is vegan, but make sure you clarify that the sauteed mushrooms and onions need to be veg-friendly.) I’ve yet to try, but I’ll report back when I do!


v.i.p. : garden grille
March 19, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: vegan in providence | Tags: ,

A couple of Mondays ago, some cohort members and I trekked a whole two miles to Pawtucket for my very first experience with Garden Grille. Have you ever walked into a place and you know everyone there is just … happy ? That’s what Garden Grille is like. The waiters are friendly. The booths are many. The communal table is long and inviting.  The customers sharing our lunch hour ranged from the young and pierced to the old(er) and chatty to the businesslike and lunch-breaky. Everyone smiling. I suppose the sunshine didn’t hurt, but I imagine that’s the typical atmosphere at Garden Grille: welcoming and pleasant and community-oriented.

This place boasts a fully vegetarian menu with lots of (clearly-labeled) vegan and gluten-free options, a jam-packed smoothie list, organic beers and wines, and 100% takeout containers with corn-based utensils. We picked from their lunch menu, but they also have amazing brunch offerings (vegan. cinnamon. rolls.) as well as the most appealing and diverse dinner menu I’ve come across since leaving my beloved herbivore behind. If you get a spare moment, read the back of the menu for a delightful how-we-got-started story profiling the owner’s raw/vegan grandmother.

First up: Tuscan White Bean and Soy Sausage Soup. I didn’t get a taste of this one, but it looked hearty and it smelled amazing.

Followed by: Baked Macaroni with Broccoli and Crimini Mushrooms. I only got a small taste, but I thought the cheese flavor left a little to be desired – I’m guessing FYH mozzarella – and could’ve used a bit of garlic, maybe a pinch of salt, a dash of nutritional yeast. But the texture was spot on, and the crimini seemed to add a lot to the dish. And anyway, I tend to be skeptical of vegan mac & cheese and hard to impress, so don’t take my word for it here.

I ordered a plate of Garlic Collards with Pistachios. I had no idea I would get a whole bowl. I had no idea I could eat a whole bowl. These were the best collards I have ever had. They were cooked without getting limp and lifeless, infused but not overwhelmed with flavor. The pistachios added a smoothness and a creamy flavor that really grounded the spice of the garlic. A perfect side-dish. Every sandwich I have had since has seemed empty and vacant without a giant bowl of garlic-pistachio greens by its side.

And finally: the Seitan Mushroom Burger topped with Sweet Potato, Carmelized Onions, Arugula, and Chipotle Sauce on Country Bread, with a crispy coleslaw tossed lightly in oil and spices. Both were divine. Words cannot express how perfectly the Chipotle sauce tied together the sweetness of the onions and sweet potato with the rich and savory burger, or how delightfully strong a stance the peppery arugula took in every bite. I thought the flavors would overwhelm one another, but in each bite I could literally taste everything. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had – so good, in fact, that I feel bad calling it a sandwich. It was a…um…flavor orchestra? Do I sound like a Carl’s Jr. commercial?

I beamed through our entire lunch. In fact, this restaurant made me so happy, it actually upped my love of Providence about a hundred percent. I’m so relieved to find a place that has a ton of options and a laidback feel, stays open past dinnertime (9:30/10:00), and is super accessible. It’s located right on the 42 bus line on Hope street, just past the triangle-shaped park where Hope and and Blackstone merge. Go there. Now. I see springtime bike rides and days at the park and more sweet potato burgers in my future.

v.i.p. : julian’s
February 27, 2010, 12:00 pm
Filed under: vegan in providence | Tags: ,

I am a big fan of brunch. I always wake up super hungry, and breakfast at home just doesn’t do it for me. At brunch I can have three beverages at a time and load up on grease and sugar without judgment. At brunch waiting in line means extra time for coffee, maybe a chance to wander off and eye a garage sale or two. At brunch I can be sleepy or grouchy, but I know once the food comes I will turn into a loving human being once more. Brunch cures all ills. Brunch heals the world. Last weekend, some friends introduced me to grunge brunch – brush your teeth, throw some pants over your pajamas, and go – which made brunch better than I ever thought it could be. Why waste time on showers and makeup when you’ve got four people sharing a bathroom and you’re starving? Go eat already!

