April 1, 2010


behind the bar
318 Broadway
Providence, RI 02902

"Handmade with love and imagination," is the tagline that folks at Julian's best like to describe their style. I sat down a few weeks ago with manager Brian Oakley to dig a little deeper. As a recent transplant from North Carolina, I had nearly fallen off my chair the first time I ate at Julian's and saw the menu's promise of fried house pickles. Delighted, I quickly scanned the menu for shrimp and grits. And while my desire was met on that particular night with a special of shrimp and beet infused grits, Julian's doesn't resign itself to only southern cooking. Chef Mike Nice explains that his inspiration comes from all over the place and that having developed a trusting following, he has the freedom to experiment with different flavors and culinary traditions. The menu reflects the variety of influences with dishes ranging from naan white pizza with white potato-leek sauce, watercress, oyster mushrooms, mozzarella, and balsamic reduction, to a pesto-tofu scramble, to a tempeh sausage cassoulet. 

Julian's is perhaps best known for its brunch offerings and Star Wars figurines, but lately its dinner menu has been getting special attention, too. Monthly Beer Dinners have been selling out within hours, eager customers craving the dinners that pair an assortment of beers with six courses of carefully selected menu items that bring out the best of the brews' flavors.

But even though Julian's offers customers an impressive international beer list and a range of dishes with influences from Asia to France, the restaurant hopes to serve foods that come from places a little closer to home. And their committment to handmade comes out in the dinners they prepare using goods from local sources. Poultry is delivered from local poultry company Antonelli's on Atwells Avenue and last summer Julian's paired with local chefs in RAFT's heirloom vegetable grow-out. Getting supplies from local farms is standard practice for Julian's. Farmers like Catherine of Red Planet Vegetables, drop by the restaurant on a weekly basis, offering up the week's garden favorites for the chefs to incorporate into nightly specials. Julian's doesn't even have a walk-in refrigerator, so they can guarantee you're getting only the freshest ingredients. And condiments from ketchup to mayo are all house-made.

As for the atmosphere inside the restaurant, it somehow manages to be equal parts cozy and frenetic: neon road signs paired with a giant hanging whisk and rotating displays of works by local artists all contribute to the scene. And Julian's latest over-sized acquistion? An English double-decker bus--soon to be outfitted with a kitchen. Now we're talking about food on the move...
julian's shrimp and grits
elephant tap


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