Surprisingly Vegan Pawtucket, Rhode Island

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Have you ever been to Pawtucket, Rhode Island? I hadn’t. Pawtucket was nothing more than a name on a sign driving through Rhode Island on route 95 for me, until recently, when my plans went awry in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Attleboro, you say? I thought this was about Pawtucket. It is, it is, don’t worry. The story just starts in Attleboro.

A Happy Mistake

One early November day, I was leaving Cape Cod to head to Attleboro to check out a Craigslist van. The plan was to stop for a late lunch at The Purple Rooster because the earliest I could see the van was 5:30pm. I pulled up to the Purple Rooster at about 1pm, tried to open the door, but it was locked. I then noticed a sign on the glass saying they were closing at 1pm that day to attend a funeral. Bummer. The owner noticed me at the door, came out and apologized for the inconvenience, and gave me some vegan baked goods for free! I’ll have to make the trip to check the place out some other time.

So what now? I had a few hours to kill and a growling stomach to tend to so I did as all Millennials do, pulled out my phone and started to do a little research. I typed in “vegan food near me” on google maps (my go-to search), and to my surprise, multiple restaurants popped up. All of them were about 20 minutes away in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.┬áTwo of the places were in the same strip mall, Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar and Garden Grille Cafe. Perfect, I thought! Lunch and dessert just a couple steps apart. To Pawtucket, I went.

Pawtucket is home to the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox

Lunch at Garden Grille Cafe

I was immediately intrigued by the atmosphere in Garden Grille. The focal point of the restaurant is the bar which is an enormous tree of life. There are also house plants placed throughout, lots of natural wood, and some great folk music was playing. Apart from the aesthetics, the second thing I noticed was how busy it was for a Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t over crowded, but there seemed to be a lot of regular customers seated at the 6 or so tables and bar. I took this as a good sign.

Then there was the menu. Garden Grille Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant but most of the items are vegan. They also have a great selection of gluten-free items and all are clearly labeled. They had several specials and change the menu seasonally. I was having a hard time deciding because everything sounded so delicious, but I finally settled on the Korean tacos appetizer and seitan mushroom burger. Each seemed reasonably priced at $8 and $9, respectively.

Korean Tacos

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First came the Korean tacos. There are 2 tacos in the portion which are made with sweet chili tempeh, cabbage, chipotle aioli, and guacamole wrapped in a flour tortilla. Let me tell you, I would go to Pawtucket just for these tacos. I got hints of sesame oil paired with the smokey-spice from the chipotle and the creaminess of the guacamole and aioli. The crunch of the cabbage mixed with the nuttiness of the tempeh. Everything worked.

Seitan Mushroom Burger

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Next came my burger with a nice side salad and pickle. Unfortunately, the burger couldn’t measure up to the tacos, but it was still delicious. The burger had a thinly sliced sweet potato, caramelized onions, arugula, and a tarragon aioli to accompany the seitan patty and whole wheat bun. It was a good combination, but I would have preferred a smaller, toasted bun. I really enjoyed the sweet potato, but it was named a mushroom burger so I was expecting a more pronounced mushroom flavor instead of the main taste being sweet potato.

Overall, I was happy with the meal and I would return. Time for dessert!

Dessert at Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar

Luckily I saved room for sweets because Wildflour has it all. Ice cream, cookies, cupcakes, whoopie pies, scones, and more lined the bakery case. I asked about the ice cream flavors, and they said they only had vanilla left, but the worker said that she could make it into a sundae with chocolate ganache sauce and coconut whipped cream. She told me that she literally eats a sundae every day that she works so I said, sold, I’ll take one of those. I also got a pumpkin whoopie pie, cookie dough cupcake, and they gave me some day old scones for free!

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I dug into the coconut ice cream sundae first. It was super creamy with a great vanilla flavor. Can ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream ever not be delicious? I devoured the sundae and moved on to the baked goods. The cupcake was moist and had a surprise cookie dough core. The whoopie pie had a great level of spice to enhance the pumpkin and was also moist and held up well to the cream center. Neither cake was crumbly like some vegan baked goods can be.

The bakery is obviously very popular based on the constant stream of people I saw coming in for the hour I was there on a Wednesday afternoon. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for more soon!

Vegan Pawtucket, Who Knew?

I was very pleasantly surprised with my trip to Pawtucket. I think it often gets overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Providence, but that’s a shame because Pawtucket has a lot to offer. If you ever find yourself driving through Rhode Island on 95, think about making a pit stop for some unbelievable plant-based grub in Pawtucket. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t end up buying the van off of Craigslist.

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