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ErinB

Grocery Stores/Food Shops in the Providence Area

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I'm moving to Providence next month and I need suggestions.

Where should I go to get the best fruits and vegetables? meats?

Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Thai), Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Indian cooking ingredients?

With my very limited knowledge of Providence so far, I know there's Whole Foods and maybe one or two middle eastern groceries on Mineral Spring Ave in North Providence.

I also know there's supposed to be a good fruit and vegetable place on Mineral Spring Ave.

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For fruits and vegetables, Whole Foods really has the best selection and quality. Starting in June, Hope High School, on Hope Street, has a farmer's market every Saturday morning from 9-1pm. The selection is very good, especially the Arcadian Fields tent. The best, and I mean BEST, place for cheese is Farmstead, in Wayland Square. Federal Hill has some very good Italian grocers that carry some harder-to-find specialty products. Asiana, in East Providence, on Warren Ave. has the best Japanese and Korean products. I've been in the Middle Eastern market in North Providence and while I was browsing the owner followed me around the entire time and made me really uncomfortable. I didn't feel free to browse. Not Just Spices, on Hope Street is a better Middle Eastern market and they are next door to an excellent baker, Seven Stars Bread. They are not the friendliest bakers in the world, but you cannot beat their bread. Unfortunately, Providence is without a real butcher and fishmonger.

Good luck, and welcome to Providence.

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Hold onto your seat, Erin! If you're moving to Providence, you are coming to a vibrant immigrant community with dozens of stores serving dozens of communities. This list is by no means exhaustive; in fact, I'm inspired to drive around tomorrow and find more places! For example, there are Portuguese and West African shops that I've never visited and that are, I'm sure, worth a trip.

In any case, I think that you'll find that Providence is a food-lover's paradise....

grocery stores

Whole Foods (two locations) and East Side Marketplace are the two best general grocery stores in the city. You can get most things there -- fruits, meats, vegetables, cheeses, fish (ESM not so good on fish; WF much better). There are other fruit and vegetable stands that are decent: Donabedian's in Cranston is the best I know of, open only in the summer and fall. All the good little ones on Federal Hill are gone (sniff); the only one like that is the Cole Avenue fruit and vegetable shop hidden in a residential area near Blackstone Blvd.

farmers' markets

In addition to the farmers' market at Hope High School, in season there are at least three other CSAs and/or farmers' markets in town: one on Broad Street on Sat, one on Wickenden Street on (I think) Tues, and one at West Broadway Neighborhood Association on Broadway. Having spent some time at the Madison WI farmers' markets around the state house (astonishing), I wouldn't say that the selection is excellent, but they're quite good for different things in season.

cheese

Farmstead on Wayland Ave is, without question, the best cheese shop. They win Boston magazine awards, for crying out loud! WF has a good selection, too.

bakery

Lots of folks like Seven Stars on Hope St, but I think that Olga's on Point St is much better; I've been warned not to try to steal their sourdough starter! There are quite a few Italian bakeries on Federal Hill, but I'm not much of a fan, so I can't recommend.

meat and poultry

Since the demise of House of Veal on Atwells, the best butcher I know of is the Butcher Shop on Wayland Ave. They aren't fantastic, but you can make requests and get special cuts now and then. WF also seems to be interested in providing support for more specific meats, too.

There is a carniceria (spelling?) on Gano Street near the Dunkin Donuts that caters to a Portuguese, Cape Verdean, and Latino crowd and has excellent chourice, pork, and other items. They often have interesting stuff like rabbit on sale, too.

Antonelli's Poultry on Federal Hill has live chickens, ducks, rabbits, and usually a few other things. You go in the back (holding your nose if you're not used to it!), point at a cage, and decide whether to watch the demise of your feathered or furry friend. A bit later, it's cut up, on ice, and ready to go. They also have eggs, fantastic eggs. There are a couple of other live poultry places in town, but I've never been to 'em.

fish

Speidec is right: there are no good fish mongers in town any more. WF is the best place to get fish. There's a horrible bar called "Fish Co." on the spot where, indeed, an amazing fish store once stood, but, alas, they're gone......

