Julian’s Providence

Scott and Dave’s Breakfast on Broadway!

On a weekend day that beckons you outdoors to enjoy the terrific spring weather, there is nothing like a great breakfast to start off the day. Recently the RhodeCrew has been venturing out of our quaint little towns and heading downtown for some eclectic breakfast fare.  On my way to a restaurant in Providence a few weeks ago I couldn’t help but notice what looked like a line for Springsteen tickets (back in the 80’s) forming around an unpretentious store front on Broadway. There weren’t any large signs that distinguished this place aside from two red neon lit “J”s on the left and right sides of the front windows – welcome to Julian’s.

Julian’s Providence is no stranger to the Providence culinary scene as evidenced by their wall of accolades in the back of the dining area.  At Fork in the Rhode we try very hard to find “off the beaten path” places, and at times it can be challenging in our small state. Sometimes we go against our mission statement and review a place that despite its popularity is too tempting to pass up!

Breakfast this morning was a memorable experience. We went right for the bar so we could see all the action in this open kitchen establishment. Having a super-friendly waitperson like Sam was an extra-special treat. We truly appreciated how very engaging, knowledgeable and passionate he was about Julian’s. Having a proud restaurant staff is one of the keys to the success of the business. When going to a new restaurant, we make every effort to request the “Signature” dish or at least one of the house specialties, and if we wind up just an “order taker,” it really takes away from our experience.  We know it’s only a meal, but we like to get pumped up and excited about the incoming, unique gastronomical encounter!  Sam was quite an ambassador for our first Julian’s experience – and we felt fortunate.

Breakfast for Scott today was from the daily Special’s Board – Chipotle Honey-Grilled Shrimp Benedict with baby spinach, smoked onions over warm cornbread with a scallion hollandaise.  Accompanying this dish was a side of Beer Bratwurst Hash which included white beans, Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. The unique spice profile of the shrimp was so unique that I had to reluctantly share them with another RhodeCrew member because flavors this good must be communal. The poached eggs were cooked perfectly, and it was such a nice change to have it served on a bed of fresh-baked cornbread instead of the usual English muffin. This hash was also another unique treat that we doubt you will find anywhere else.

“We smoke our own salmon,” Sam said, as David ordered the Nova Scotia Benedict faster than you could say “lox.” This beautifully smoked and sliced happiness was carefully laid out across freshly thick-cut Italian bread and topped with two perfectly poached eggs with a smooth and creamy hollandaise blanketing it all. Although a plain potato hash accompanies breakfast, he chose the Bleu Cheese-Spinach specialty hash from the menu. The chef starts with the traditional grilled hash and incorporates the specialty ingredients before browning it on all sides. What a winner of a breakfast this turned out to be!

As we watched unique flights of draft beer being ordered with breakfast, we felt a little left out – so we ordered one (yes it was 9:00 AM…don’t judge). On the recommendation of Sam, our flight included the following:

  1.  Saison Dupont (Belgium), a dry blond beer, with aromas of hops, marked bitterness and a bit flowery in taste. Alcohol content: 6.5% vol.
  2.  B.B.C. Imperial Stout (MA), a rich, smooth and creamy malt stout with hints of chocolate, licorice and coffee. Alcohol content: 8.5% vol.
  3.  Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse (Germany), a deep gold dry hopped Weissbock with a light and sweet aroma. The taste was very smooth with hints of citrus, wheat, and fruit.  Alcohol content: 8.2% vol.
  4.  Hofstetten Saphir Bock (Austria), a cloudy golden-yellow dry-hopped beer with a smooth malt flavor. Slight hints of lemon. Alcohol content: 7.4% vol. 

Julian’s offers 20+ globetrotting drafts (Belgium, U.S., Japan, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Austria and Norway) from which to sample. In addition their extensive bottled beer, wine and other spirits menu is worthy of your interest.   

It has been said that Julian’s Providence is a Hipster hang-out. The RhodeCrew assigned to this restaurant was curious what that meant exactly, so we looked it up:

Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. 

