From authentic Colombian and Italian to smokehouse barbecue and vegan pastries, Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley offers a world of variety — and some hidden gems. There’s so much here, actually, that you could spend a whole weekend (or two) eating your way through. Here’s how.
For coffee and pastries, it’s Gingersnaps. Whether you’re craving homemade pumpkin muffins, coffee milk cake, apple crisp, or just want to score some “Friends”-themed cookies or a summery birthday cake, Gingersnaps serves up knee-bucklers daily.
What they bake each day changes, but think salted caramel brown butter deluxe cookies, Dutch apple pocket pies, and French macarons — chocolate ganache, cake batter, snickerdoodle, honey lavender, S’mores — fresh-baked cookies — peanut butter chocolate chip, midnight snack, chocolate almond biscotti, and yes, gingersnap — chocolate chip muffins, cinnamon donuts. Get your Golden Girls on with a mini cheesecake — peanut butter, Oreo, turtle, blueberry. If you have a sweet tooth, this is your first stop.
182 Front St. in Lincoln, 401-475-2587, gingersnapsbakeryri.com.
SHANNA’S COUNTRY KITCHEN
If you’re a breakfast person — and you know who are — hit up Shanna’s. This is the spot you might find specials like Skillet Potato Benedict — poached eggs, skillet potatoes, bacon, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, jalapeños and cheddar cheese topped with hollandaise — French toast topped with blueberries, raspberries, banana — breakfast burritos or Belgian waffles or a stack of “crunchy” pancakes with granola cooked in, rib-eye steak Benedict with roasted peppers, mushrooms and onions, or a banana-split sundae waffle topped with ice cream, strawberries, walnuts, strawberry sauce and whipped cream. A classic old-school breakfast joint: cash or check-only, opens at 6 a.m., and no official website.
1517 Old Louisquisset Pike in Lincoln, 401-725-5670, facebook.com/ShannasCountryKitchenRI.
For authentic Colombian: La Casona. Opened by Doña Gloria, “professional chef and Colombian mother,” in Central Falls in 2006, the restaurant serves up authentic Colombian fare at their outdoor seating. You might have Huevos Revueltos for breakfast — scrambled eggs with hogao sauce served with corn arepa and cheese — or Calentado Casona — rice and beans, scrambled eggs, corn arepa with cheese, and grilled beef, pork or chicken. Pair a cocktail with tapas — perhaps chicken or beef empanadas, Chorizo Picado (Colombian Sausage with corn arepa) or Montaditos (shrimp, sausage, beef and pork rind on fried plantains with fresh guacamole.) Entrees include parrillada — bite-size beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, blood sausage, fried pork rinds, french fries, plantains, fried cassava and cheese — and Minibandeja — beef, pork, chicken or ground beef with rice, beans, chorizo, fried pork rinds, sweet plantain, corn arepa, and egg. Or pop in for something sweet: They have a bakery.
768 Broad St. in Central Falls, 401-727-0002, lacasonaus.com.
You don’t have to go Federal Hill for good Italian in Rhode Island. Hit up Parma Ristorante. Think live music and prime rib night. At this family-friendly restaurant, you might start on Point Judith calamari, eggplant rollatini, or fried zucchini. Grilled pizzas include shrimp scampi — grilled shrimp, garlic butter and mozzarella — or the Parma — goat cheese, caramelized onions, truffle oil. Gnocchi-lovers, rejoice: Try brown butter, alfredo, lobster cream, blue cheese and bacon among others. And of course, the pasta: From lobster Mac and cheese — orecchiette with a cheddar cheese sauce, crispy bacon, grilled asparagus, and fresh cracked lobster meat then topped and baked with a panko crumb topping — cappellini di mare — cappellini in a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce with white wine, shrimp, littlenecks, mussels, and calamari. Entrees include Lamb di Casa—grilled rack of lamb encrusted with Dijon mustard and panko crumb, then placed over a butternut squash risotto, garnished with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and served with garlic mashed potatoes — and cioppino — stewed shrimp, scallops, littlenecks, mussels, haddock, calamari, and lobster meat in chicken broth, white wine, and San Marzano tomatoes.
