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

March 30, 2010

Fresh: the Movie

tonight's screening has been postponed to 4/27 due to the rain. stay dry!
What are you up to tonight? I'm headed down to Local 121 for a whole evening dedicated to good food. Local 121, one the forerunners in the Providence restaurant scene, is known for serving food that is not only delicious but also locally sourced. They'll be serving a buffet of local treats and screening Ana Sofia Joanes's Fresh, a film that celebrates the people responsible for re-thinking our food system. Doors open at 6:00 and the film will begin at 7:00. Tickets are $12.00. Hope to see you there!

March 29, 2010

FOO(D) at AS220

FOO(D) at AS220
115 Empire Street
Providence, RI
401-831-FOOD (3663)

I must admit I sometimes forget that food can be art, but I was reminded by a recent visit to FOO(d), the restaurant at AS220, a non-profit community art space, here in Providence, dedicated to supporting local artists.  In line with the mission of AS220, FOO(d) supports local New England farmers, using locally grown ingredients to create a variety of delicious and affordable dishes.  (I'd say this is a site for Erin to visit, too.  Who knew? Cheap and locally sourced!)  Money spent in the restaurant goes into AS220's programming, supporting the creative community.  I spoke with Guy Michaud, the manager and head chef, who described the restaurant as a conduit between food artists and the artists working and presenting at AS220.

Struck by the delightfully diverse menu, I wanted to know how Guy chooses which dishes to offer.  Guy explained that the menu is seasonal and determined by what produce is available from local farmers that season.  After conversing with farmers and learning about the available ingredients, Guy creates his dishes, and chef Justin Earsing creates a "mirror menu," making all the options (except the pork empanadas) vegan-friendly.  It is very important to Guy and Justin that everyone entering FOO(d) feels comfortable and has no trouble finding something to eat, regardless of food allergies or restrictions. And with so many dishes under $10, my friends and I were excited to dig into the wide variety of options!

{Of course, I had the mac and cheese with broccoli and bread crumbs - yum!}

{A more health-conscious friend had the spinach salad with goat cheese, radish and almonds}

{I plan to try this one next: grilled cheddar cheese with garlic spinach on olive bread}

And though not photographed here, I must mention the always delicious empanada with pulled pork, roasted sweet potato and carmelized onion, which I just had to split with a friend despite being rather full from the large portion of mac and cheese. Having tried the empanada before, I now have trouble going to FOO(d) and not ordering it.

Between the fun and funky atmosphere and the yummy, locally sourced and CHEAP food, I find myself returning to FOO(d) at AS220 again and again.

Many thanks to Lucia for the fabulous photographs!