Gourmet burgers in a New York-style club
by Dawn Keable
108 North Main St., Providence, 751-1200
Mon-Sat, 11 a.m.-midnight
Major credit cards
Leave it to an art teacher to grasp the red accents in Olives's decor.
"Pimentos, perhaps?" said my friend, Andrea, when I admitted that I was not
seeing an obvious link to the rest of the olive color scheme here. Luckily, the
overall atmosphere of the restaurant will not be lost on the more literal types
-- i.e., me. Gone are all traces of the poodle skirts of its prior occupant,
Sh-Booms. (Whew!) Now the interior has the revived, fresh feel of a New
Beyond the olive theme: olive-colored booths; green-and-white, slip-covered
chairs; a green stained floor; waitstaff outfitted in olive drabs; a rich wood
detailing. Thickly matted pictures line the walls, while, as an added bonus,
the front opens directly onto the street.
Olives boasts two bars, so it only seemed fitting to start our night off with
a drink. I went with a frozen mudslide ($4.75). It was creamy and frothy,
beyond delicious. Andrea (not to be confused with my fiancé, Andre,
although they do occasionally answer to the same name) started with a
refreshing iced tea ($1). But after watching me so relish my drink for several
minutes, she switched to a white Russian ($3.50). Enter the contented smiles.
While we were waiting for our appetizer to arrive, we munched on a
complimentary bowl of grilled vegetables. (Actually, I munched -- Andrea
watched.) The assortment of sliced carrots, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms,
and onions had a nice, woodsy flavor. And how clever of a gourmet hamburger
restaurant to give us vegetables -- and the false security that we'd be eating
healthily for the rest of the evening!
Indeed, the calorie counter went out the window with our appetizer --
"Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings" ($6.95). Served with a light coconut-cream
dipping sauce, the wings were tender, tasty, and not overly spicy. With the
high-backed booths offering protection and no dates to impress, Andrea and I
quickly progressed from daintily cutting off small pieces of the chicken to
getting down and dirty with the finger food. By the time we got to the main
course, we both needed extra napkins.
Andrea, impressed that the vegetarian choices went far beyond the traditional
garden burger, originally ordered the "Perry Como" burger. But somewhere
between our table and the kitchen, our waiter apparently decided that the
"Johnny Mercer" ($6.95) was more her speed. And you know what? He was right.
Cooked perfectly, the portobello burger (Portobello? Perry Como?) featured
large mushroom caps lightly seasoned and dipped in herbed bread crumbs on
focaccia bread buttered with a basil-mustard sauce. The vegetarian burger was
served with traditional fries and an unusual, cold
toasted-peanut-and-sweet-corn salad. Tossed with red onions and cilantro, the
side was creatively flavorful.
I selected the "Glenn Miller: Mediterranean Burger" ($7.95). Mixed with minced
onions, garlic, bread crumbs, and romano cheese, the juicy beef patty was
amazingly thick. And sandwiched between the two slices of mile-high focaccia
bread was also a slice of tomato smothered in melted provolone cheese. My
accompaniments included a delicious homemade potato salad with chopped pieces
of egg and celery, along with a warm black-olive-and-tomato salad.
Next course: dessert. Andrea picked a slice of caramel apple pie ($4.95).
Mixed in a creamy custard, the chunks of apples were baked in a dense
shortbread cookie crust and topped with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream
drizzled with caramel. All in all good, but Andrea thought a few more spices
would've enhanced the natural flavors.
I chose the chocolate bread pudding ($4.95). Not your traditional bread
pudding, this was for chocoholics. The dark chocolate custard was extremely
rich, and with a single serving that easily could have served two, moderation
was definitely key to a happy belly.
So came the close to our evening of good conversation at a much-needed trendy
addition to the Providence restaurant scene. And thanks to Andrea, I will never
look at an olive the same way again.