Thanks to a welcoming neighborhood, great location, and entrepreneurial group of restaurateurs bolstered by affordable, manageable rents and an accessible workforce, Ives Street is becoming the hippest, trendiest place to eat-in or take-out in the city.
For much of the 20th century, Ives Street was a blue-collar stronghold right in the middle of Fox Point. The ‘70s and ‘80s saw a much grittier period, when drug dealing on numerous street corners was commonplace. Over the next few decades, the combination of engaged business owners and residents along with city improvements and nearby infrastructure helped reinvent this once conflicted thoroughfare. Today, the neighborhood attracts a vibrant mix of Millennials, professionals, professors, families, and students.
International flair has brought acclaimed Mexican, Asian, Syrian, Thai, Portuguese, and specialty donuts to this unique enclave. On almost every afternoon and evening the area is flooded with East Siders and travellers from around the world, from artists and designers to bankers and lawyers, college students, families, and visitors, all looking to eat or drink. Customers are enthused by the variety of offerings and it’s common to see people in business suits at one end of an outdoor picnic table, students and medical professionals at the other, and out-of-towners sandwiched in between.
Weekends, which often start on Thursday around here, bring long lines that seem to move, but there is a happy, fun vibe among the patrons, with a young couple sharing a story of how they met waiting in line on a Saturday night. And, if one restaurant is too busy, there are incredible options all within a couple of blocks.
A big bonus is the Brown and RISD shuttles that cover the area, making it easy for students and faculty to patronize the restaurants; it’s like a regular stop on some nights with shuttles back-to-back-to-back, and a RIPTA line passes on a regular basis.
Jake Rojas grew up in El Paso with a strong appreciation for high quality Mexican food. Working in Michelin 3 Star restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, and Boca Raton, he honed his skills and developed a passion for sourcing “the best ingredients” and making great food. Marrying Kelly Ann, a RI native whom he met in Malibu, brought him east. On a vacation in Newport they noticed an empty storefront and the first Tallulah’s Taqueria was born. “Tallulah” was Kelly Ann’s family nickname when she was growing up. A dockside Tallulah’s in Jamestown followed, then Newport was sold, and Jake discovered Ives Street.
In 2014, he was looking for a new spot. “I fell in love with the location, the space, and the outdoor area,” he explains. Tallulah’s is located in a space that Claude Goldstein had built for United BBQ, but a lengthy and costly city permitting process ultimately killed his timeline and prospects and the business didn’t survive. “He was a pioneer,” Jake offers, “but unfortunately too far ahead of his time.” Ives Street has seen many restaurants over the years, but there was never the diversity or “big draws” for them to sustain. Today, it’s a whole different story.
The area has embraced Tallulah’s with lines every night that often look like a who’s-who of the East Side mixed in with students, travellers, and a cross-generational clientele. Many locals use an app to preorder and pick-up, while others stay and take in the atmosphere. “The outside seating is family-style at large picnic tables. I love seeing students, business people, and moms all eating at the same table. I buy a few things from the Silver Star Bakery and we support the other restaurants on the street. It’s a great street and a great neighborhood,” says Jake is well-known in RI restaurant circles and has an engaging, affable manner that is genuine.
The Galvao family operated the Eagle Supermarket for 60 years, the last survivor from an era when each neighborhood had its own market. As patrons of Tallulah’s, the family admired and appreciated the taqueria’s food, operation, and commitment to the area, so when they decided to sell, the Galvaos approached Jake, who jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to find a restaurant that would fit in, offer ‘non-competing’ food, and attract new and more business to the area,” explains Jake. “And, I found a real winner with the award-winning Chomp, a Warren restaurant known for its burgers and ‘frickles’ (fried pickles) and refined comfort food!”
“I’m very excited,” explains Sam Glynn, Chomp’s creator and front-of-the-house master. Sam, who grew up in the restaurant business in New Hampshire, pursued a baseball career that ended in the operational side of the Boston Red Sox before he rediscovered his passion in the food industry and opened Chomp.
“I’ve been looking for a second location in Providence, and especially the East Side, but we needed rent that wouldn’t choke us combined with an area that had the right feel, which was a challenge.When this opportunity presented itself, we jumped. To have all of these great restaurants in a six-block area is perfect! We are hoping to be open by the end of the year with a 50-seat restaurant and a small bar with a menu similar to Warren and a craft beer program.” He also shares that the old Eagle Supermarket sign will be displayed inside the new restaurant and it will have windows that open out for outdoor seating on a seasonal basis.
PVDonuts debuted on Allens Avenue in a shared space. From day one the weekend lines probably could have reached Ives Street. Owner Paul Kettelle spent a portion of his youth in the area and knew Ives well. When the “ideal space was available with a very fair landlord,” he and his wife and partner Lori made the move. “The area is busy and safe at any time of the day and all of the restaurant owners are friendly and cooperative.” Their handcrafted specialty donuts like the “Dunkaroos” keep a steady stream of customers from Wednesday through Sunday. And, for those of you who prefer not to wait in line, they now have an app for that, so you can order in advance and pick up your designer donuts on your schedule.
Ives Street is gaining national attention: Bon Appétit magazine recently named Aleppo Sweets to its Top 50 America’s Best New Restaurants. This is a stunning accomplishment for such a new restaurant. “Big time!” says Kalid who is graciously translating for Youssef Akhtarini’s reaction to the new acclaim. Youssef, his wife, and children fled from their home in Aleppo to safety in Turkey. After arriving, they registered as refugees and were accepted to resettle in the United States. He opened a restaurant to support his family and wanted to be near Brown University. Ives Street was a perfect fit with its affordable rent, diverse demographic, other international restaurants, and a good neighborhood.
Eduarda Ferreira has operated the Silver Star Bakery since 1989. It is the last Portuguese bakery in an area that supported several bakeries in an earlier heyday. Silver Star opens at 5am and there is a steady flow of customers the entire day. “It’s all great. Very exciting. Lots of new business – younger, diverse!” Eduarda explains. Their sweetbreads and pastries have a following that goes well past Fox Point, as regular customers ship them to friends and relatives around the world.
Another early entrant into the Ives Street scene was Mustafa Kuscu and his wife, Lisa, who opened Noodles 102, an Asian noodle house in 2007 following eight months of cutting through the city’s red tape. They feature a wonderful assortment of flavorful soups, pan-tossed noodle dishes, and claypots and rice bowls done right.
Malachi’s, owned by Joe Souza, offers coffee, shakes, and breakfast, and has been “keeping Fox Point caffeinated for 11 years.” The name goes back five generations to the Azores, and they have developed a good T-shirt and paraphernalia business as well. It has a very low-key, local feel.
Karen Krinsky started with “the first vegan ice cream truck in the world” Like No Udder over a decade ago, and after looking for space with “affordable rent,” she found an opening on Ives. “I love being here,” she observes, “especially that all of the other restaurants help each other. We get dessert ‘referrals’ from everyone and we guide customers to the [other] restaurants.” She offers 12 flavors of house-made, dairy-free scooped ice cream as well as softserve.
Bee’s Thai Cuisine has developed quite the following, and not just among locals. Brown professors regularly bring visiting colleagues here to show off the cuisine. When Bee took over the space, she didn’t do a lot of major changes (except in the kitchen) from the previous tenant, George’s Deli, so the fun, low-key atmosphere is maintained. Bee’s offers an authentic Thai experience, spiced to your taste or tolerance. It’s family owned and unpretentious with excellent food, and Bee is often running the kitchen.