Asian

Speidec mentioned Asiana in East Providence for Japanese and Korean, but there are at least a dozen good stores for Southeast Asian ingredients. I regularly visit three in my part of town on Elmwood Avenue (going south: one at Public, one at Potters, one at Longfellow) for pork, duck, herbs, vegetables, rice, etc. etc. There's also a large Asian store called Sunny Market on Reservoir Ave just north of the Cranston line where I've found fresh quail and a few other harder-to-find things.

There's a store on Park Avenue in Cranston near Pontiac Ave called something like "Chinese Store" that has excellent Chinese ingredients, including a small but interesting produce section (fresh water chestnuts last week). My hunt for fermented tofu ended happily here.

Latino/a and Mexican

South Providence (the neighborhood in which I live) has literally dozens of Latino/a shops and stores selling just about anything you'd want from the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since we make more Mexican food than Latino/a food here, I go most often to Sanchez Market on Broad at Princeton for produce, some meats, and ingredients. There's a tortilleria on Atwells and Academy called Tortilleria Pixatla that has some tasty food in the back and that sells a few Mexican items that Sanchez doesn't have.

Russian

Just south of Pawtucket on Hope Street is a strip mall with a small shop called International Foods that specializes in Russian food. If you're into Russian stuff, let me know; there's a big Russian community here but I'm not as familiar with it.

Jewish/kosher

Barney's Bagels is in the same strip mall as International Foods, and they are one of the two places with good bagels in Providence. The other is Bagel Gourmet on Brook Street at Power. There is a great Jewish shop on Hope Street near Rochambeau whose name I'm forgetting, which has the usual stuff, albeit a small selection.

Middle Eastern

Baroudi's is a small Middle Eastern place (I think the guy is Lebanese) that sells olives, canned goods, some frozen stuff, bread, on (I think) Chalkstone Ave at Smith St. There's also a place called Middle Eastern Market in Cranston on Reservior Ave that has a better selection of most things. The place on Mineral Spring is not as good as the one in Cranston.

Indian

Not Just Spices (and, across the street, Not Just Snacks) offers most basic Indian ingredients and a few produce items. There's another Indian and Pakistani store on Mineral Spring Ave in North Providence (different city).

Italian

Finally, Providence is home to many excellent (and, thanks to the tourists, pricey) Italian shops: Tony's Colonial, Venda Ravioli, and many others line Atwells Ave on Federal Hill.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for the great list.

I noticed you wrote that there was a West African shop. Is there a significant African community?

Are there any African restaurants in the Providence area?

I haven't heard of any, although sometimes, I have heard of Africans having unofficial restaurants out of their houses. (I don't have any contacts in providence unfortunately.)

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There is a sizable Liberian population here, and a few other West African folks around. Elea's on Broad is the hot spot for Liberian food, apparently. There are probably other places that I haven't found.

Yet.


Chris Amirault

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A couple of comments on chrisamirault's excellent and insightful post.

Whole Foods is opening a new store in the Garden City area. My understanding is that they will move into the Shaw's space and that Shaw's will move into the new development across the street, bordered by Reservoir Ave. I have also heard that they will probably close the smaller WF on the East side.

I have been a pastry chef and artisan bread baker for many years, and I would never say outright that one bakery is better than another, but I definitely prefer Seven Stars to Olga's. De gustibus............you know the rest.

Thanks for all the new lead on places to explore. I relocated from the western US and really miss Mexican food. It seems people in RI think milk is spicy. De gustibus.............again.

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Hey, boulak! Another denizen! Where do you bake? And can you say more about why you like Olga's less than Seven Stars? I'd appreciate your explanation.

Whole Foods is closing the Waterman store pretty soon; the newer place, at University Heights, is staying open (and is just a drive down N Main St from you, Erin). It's great that there'll be a WF in Cranston where Shaw's is. Of the two big groceries, we really prefer Stop n Shop, where you're likely to get foods intended for more than the white folks who just want meat and two veg sans seasonings; Shaw's is just good for staples, I think.

And, yes, Mexican in RI really truly sucks: Catcus Grille is a joke; Tortilla Flats is, too; Don Tequila's isn't bad but it is outrageously expensive for tiny portions. I started a thread on Mexican restaurants in Boston and Providence, which confirmed my suspicions.

Having said that, I must say I'm enjoying this thread, even though it's wee. It'd be nice if we could get a strong Providence presence on eGullet!