266 Putnam Pike in Smithfield, 401-349-0079, parmaristorante.com.
For Cali vibes in Pawtucket, beeline to Wildflour Vegan Bakery & Juice Bar. Think Kilimanjaro coffee — cherry and chocolate aromas with hints of blueberry, whiskey and a little smoke — cardamom lattes, espresso & tonic with lavender syrup. Smoothies range from Dino (spinach, kale, banana, blueberry, almond butter, almond milk) to Sgt. Pepper (avocado, pineapple, lemon, ginger, cayenne, orange juice) or Elvis (banana, peanut butter, granola, coconut milk, ice.) add in anything from spirulina to hemp seed, and pair with a blueberry scone, cinnamon knot, banana bread, perhaps a S’mores cupcake, or peanut butter brownie.
Lunch on vegan chili, garlic and herb focaccia, smashed avocado toast, or grab a kale quinoa salad, sweet potato pudding or juice to-go.
727 East Ave. in Pawtucket, 401-475-4718, wildflourbakerycafe.com.
GOTTAQ SMOKEHOUSE BBQ
If you’ve hit up #FoodTruckFriday at Roger Williams recently, you might’ve smelled the smoky goodness. GottaQ is the real deal (not just your friend who claims to be a grill master then microwaves some A-1 sauce.) They “smoke our meats fresh every day on pure hickory, low and slow for hours and hours.” Fries are hand-cut, and wings “go through a three day prep.” Breakfast menu includes a barbecue pulled pork or brisket with cheese omelette, with home fries and toast; brisket hash omelet; a classic ham, bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich; biscuits and country gravy with eggs and home fries, or maybe sausage, peppers and onion scramble with cheese grits, toast and home fries. It’s not just meats: they do chocolate chip pancakes, grilled cornbread, pulled pork, barbecue baked beans.
For lunch and dinner? Come hungry. We’re talking full rack of ribs; pulled chicken, pork, or brisket, paired with all the fixins’ — chicken chili, collard greens, cornbread, potato salad and more. You might go for a “Q” Ban sandwich — pulled pork, house smoked ham, house mustard, Swiss on ciabatta, or a “Mac & Cheese Bowl” with pulled pork, chicken or brisket and cornbread crumble.
2000 Mendon Road in Cumberland, 401-475-4227. gottaq.net.
WRIGHT’S FARM RESTAURANT
If you know only one restaurant in Blackstone Valley already, it’s probably Wright’s Farm & Restaurant. Their family-style chicken dinner is a Rhody institution. This is the type of spot where you pass the biscuits. Think a table full of home-cooked chicken or steak with pasta, French fries and salad. Bring the whole crew — if you run out of food, they’ll serve you more at no additional cost. Buy some fudge in the gift shop before you leave.
84 Inman Road in Burrillville, 401-769-2856, wrightsfarm.com.
For creatively hip pub fare like fried avocado or Mexican street corn dip with tortilla chips, or buffalo mac and cheese with bacon, rocket to Rocco’s Pub & Grub in Smithfield. Here you might start on Philly cheesesteak egg-rolls (hand-rolled, with shaved rib-eye, cheeses, peppers, onions and Chipotle ranch), barbecue pulled pork brioche sliders, Kung Pao cauliflower with cilantro lime aioli. Wing people, this is your dream: boneless or bone-in, with a smattering of dippings, from “Big Mac” to mango habanero, garlic Parmesan to Korean red chili. For sandwiches, you might sink your teeth into a Cape Cod reuben with crispy cod, Swiss and coleslaw with tater tots or sweet potato fries, fried chicken and waffle sandwich with maple aioli, or bacon jam burger — maple bourbon bacon jam, gorgonzola, fried egg, arugula, tomato.
55 Douglas Pike in Smithfield, 401-349-2250, roccospubandgrub.com.
BLACK BAR & GRILLE
Self-described as a modern, food forward bar and grill with outdoor seating and live music, this isn’t your uncle’s sports bar. Specials might include house-made potato chips, grilled chipotle ribeye with lime compound butter, or hand-cut poutine fries topped with local cheddar and gravy. Entrees include pistachio crusted salmon, fish tacos, warm or chilled lobster roll, or a Texas burger — Angus beef with Tennessee whiskey barbecue sauce, piled with cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon, and hand-cut onion rings — or a fig jam and prosciutto flatbread pizza with mozzarella. For dessert? Perhaps banana cheesecake Xango — cheesecake filling in a flour tortilla, deep-fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar, finished with chocolate and caramel drizzle.
1697 Mendon Road in Woonsocket, 401-217-9392, blackbargrille.com.