Our response – we wished we hadn’t wasted our time looking it up! If you are in a “subculture” of eaters seeking out a great food and drinks in a very cool looking restaurant with an attentive and educated staff, get over to Julian’s Providence as soon as entirely possible.

We’re not kidding get your shoes on…..we’ll start the car!

  Julian’s Providence 318 Broadway Providence, RI (401) 861- 1770

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Track 84 Pub

Don’s Review – Spirits in the Rhode

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” we were relaxing at home watching a Star Wars marathon on Spike TV before going to Track 84 Pub in Warwick last Saturday night.

As we comfortably settled in front of a row of taps at the bar, with the television set to the very same movie, my wife and I commented how we felt like we were still in our family-room enjoying the movie.  Track 84 Pub has been making people feel welcome since 1990, and has been a microbrew hot spot for the past ten years. Although I had read about it in the Yankee Brew News for years, shockingly I had never been there before…so many beer bars, so little time! The bartender even mentioned that some devoted patrons had even driven 4 hours to get there!  

We popped in to the Kilvert Street Pub in order to kick off our evening before heading out to The Grill on Main in East Greenwich to see our friend’s band Brian McKenzie and The End of the Line. The bar was not crowded and had a relaxing and peaceful feel. Track 84 is a premeditated destination because you’re not likely to drive by it unless you happen upon Kilvert Street or someone tells you about this cool “find.” Kilvert Street used to be the main cut-through between Post Road and Jefferson Boulevard, but Coronado Street now serves that function as Kilvert is now a dead-end.

The beer choices are serious – 22 on tap and over 50 bottles including stuff I had never heard of before. It reminded me of a time years ago when I was in a French restaurant in Montreal and over-confidently asked for the wine list in order to make an informed decision. Thinking I was rather “wine savvy,” I was quickly humbled when presented with a list of wines that could have passed for the Dead Sea Scrolls! The beer choices at Track 84 Pub , while not as voluminous, were just as far-reaching and eclectic.

First up was the Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA from New York, and at 11% alcohol, this stand-out beer did not leave that astringent aftertaste that some strong beers do. The delicious “Unearthly” is properly served in a 12 oz. tulip gl ass and drinks well on its own, but would work equally as well with food. It had a wine characteristic to it, and would pair well with any Italian veal or chicken dish. You may only want one or two of these, as it is not a session beer!

Next up was the Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado.  This is a fantastic American Pale Ale clocking in at 6.5% alc. You could drink this one all day – a Microbrew drinkers drinking beer. Even though by definition a “Session Beer” has less than 5% alcohol, I would session this one.  My wife liked this one best and since I like her and I like beer – let’s just call this one a “win-win.”

Last up was the Great Divide Brewery Oak Aged Yeti Russian Imperial Stout.  This brew was simply incredible! Aged with a blend of French and toasted oak, it presented a complex flavor of oak, vanilla, coffee and chocolate yet still maintaining a robust bite of hops. Clocking in at 9.5% alcohol, it too was correctly served in a 12 oz. tulip glass.  I absolutely loved it. I’m looking for an excuse to go back just to get this again!

So, should you go to Track 84 Pub? In a word – youbetcha! Reasonably priced ($4.50) excellent micro’s and a cool, laid back homey-vibe.  Go now, and “May The Force Be With You.”

Track 84 Pub – 84 Kilvert St – Warwick, RI 02886 401-739-8484

Ralph’s Bull and Claw Tavern

Chris’s Review

If you ask twenty-five people about their favorite Italian Restaurant in Rhode Island, chances are you will receive just as many answers in return.  That simply means that there is a boat-load of gastronomically pleasing choices in RI that can transport you to that boot on the Mediterranean.  The challenge for the RhodeCrew, as always, is to highlight off-the-beaten-path places that serve great food in the Ocean State.  We hope that our experiences will encourage friends and families to trek to these special privately owned establishments. Our hunger for a great Italian meal leads us to an “Old School” tavern in North Providence.

Several years ago, Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern caught my attention while on a journey to the old Pinelli’s North End Café on Charles Street in North Providence.  It was hard to miss the colorful sign and green awning in front.  My parents had mentioned that one of our family friends Joe used to frequent the place and had said that the food was excellent.