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Hey, boulak! Another denizen! Where do you bake? And can you say more about why you like Olga's less than Seven Stars? I'd appreciate your explanation.

Whole Foods is closing the Waterman store pretty soon; the newer place, at University Heights, is staying open (and is just a drive down N Main St from you, Erin). It's great that there'll be a WF in Cranston where Shaw's is. Of the two big groceries, we really prefer Stop n Shop, where you're likely to get foods intended for more than the white folks who just want meat and two veg sans seasonings; Shaw's is just good for staples, I think.

And, yes, Mexican in RI really truly sucks: Catcus Grille is a joke; Tortilla Flats is, too; Don Tequila's isn't bad but it is outrageously expensive for tiny portions. I started a thread on Mexican restaurants in Boston and Providence, which confirmed my suspicions.

Having said that, I must say I'm enjoying this thread, even though it's wee. It'd be nice if we could get a strong Providence presence on eGullet!

I prefer Seven Stars to Olga's for several reasons:

1. I perceive their breads as truly conceptualized all the way through. It is evident that they have studied grains, mixing, fermentation, shaping, proofing, baking, etc. I also sense an appreciation for the history and tradition of the products they make. The breads are (to me) more complex in aroma and flavor. They look as if they have been handled with respect AND love.

2. The pastries seem more refined and are not overly sweet or masked with excess coatings and/or icings.

3. Even the simple things are sophisticated in their simplicity. Sometimes, one must know when to say 'enough is enough.'

In summation, the products at Seven Stars seem to me to be understood by the crafts people making them. I do not have the same perception, although I could be wrong, of Olga's. In no way is this meant to disparage Olga's.

As far as the dearth of Mexican food in the area, the recording on the hot line for the truck (I think it's called Pacifica Tacqueria) states that they will be returning to business on April 8. Is Don Tequila's the one on the Hill? We had a tasteless and poorly served meal there.

Another thing to appreciate about Stop n Shop is their 'natural' section.

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Thanks, Mitch. I appreciate the detail a lot (as does Andrea, who's reading alongside me). You clearly have a far more sophisticated appreciation for bread, and bread making, than I do. Since I prefer learning to ignorance, perhaps one day we can sit down at Seven Stars and talk about a few things!

You mentioned the "truck" -- and lost me. Oh, and, yes, "tasteless and poorly served meal" sounds like Don Tequila's, on Atwells near where Gracie's used to be and the hill slopes down again.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't know that one person's appreciation can be more sophisticated than another's. We all like what we like.

The truck: We clipped an article from the Dec. RI Monthly about a relocated (from Seattle) couple who missed Mexican food so much that they started making their own and selling it from a truck parked in different locations on different nights. Nothing over $6.50and they are using organic produce. They have been out of commission over the winter but the hotline (781-TRUK) has a recording to the effect that they will return to business April 8. By calling the number, you get the location of the truck for that particular night. We haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, but we are counting the days.


Edited by boulak (log)

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I'm so glad to have such great conversation going on in this thread. Thanks for the tips.

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Asiana, in East Providence, on Warren Ave. has the best Japanese and Korean products. 

Just wanted to second this recommendation. Asiana is an astonishingly well-stocked store with very friendly and helpful owners. It's also about two minutes from downtown: take the Warren Ave exit on I-195 and take a left, and it's one block down on the left.

For those that are interested, this store inspired me to start a Making Korean Food at Home thread.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There is a great Jewish shop on Hope Street near Rochambeau whose name I'm forgetting, which has the usual stuff, albeit a small selection.

You must be thinking of Davis's. We drove by there late on Saturday -- it was closed, but the placed looked exactly the same as it did 35-40 years ago.

So where do you go for good Portuguese sweet bread these days? I remember discovering Faria's on Wickenden St. That stuff was so good that my younger brother could sell hunks of it to his bunkmates up at camp in Maine.

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Holy cow! I spent a good chunk of yesterday exploring the stores in the Rolfe Square area of Cranston, just south of Park Ave. Four fantastic stores within two blocks:

Chinese American Mini Market, 834 Park Ave, just expanded massively, and they are now without question the best Chinese place in the state, bar none. If it had decent fresh produce and meat section it would rival Boston Chinatown stores. There are other Southeast Asian places that are better, but for Chinese stuff, this place is tops.

