March 18, 2010

Perro Salado [Newport, R.I.]

Perro Salado Sign
Perro Salado
19 Charles Street
Newport, RI 02840

Perro Salado ("salty dog", in Spanish) is truly one of my favorite spots in Rhode Island. Tucked away in an 18th century cape in downtown Newport, the restaurant serves up many surprises in addition to delicious drinks and dishes.

During my most recent visit, I had the chance to chat briefly with manager Daisy Maher, who has been working at the restaurant since its opening in July 2007. When I asked Daisy about the restaurant's origins, she told me that the idea came from two
individuals who loved Mexican food and tequila, and most importantly, found the "quirkiness and history" of the building irresistible.

Perro Salado
{A view from outside Perro Salado}

This quirkiness is featured in every aspect of the dining experience, from the French greeting on the front door to the old liquor bottles that serve as water pitchers. In talking to Daisy, I learned that the owners not only oversee food and service, but also did all the interior design, from window treatments to tiled fireplaces, by hand. Daisy described the restaurant as "very much a DIY", and emphasized the importance of creating ambiance and comfort in the restaurant. In this way, the owners dine with all their guests, making for a wonderfully unique dining experience.

Perro Salado Fireplace
{Hand Tiled Fireplace}

The quirkiness doesn't stop with interior design and ambiance. The Perro Salado menu features a variety of dishes which Daisy described as "Mexican Fusion." Some of the items on the menu, especially the taquieras (voted best in R.I. in 2008 according to Rhode Island Monthly), are in the spirit of authentic Mexican street food. Adding to the uniqueness of the menu is the owners' diligent effort to support local businesses in buying foods. During the summer, the restaurant features a Market Salad which is made entirely from local, seasonal vegetables.

Fish Tacos
{Perro Salado's Famous Fish Tacos}

Dining at Perro Salado is truly an experience. Beyond the great drinks and delicious food, the restaurant has a warm, romantic atmosphere. It's just one of those places where you can't help but leave in a better mood than you came in with--and return to as soon as possible.

March 15, 2010

Kafé Lila.

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250 Main Street
Pawtucket, RI 02806

Kafé Lila is one of my very favorite weekend spots. When I moved to Providence from North Carolina in August, I immediately began the hunt for my favorite coffee shop. I found it in Kafé Lila, and I haven't looked back. Not only is the place cozy and quiet, it also serves up really good locally sourced food.

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to sit down for a chat with owner Karen Pace. As most good ideas are apt to do, the idea for Kafé Lila began with ice cream. A few years ago Karen, a trained textile artist, began making ice cream and selling it out of a bicycle cart. Once the ice cream business took off, Karen decided to open up a storefront and found herself a place in Pawtucket's Grant Building. Three years later, the café's still in full force, and Karen's still churning out ice cream, all of which is made using Rhody Fresh milk and in flavors that only a genius could dream up--blueberry ginger, vegan coconut chili, local quince, olive oil, organic coffee--the list goes on, and I promise you, you'll want to try them all.
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{The view from inside the Grant Building}.
But more than offering delicious varieties of homemade ice cream, Kafé Lila keeps you well fed and caffeinated. Karen tries to use as many locally sourced whole foods in her cafe as possible. With the help of Schartner Farm's frozen vegetables, Kafé Lila feels summery even in the wintertime. In growing season, vegetables from Red Planet Vegetables and Southside Community Land Trust's gardens also wend their way to Pawtucket. And it's the tomato jam served on top of Kafé Lila's signature frittata (made, of course, with eggs from Rhody Fresh) that keeps me coming back for more.
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{Frittata with tomato jam}.
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{Kafé Lila's sweet treats}.
Beyond serving up local foods to hungry customers, Karen has plans in the works to continue with her goal of educational outreach--starting up a series of edible gardening classes and cooking instruction that focuses on making good meals using simple ingredients. In the meantime, a morning stop into Kafé Lila will leave you feeling like you just spent an hour in your grandmother's living room--if, of course your grandmother's living room is the sort where you can find sweet treats, warm coffee, plush vintage furniture, and homemade ice cream.
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{Mid-century furniture finds from Rocket to Mars in Providence}.