Ralph's Bull and Claw Tavern

Joe was an Italian-American man who owned a barbershop in Walpole, Ma.  He had a larger than life personality and loved the Yankees, the game of golf, and busting my “Red Sox-loving” chops. I deeply respected his opinion when it came to Italian food.  His place was the number-one hot spot on my Christmas day house hopping tour!  He always had a great spread of food that included sausage and peppers, antipasto, meatballs and one of the best homemade Bloody Marys around?  Always the life of the party and a generous host, we lost Joe two days before Christmas last year.  I have been thinking about him a lot lately, so when the opportunity presented itself to refer a restaurant to my fellow ‘Crew members, I chose Ralph’s.  Thankfully, my suggestion was both welcomed and accepted.

Ralph's Bull and Claw Tavern

We arrived at Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern just as it was opening on a Sunday at 12:30 PM.  If this place were a sports jersey, it would have definitely been a throwback – perhaps the old high socks and short-shorts of the Larry Bird era Celtics.  The décor of dark paneling, wall to wall carpeting and a Ms. Pac-Man machine in the bar area is something right out of “That 70’s Show.”  However, Wi-Fi, flavored vodkas and fancy lighting is not a requirement in order to offer up delicious cuisine.

As we typically do, we collaborated on the menu and came up with an attack plan.  We decided  on several entrées for which to share.  Sharing allows us to form opinions on all table dishes and make some decisions on the overall menu.  Any good Italian would agree that beginning a meal without fresh bread is like a day without sunshine!

Ralph's Stuffed Quahog

The waitress brought us a steaming hot and crusty bread boulé which helped start the meal off in the right direction. She also recommended the Stuffies (Stuffed Quahogs for you non-New Englanders!) as an appetizer.  We graciously accepted her advice and were off on our culinary escapade.  The Stuffies ($3 each) were outstanding.  They had a crispy, Panko-like exterior and a moist interior filled with large chopped clams, onion, celery and a spicy breading.  These would stand up to any stuffed clam in RI.

Bracciole & Gnocchi Pizzaiola

For our first entrée, we selected the Bracciole & Gnocchi Pizzaiola $16 (pronounced bra’zhul). The Braciole at Ralph’s consists of thin slices of beef rolled with a filling of spinach, mozzarella and Romano cheeses, and house-made ricotta gnocchi – in a rich tomato ragout.  This dish was exceptional on every level.  The ricotta gnocchi was firmer than a traditional potato Gnocchi, yet tender and flavorful.  The Bracciole was slow cooked to perfection and worked well with the hearty, intense ragout.  The melted mozzarella spread out throughout the sauce and the generous portion size was an added bonus

Veal Stella Di Mare

Our second choice was a veal dish that may go down as one of the best veal dishes I have tasted, Veal Stella Di Mare $22.  A breaded veal cutlet stuffed with Mozzarella and Prosciutto would generally be tasty enough, but at Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern, they go the extra mile and top it with shrimp and a lobster cream sauce.  As rich as it sounds, the veal was light in texture and not overly fried.  The sauce was smooth like Lobster Bisque, but mild enough to allow the flavor of the prosciutto and veal to shine through.  I would recommend this dish to anyone with a love for veal.

Finally, we all agreed that we wanted to savor a traditional Italian specialty so we decided on the classic Meatball Grinder with Provolone topped with the house-made marinara.  Like the previous two dishes, the meatballs did not disappoint.  They were moist and flavorful with a hint of crushed red pepper.  The bright red marinara was freshly prepared with a sweet and savory flavor that worked well with the spice profile of the meatballs.  The roll was freshly baked and held all components together nicely.

Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern will see us again! We are grateful for the opportunity to try these less celebrated places and discover how good food can be in Rhode Island’s diverse communities and neighborhoods.   Boston’s North End is noted as the Mecca for Italian Cuisine in New England, but I’ll take RI and the Greater Providence area for my Italian fix any day of the week.  CIAO!!

1027 Charles Street, North Providence, RI 02904 • Tel: (401) 722-2624 • Fax: (401) 728-0231