I was pretty happy when I discovered Julian’s. This diner is a stone’s throw from awesome coffee, vintage clothes, and records, and the neighborhood looks to be garage-sale friendly. Julian’s wins the prize for reminding me of Oakland more than any place in Providence. Good music, bearded servers, windows plastered with show posters, giant whisks hanging from the ceiling, and a really decent beer menu? What’s not to love? Throw some star wars figurines on the wall and a tv in the bathroom playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I’m a happy gal.

I would have expected the people here to be sort of rude and exclusive, but (like every truly awesome, way-too-cool person I’ve met in this town) I’ve found the staff and customers alike to be consistently friendly and talkative. I tend to babble when I get excited, and I prize very highly any place whose servers can turn my babble into banter instead of looking at me like a crazy person (Nice Slice, I’m looking at you). Atmosphere: A+  On to the food.

Julian’s serves brunch all day. So already, YES. Their regular vegan brunch offerings include PB&J pancakes, cinnamon orange french toast, customizable tofu scrambles, and oatmeal. But the absolute best of the best, what my waiter described as “the illest vegan breakfast,” is the Saint Jamez Benedict: a fried tofu ‘egg’, garlic spinach, and bright yellow-orange vegan hollandaise, all poured over two giant pieces of fluffy, thick-crusted french bread. Top it off with two tempeh sausage patties and a side of flavorful potatoes, and you’ve got yourself a MEAL.

I’ve never had nonvegan eggs benedict, so I can’t make judgments on authenticity. I can say, however, that this plate is a flavor explosion. The hollandaise is super garlicky and sort of sweet and savory at the same time. The sauce is the perfect consistency: runny enough to soak the bread, but thick enough to cover every forkful. The “egg” is also impressive: soft, fluffy tofu on the inside, lightly fried (but not crispy) on the outside. I can’t effuse enough about the sausage. It has, like all tempeh sausage I’ve tried, more of a soy-cake consistency than a squishy meat consistency, but I really prefer it that way – I am prone to mixing my food, and the crumbly factor makes it easy to mix the sausage into the potatoes. The flavor is spot on, comparable to the pizza sausage recipe in VwaV. It makes a big meal into a humongous meal, but I insist you order the sausage. It ties the whole thing together.

Julian’s has plenty of meat- and egg- and dairy-filled brunch options for your friends. They also offer three morning-time cocktails.  Everyone who comes here leaves happy. And sated. And maybe an inch or two wider. When the weather turns toward spring, you can bet I’ll be at Julian’s every Sunday morning. For now, I’m just trying to make it out on one of these Wednesday nights for WNWN‘s stitch and bitch. One thing at a time.

vegan in providence
February 22, 2010, 4:15 pm
Filed under: vegan in providence | Tags: ,

When I moved to Providence from Oakland, I was very concerned about my new city’s vegan-friendliness. Internet searches brought up a handful of names, but without any familiarity with the city I didn’t know what to look for. The websites I found listed restaurants that, for all my knowledge, might have been as far away as Maine – two in Pawtucket, another in Naragansett – and listed diners and meat-heavy burrito joints next to snack shops and one restaurant that had already shut down. The yelp page offered different listings from HappyCow, which were different still from urbanspoon and VegGuide. Needless to say, my optimism dwindled. I couldn’t even find a discussion of how easy it is or isn’t to make vegan requests at “vegetarian friendly” restaurants. I wanted a comprehensive list of what was available, a list that included personal reviews and photos as well as offering details on atmosphere and accessibility. I couldn’t find one, so I’ve decided to make one myself. Over the past few months I’ve come to realize that Providence (and the immediately surrounding area) is chock full of vegan food, and I want to help make it easier for my fellow vegans to feed themselves.

