March 11, 2010

Trinity Brewhouse

Trinity Brewhouse Restaurant & Brewery
186 Fountain Street
Providence, RI
(401) 453-BEER

Friendly bartender Ethan has been working for restaurant owner Josh Miller for over 30 years. We chatted on a rainy Thursday evening as I enjoyed a delicious pint of a Belgian Amber Ale. Trinity opened about fifteen years ago. Providence was in need of a brewpub, Union Station Brewery had opened about a year before. But when it opened Trinity differentiated itself as a non-corporate, locally owned restaurant and brewery. While the start-up costs were high, once it established itself, the cost of beer production decreased (until more recently when the costs of hops and barely skyrocketed), allowing Trinity to pass on the low costs to patrons (22 oz. beer is still less than $5!!). Trinity's brews have become so popular that a few years ago Trinity Beer Company was formed, selling bottled beer throughout southern New England. While the bottled beer is brewed in Pawcatuck, CT, all of the pints served at the Brewhouse are brewed onsite, no other beers are sold.

Trinity has brewed 50-70 beers in the last fifteen years. The beers on tap are constantly changing, with an innovative brewmaster crafting new creations and bringing back old favorites. Owner Josh Miller has gone from celebrated restaurateur (currently owning Trinity and Local 121) to state senator. In a city like Providence it's amazing there aren't more breweries like Trinity. But when you have one with such great food and beer, do you really need more?
Trinity Chopped Salad
{Trinity Chopped Salad & Belgian Amber Ale}
Seafood Chowder
{Seafood Chowder & Kolsch}

March 10, 2010

Angkor Restaurant

Banh Hoi
Angkor Restaurant
333 Wickenden St
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 383-2227

On the East Side of Providence, a fold-out sign on Wickenden Street promises a passer-byer, "Authentic Cambodian Cuisine" at Angkor Restaurant.  Though I've walked by the sign numerous times, I'd never stopped-mostly because I wasn't sure what I'd find inside.  Unlike Cambodia's neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam, many Americans do not associate this Southeast Asian nation with distinctive and flavorful curries, rice dishes, and soups.  Instead its contemporary history of genocide overshadows a rich culture and heritage.

But thanks to friendly owner Chutema, diners at Angkor Restaurant are able to experience the many layers of history that shape Cambodia today, from Hindu and Buddhist art which adorns the walls (inspired by images found on temples of the ancient Khmer empire, the restaurant's namesake), to stories that capture the realities of the Killing Fields.  Chutema and his family, like many Cambodians in the 1970s-1980s, were resettled in Rhode Island after escaping Pol Pot's regime.  Luckily, their culture and recipes also escaped cultural annihilation by the Khmer Rouge, brought to America by Chutema's late mother-in-law, Bopha Kem.  Before escaping Cambodia, Bopha Kem recorded her aunt's recipes from when she worked in the kitchen of a royal palace in Northwest Cambodia.  Today these recipes serve as the foundation for Angkor's food, though Chutema has adapted the menu to meet the tastes of the Brown and RISD students and faculty who frequent the restaurant.  Chutema leaves the kitchen often to talk to diners and share his family's story- though he makes sure not to share the secrets behind his tasty dishes, which Johnson & Wales student have tried unsuccessfully to get out of him.

Based on Chutema's recommendation, I started with Angkor's signature dish, Medicine Soup, or Nam Yaa, which he described as "chicken soup on stereoids."  This perfectly spicy noodle soup is touted for its delicious healing power, relying on a combination of herbs, lemon grass, ginger, galangal, garlic, karffir, limeleaves, chicken and shrimp for its unique flavor.  Luckily I brought along an equally enthusiastic dining partner to help me try two more dishes, including fresh spring rolls and an overflowing platter of Banh Hoi, a Vietnamese put-it-together-yourself-dish of rice noodles, fresh lettuce, mint cucumbers, tofu and vegetables, bean sprouts and peanut dipping sauce.  After scrapping our plates clean, we left Angkor with a new appreciation of the cultural power of recipes and the spices of Southeast Asia.

Medicine Soup
Angkor Restaurant

March 8, 2010

Stanley's Famous Hamburgers

stanley's sign
371 Richmond Street
Providence, RI
(401) 270-9292

There's always room for milkshakes and fries! So after samples and stories with Rhody Food Tours at the Providence Athanaeum (check out Erin's post) we headed to Stanley's in Providence's Jewelry District for their famous stanleyburgers and some Quebec fries (what they call "poutine" in Quebec or "disco fries" in New Jersey, my home state).  
stanley's poutine
{Stanley's Quebec Fries}
Stanley's menu tells us that "in 1932, a Polish immigrant named Stanley F. Kryla had a dream: to make an honest, affordable hamburger." Stanley opened his restaurant in Central Falls during the Great Depression, offering fine and affordable comfort food. Stanley's dream lives on with a new owner since 1987, Gregory Raheb, and has expanded to include more selection on the menu and this second location in Providence.
stanley's milkshake
{Stanley's Chocolate Milkshake}
Though we couldn't speak with Stanley himself, our server sometimes tells the late-night drunk crowd that he is Stanley. We were happy to learn about some of his experiences having worked there for almost a year.  He shared with us the favorite item on the menu - the famous stanleyburgers served with grilled onions and pickles, which people often order in 2's or 3's as they are small, tasty and cheap (only $1.99).  The chili cheese fries are the favorite among the late-night drunk crowd. (Stanley's in Providence stays open until 2am Thursday-Saturday.)  Our server had recently stopped eating beef and pork, so the menu of edible options was shortened. Luckily, Stanley's serves a "bomb" veggie burger that he enjoys.  
stanley's burger
{Stanleyburger and fries}
Having sampled many disco fries in New Jersey, discovering these gravy drenched fries covered in melted mozzarella here at Stanley's in Providence was a perfect way to kick off my search for delicious and cheap Rhode Island diners and dives.