European Food Market, 102 Rolfe, is a very extensive Russian/Eastern European place with a very wide candy, deli meat, sausage, and cheese selection. She had several kinds of head cheese, which I think is some sort of achievement.

Freedom Seafoods, Inc., 12 Rolfe, is a Chinese seafood place with several tanks of eels, crabs, lobster, and fish, as well as a wide shellfish selection.

Jerusalem Meat Market, 88.5 Rolfe, is a halal butcher who has chicken, beef, lamb, and goat, as well as a wide selection of quality Middle Eastern stuff.

Seriously, if you're in the area, you really ought to check this place out!


Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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In my on-going attempt to catalogue every interesting food shop in the greater Providence area, I present two Chinese food sources next to each other on Central St, behind the McDonalds/Dunkin Donuts parking lots at Broad near the Elmwood split at Trinity Square. Yuen Yuen Dry Seafood at 29 Central St has a pretty good selection of Chinese and Korean items (nothing fresh and no meats), and what looks to be the widest selection of dried herbs and medicinal items available in town. Next door is Wing Kee BBQ and Poultry, where char siu, duck, chicken, pork belly, and a few other things await you. I haven't tried anything there -- yet.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Conspicuous by its absence on this discussion is one of the best food shops/specialty stores in Providence, Costantino's on 265 Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill. Handmade, homemade pastas, breads, a cheese department rivaling any of those in the larger cities, homemade soups, gourmet olive section, salumis, and prepared food that is wonderful and you can take it out, or point to your choices and they will make up a plate for you to eat at the tables amongst the shopping space. The handmade ravioli is the most acclaimed food, but everything here is wonderful! If you go on Sunday, parking is much easier.

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Edited by menton1 (log)

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Thanks for adding that with its family name, menton1. I mentioned Venda Ravioli above, but without the address. Tony's Colonial down the street has a excellent cheese, meats, and olive selection, too, making those two stores must stops on Federal Hill.


Chris Amirault

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Update: what used to be a middle eastern store on Route 2/Reservoir Ave has become Mirae Sikpoom, an extensive Korean grocer at 602 Reservoir Ave. 401.941.9419. Their selection was as wide as, or perhaps wider than, that of Asiana in E Providence, but it looks like it's exclusively Korean foodstuffs. (Asiana has Japanese stuff too.)


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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All right, here's a real test of Providence-area eGulleteers. I have been chatting with Steve the Butcher at Whole Foods at University Heights, and he is prepared to get Niman Ranch, purveyors of fine pork products, to special order boxes of pork bellies and of back fat.

50 lb boxes, that is.

I think I can safely absorb a good bit of that take, maybe 10-20 pounds of each. But he won't order it unless I can commit to using around 30 pounds of each.

So, if you're interested in some serious pork haul, PM me and let me know. I'll post here if the deals go through, in which case the WF at UW will have some fine bacon and sausage supplies in the near future!


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Two Middle Eastern updates. Sadly, Mr. Baroudi has died, and his shop on Smith Hill has closed permanently.

However, Sonia's has just opened on Saturday on Park Ave in Cranston, just east of Rolfe Square. I talked to Gregory, who is the manager (I think), and while the store is just opening up, it looks great. Sonia is Gregory's mom, who is the cook and baker for the shop. I had a very tasty mikado (meek'-a-doh, not like the Gilbert and Sullivan opera), which was a layered chocolate and pastry item, and a swell Turkish coffee. They'll be selling dry goods, cheeses and meats, salads, and even some produce, and they'll also be serving lunch.

Rolfe Square continues to be a food lovers' paradise.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Had a great experience talking to Martha Cargoe, the manager of J&J Variety Store, whose subtitle is "Best African Store," and it seems to be true. They didn't have a lot of fresh produce there -- though you can get a lot of African produce from Compare Foods and other small produce shops in town -- but they had cooking equipment, palm oil, frozen meats, lots of flours and beans, and more. Plus there's Martha, who's a gem.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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As I mentioned here, there's a fine European Food Market on Rolfe St in Cranston. There's now a second location, at 756 Hope St in Providence in the space where the last Jewish bakery in RI was located. It's a great place for eastern European (mostly Russian and Polish, I think) goods, including half sours, smoked fish, deli meats, cheeses, jams and jellies, breads, and candies.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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