I’ll start my V.I.P. reviews very soon, and once they’re up they’ll be linked to from this page. I’d very much appreciate any recommendations, feedback, etc. I’m super excited about this project, and I want it to be the best it can possibly be.

January 22, 2010, 2:27 pm
Filed under: local | Tags:

providencers! come swap your clothes and things. 12-5pm this Sunday. i’ll be there with some handknit hats, lots of clothes, and a book or two. info/image from wnwn.

so much to do, so little time
September 21, 2009, 9:55 pm
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After missing the What Cheer? Brigade’s big fall show, the Rise of the Herbivores fundraiser for RIVA (seriously I missed that?), a night of super short stories at WNWN, and the Titless! fundraiser show, I am actually feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things Providence is offering for me to promptly forget. So in the name of organization and prideful city participation, here’s a list of things I’m excited about in the next few days.


China Mieville is reading tomorrow at the inconvenient hour of 2:30 p.m. I’m really only interested because BW was really insistent upon my reading Perdido Street Station, which I never did. However, because he kept repeating the name over and over, I now feel like I’ve read the book and thus feel a great affinity with this author. Also, the Literary Arts events haven’t let me down yet. (By the way, this super random looking picture is actually one of Mieville’s illustrations.)


On Thursday Sharon Marcus, author of Between Women, gives a lecture on the drama of celebrity…


…which is pretty drastically rivaled by a pinup party at Jerky’s. With Live Burlesque. From someone called Sparkles McTitsy. How can I possibly pay attention to a lecture on Victorian identity when I know I could be watching live burlesque from McTitsy?

BeowulfdigitalflyerWaste Not Want Not presents us with Beowulf, performed by the traveling Baltimore Annex Theater. Bands Ambergris and Barkley Dog will open.


Moliere’s Tartuffe plays Sept. 24-27 and October 1-4. I’ve never read Moliere but he was mentioned in an article I read last week for my new very favorite class, and really that’s good enough for me.


Finally Why? is coming to the Middle East Club in Cambridge on October 1. If I can find someone to take me, I’m going for sure. If I can’t find someone to take me, well, I’ll be weighing the joy, familiarity and comfort of seeing my favorite Oakland band against the anxiety of going to a new city alone and the taxi fare across state lines. Hmm.

I am feeling the beginnings of a cold, so really I’ll be lucky if I make it to ANY of these, but it sure is nice to know that so much is available to me. It turns out that Providence has a lot to offer and would be a really amazing city if I only had time to explore it and embrace it with any sort of devotion.

arts and crafts
September 17, 2009, 6:48 pm
Filed under: local | Tags: , , , ,

I dropped in on an art show tonight at Waste Not Want Not, in downtown Providence.

I arrived a fashionable hour late, but only a few people had arrived.

There were, however, cupcakes!

The show, “AS IS,” consisted of work made from found objects and salvaged materials.

The work was done as part of a class at Steelyard, and eight students contributed work.

The show took up only a small corner of the shop, so I wandered around a bit.

Waste Not Want Not is a non-profit thrift store, which also sells the work of independent artists.

This is the yarn corner, a source for Knit and Natter crafters.

The store also has some works perpetually on display, as well as a small open workspace in the back.

AS IS didn’t really pick up, so I walked across the street to my new very favorite shop, Craftland.

Part gallery, part quirky store, Craftland celebrates all things handmade. I’ve been describing this place as an Etsy you can walk around in.

Apparently Craftland began as a holiday craft fair and has only recently evolved into a full-time year-round storefront.

In fact, they’re having a grand opening “hoo-ha, fete, celebration, whatever you call it” tomorrow from 5-9 pm, with music and drinks and prizes and a pinata!

Walking home, I saw these koi fish vases I’ve been eyeing over at…

…and this lovely flower. On a trash can.