Due to the economic clime, it appears that your Lake County food critic now finds himself on the east coast for the next six months, only able to return back home on the weekends to re-nourish his quickly depleting Chicago style fat layer.
Oh the pain of not being able to eat my beloved Chicago style hot dogs, pizza and burritos! I know that Big Ed’s BBQ & Big Jacks will need to adjust down their business models as a result of not seeing me mass consume their food bi-weekly! Yep, there are going to have to be some big adjustments for everyone.
So here I am typing to you from Providence, Rhode Island. OK, believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to the next few months. This town has allot to see, and plenty of fine restaurants to challenge my pallet. I embrace the chance to expand my flavor horizons as well as my waistline on new food experiences.
This was my first week in Providence, and since I was only in for a Wed-Thr-Fri visit, so I only have a few reviews to share.
Keep in mind, as soon as I got home Friday night I ordered a Giordano’s sausage & cheese stuffed pizza, had my Italian beef and sausage combo at Big Jack’s for a Saturday lunch, had a couples night out dinner at Johnny’s Chop house in Antioch Saturday night, and closed out the weekend with a drive by to say hello to Big Ed after getting some fantastic tacos and char grilled chicken at the Chicken Palace in Waukegan on Sunday.
OK, so maybe I won’t be suffering too much… Alright, back to Providence!
Haven Brothers Diner
First up was the famous Haven Brothers diner, the burger was called a “double murder”, bacon and cheese graced the top of two skinny 1/3 lb meat patties, but the the only thing I thought got murdered, was my wallet! The less than exciting frozen french fries did little to help make me feel full or satisfied and at a cost of $12, this one was destined to not do well on Burt’s TEV chart.
Don't get me wrong, as far diners go for a location, this was one of very coolest! It’s a 1890’s carriage drawn diner car that long since lost the wagon wheels and horses in favor of a semi-truck trailer frame. It sits parked in front of the City Hall in downtown Providence from 5PM to 4 AM. So it gets one of those been there once, don’t need to ever go back, but knowing that it exists is comfort enough for me.
Taste: 4 – greasy low quality meat, griddle fried with lousy fries
Experience: 10 – Eating downtown on a semi truck loaded 1890’s diner car?? It was very cool!
Value: 2 – I left feeling as empty inside as my wallet
The neighborhood is cool, and there are a ton of sights to be seen, the bustling outdoor cafe restaurants are full of beautiful college students, Thayer street is packed with students parading around and bouncing from bar to bar to restaurant, being loud, drunk, on the cell phone or all the above. It’s college, but I love the vibe!
Anyway, Antonio’s pizza is really typical of the genre of pizza, tough chewy bottom crust, reheated in a pizza oven to make it even more chewy and tough. Using average ingredients, acidic tomato sauce, cheap cheese and greasy pepperoni and some kind of mild sausage link that was grilled first and then thrown on top to bake into the pie while being reheated, clearly as an afterthought.
On the internet, Antonio's appears on every top 10 list for Providence, in fact on one board it garnered straight 4 & 5 star ratings by over 60 reviewers, these guys clearly love the place. I on the other hand, wasn't so smitten.
Taste: 2 – I hated the: sausage, the crust, the pepperoni, the sauce…the pizza
Experience: 6 – cool place to people watch
Value: 10 – cheap - 2 slices under $3!
Mr. Gyros - Gyro & Hot Weiners (BTW: they misspell it on purpose!)
But even more amusing is the whole gyros love I’m experiencing out here. It appears that they have darn near as many places offering gyros as we do back in Chicago. I guess great everyday foods are without borders.
While driving around and hounding around for some lunch food, I noticed one of the streets had a place called; Mr. Gyros & hot wieners, what could go together better than those two items I wondered…
Curiosity got the better of me and I went in anyway, and started a friendly conversation at the counter; “what kind of gyros are you serving?” answer: “beef, beef & lamb or chicken gyy-rows” I’m like”no, I meant what BRAND your serving?” answer: “don’t know, don’t really care, but they’re good, we make ‘em here.” I look at the back an two gyro spits are turning cones of meat. “So you do the meat here?” “No! We just make the sauce and cut the meat here, you know, we make ‘em fresh”. Alright, at least now that that’s all cleared up…
My eyes scan the place once more before ordering, and settle on the Kronos Central girl on the poster over on the wall with the Kronos Central logo!! These bozos have Chicago gyros (yee-ros ) and don’t know it!! Whoo hoo, small victory for me!
So I order up one. What comes out can only be described as “right stuff, wrong proportions” it’s supposed to look like a burrito, what I got was like a taco appetizer.
The tightly wrapped gyro meat looked lonely inside, when I spoke to the frightened strips of meat in there was an echo in the pita. The few gyro shavings were great, as I said, it was Kronos Central after all, and the house made tsazikki was good, and made from a nice Greek yogurt base.
I was amused by the menu, it offered Chicago pizza as well, this I’ll have to try in the future, I’ll be back, and maybe I can the Greek owner to talk and get excited about someone who know what a gyro is, who knows??
Taste: 7 - fresh off the cone shaved on order
Experience: 7 - nice place
Value: 4 – way small portions, about ½ for the same money as in Chi-town
Pizzaway is definitely one of those kinds of places; you got a couple of regular guys running it, it feels very local, and for east coast/ NY style pizza its OK.
Pizza –wise, everything was pretty typical of this genre of pizza. The sauce was very tomato-y, strong bordering on the more acidic than sweet almost like straight paste, the pepperoni was the greasy Hormel kind, and of course since this is the east coast, they don’t seem to know what real Wisconsin cheese can do for a pizza, so they use the cheap stuff. The pizzas seemed hand tossed, but the bottom crust had a telltale crisscross conveyor pattern that indicates it wasn’t baked on a brick/stone oven or directly on the stone.
Taste: 5 – it was alright, hated the sausage
Experience: 7 – nice talkative guys, just watching the BoSox game.
Value: 9 – what a great bargain, 2 slices under $4!
After eating pizza at lunch, I opted for an awful, awful. No I’m not insulting anyone (this time) I’m just calling it, what it is. Apparently, Rhode Island has several signature drinks which are called; coffee milks, cabinets & awful, awfuls.
I opted for a coffee chocolate (mocha) awful, awful at the Newport Creamery. And it wasn’t awful at all. In fact, it’s really good and just a twist on a good ol’ fashioned milkshake. As explained to me, it has a little more syrup and sugar in it and also uses higher fat content milk. I couldn’t tell, but as John Travolta in Pulp Fiction said “it’s a damn good shake”.
Taste: 9 – It a milkshake, what’s not to like?!
Experience: 7 – nice storefront.
Value: 8 – I felt it was a fair deal.
Alright, stay tuned, there’s going to be lots more of Providence to talk about this year. But my heart and weekends will still belong to Chicago!