When the history of Rhode Island in the 21st century is documented 50 years from now, it's a good bet that prominent figures will include the restaurateurs, chefs, and restaurant designers who continue to make Providence such an exciting city. Case in point: the pedigree of the new Everyman eatery near Olneyville. This bistro/diner/bar is located in the renovated 19th-century mill building just off Valley Street that once housed American Locomotive Works. It's owned by Leah Reynolds, formerly at the now-extinct Custom House Tavern; designed by Michael McGarty, of Trinity Rep repute; and helmed in the kitchen by "Chef Kevin," who cooked at the long-gone Golden Lantern in Warwick.
|EVERYMAN | 401.751.3630 | 311 Iron Horse Way, Providence | everymanri.com | Mon-Fri, 11:30 am-1 am; Sat-Sun, 5 pm-1 am | major credit cards | full bar | sidewalk-level accessible |
Reynolds chose the name as a way to convey the welcoming "suburban neighborhood feel" she wanted, though the logo and the large lettering across the top of the bar also reference the medieval allegorical play. She hopes to soon add a tag line to that banner: "And every woman." But she has her hands full juggling a schedule of music five nights a week, art that changes quarterly (currently Krystalann Carrier's photographic paintings hang high up on the walls), a catering business, and long hours at the restaurant.
But she's thriving on it, because of the response she is getting to a menu that brings southern Rhode Island diner food into Down City. Clam cakes and chowder, stuffies and jonnycakes, snail salad and beef stew dominate the "Starters and Snacks" section of the menu. But even under "The Heart of the Matter," there are Saugys and beans, meatloaf, mac and cheese, and chicken pot pie.
Reynolds is obviously dedicated to Rhody food favorites, but she also wants to tap local sources whenever possible, so Rhody Fresh Dairy, Calise's Bakery, Urban Edge Farm, Three Sisters Ice Cream, Little Rhody sodas, and Kenyon's Grist Mill are prominently mentioned in her menu. She also stocks several regional and local beers, but I didn't find any local wines among those listed.
So, how was the food? The clam cakes ($3.95 for six, $6.50 for 12) actually had clams in them (how untraditional!). They were not soggy, not grease balls, just delicious. Bill's report on the Everyman chili ($4.50 cup, $5.95 bowl) was that it was chock-full of ground beef, kidney beans, and tomatoes. It was very flavorful, especially topped with Monterey Jack.
I was in the mood for the pot pie ($10.95), and I wasn't disappointed, Large chunks of white meat with pearl onions, carrots, potatoes, and peas were distributed in a tasty broth-made sauce and covered with a crispy pastry pie shell. I savored it slowly, alternating forkfuls with bites of sweet potato croquettes ($4, as a side), which had intrigued me in the "Just for Dinner" category. They were crunchy outside, andchunky inside, but could have used a bit more spice to spark their yammy selves.
Bill cogitated over the dinner entrées, including the strip steak, the broiled scallops, and the baked salmon. But he came around to the chicken Francaise ($13.95). Three pieces of chicken breast sautéed in a light egg batter and then dressed up with a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce that kept Bill murmuring approval. He also liked the gussied-up baked potato and the green beans with sweet red pepper in them.
The desserts are made in-house, except for the ice cream, and I chose another nostalgia item: Phoebe's blueberry Millie, a recipe from the late, lamented Phoebe's in Seekonk, ($5.50, vanilla ice cream $2 extra). Like a pan-dowdy, this had fruit on the bottom and a thin cake layer on top, totally addicting, especially a la mode.
For ambiance at Everyman, you can choose between the bare brick walls, high open ceilings, and colorfully upholstered booths in the main dining room or the painted brick walls and gas fireplace of the intimate lounge-like area to the left of the entryway. In either room, the skeleton of the old mill building is a haunting presence where you can almost hear Italian immigrant workers munching meatball grinders for lunch, just like at Everyman.
Johnette Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.