Posted 02 May 2006 - 01:29 PM
Here's my report on my recent visit to RI -- I'll just go in chronological order, so things will jump from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again.
After leaving the airport in my rented white Mustang (the better to blend in with Rhode Islanders, I figured), I drove over to Oakland Beach for my first stop at Iggy's. Hunger overcame discretion and I ordered a dozen clamcakes (using the Iggy's on-line coupon). They were made to order -- hot, clammy, and big. So, I am pleased to report that I didn't eat the whole dozen -- I left one in the bag. That was way, way too much food, of course, but I sallied forth, after one stop reaching
Sandwich Hut on North Main St, where I ordered my usual, a large Delux grinder (basically an Italian, but Sandwich Hut adds pepperoncini and coarsely chopped pickles). I've been getting the exact same sandwich there for 30 years. Ate just half, saving the rest for breakfast, because my next stop, a few hours later, was
The Back Eddy, over in beautiful Westport, Mass. (I highly recommend taking a camera - even a klutz like me was able to take amazing sunset photos.). I got the fried scallops and my friend got the fried clams. Both very generous portions of the freshest seafood, and the fries were really good too. Somehow ordered dessert -- a big bowl of homemade mango sorbet. Very refreshing. My friend got a chocolate cake thing that looked really good.
Next morning, after finishing my Sandwich Hut grinder, I went over to the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, where I negotiated the impressive lineup of breakfast entrees on the wall and zeroed in on the custard french toast. In a rare twist, this LOOKS even better than it sounds -- art on a plate, really -- and TASTES even better than it looks. Unfortunately, I will have to test the kitchen's ability to make crispy home fries on my next visit. Modern has very good coffee too.
After that I killed some time before meeting my brothers for lunch at Rufful's in Wayland Sq. The place was jumping -- despite the competition from several hipper spots nearby Rufful's still packs 'em in. I could barely eat anything but forced in an egg salad sandwich. My brothers got triple decker sandwiches that came with classic krinkle kut fries. Rufful's is a place for kindler, gentler food.
We then made a quick stop at Garrison Confections on Hope St. This is a very classy chocolate shop, but they have things like chocolate-covered Oreos for the little ones too. I got a box of 15 chocolates that I picked myself, mostly fruit fillings. So far we've tried a couple and they are VERY fruity, which I like. I may be placing some on-line orders with these guys.
Then after a short break we made the pilgrimage to the legendary Stanley's in Central Falls. Finally got to try a Stanleyburger: a thin patty with pickles and grilled onions. Really good. Also tried the onion rings (not a huge portion, but crisp and nearly grease-free) and the Quebec-style fries (close to poutine, but with shredded mozz instead of cheese curds; bland comfort food). In what struck us as questionable move, Stanley's ,we were told, will be opening a branch in downtown Providence that will be open till the wee hours -- competing directly with Haven Brothers, in other words. In terms of quality Stanley's can certainly hold up but will enough people desert the Brothers to make the move pay off?
A few hours after that it was time for the big splurge of the weekend: Al Forno's. No evidence of any downhill slide. Just about everything we tried -- caesar salad, bruschetta, margherita pizza, tagliatelle (outstanding), spicy clam roast, turkey sausages with spaetzle and red cabbage, rhubarb meringue tart, and ultimate cookie finale -- was great. Our only quibble was that the dishes came out too fast, even after we tried to slow things down.
Despite that feast, the night couldn't end without a visit to Original New York Systems on Smith St for some weiners. The neighborhood is definitely sketchy at night, but my nephew who lives in NYC had to have his first weiner. Plus we had told him how they are made "up the arm," so he had to see that. As we watched the counterman do his thing I said, "See Ellis, he's an expert, he had to go to weiner school to learn that," and the guy said, "Foah yeahs!"
They still charge just $1.16 per weiner, which is a very good price.
Next morning after taking care of some family business we headed to Rue De L'Espoir for brunch. Very solid as usual. The baked goods, bacon, and coffee are particularly noteworthy.
Then on the way to the airport I stopped at DeFusco's Bakery on Park Ave in Cranston for some pizza strips and spinach pies. Hard to resist eating them all on the plane, but I managed. The pizza strips are now 75 cents each or 2 for $1.29, a far cry from the 8 cents I remember paying as a kid, but they still taste just as good.
And thus ended another successful weekend of eating in RI and nearby Mass.