Edgewood Café

For neighborly gourmands
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  March 5, 2010

EDGEWOOD CAFÉ | 1864 Broad St, Cranston | 401.383.5550 |edgewoodcafe.com| Tues-Sat, 11:30 am-9 pm; Sun brunch, 10 am-2 pm | Major credit cards | BYOB | Sidewalk-level accessible

The Edgewood Café's slogan is "casual neighborhood dining with a gourmet touch," and every adjective is scout's honor true. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service perky; the place is clearly an attraction for hungry locals; and as for the gourmet claim, consider the visit below.

We didn't phone for a reservation because it was a Friday and we figured we might as well just get there early, before the limited seating filled, and that 5:30 would be safe. We would have been informed upon calling that they don't take reservations, a fact probably known to the two couples we watched separately enter even earlier than us as we approached. Be advised. The little BYOB place — with a liquor store just down the street — seats fewer than three dozen in inclement weather, when the café tables on the sidewalk stand abandoned.

The restaurant is run by Johnson & Wales-trained John Walsh, who used to run the Providence Bookstore Café in Wayland Square. It's a specials-on-chalkboard, paper-napkins-on-Formica-tabletop place, with what they save in a laundry bill reflected in lower prices. Limiting the number of items on the menu is also practical for the limited number of diners they can expect. Just a soup of the day and three appetizers, if you don't include the garlic fries, plus a special and four salads; three main course specials, plus four regular entrées and five pastas. After all, if you had dozens of choices you'd still have to settle on only one. Pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches are available from the lunch menu.

We considered starting with the mussels zuppa ($8.95) as a compromise, since Johnnie wanted the John's calamari ($8.95) and I had a yen for chicken wings ($7.95). We compromised further, ordering both of those last two items. (I love democracy.) The fried calamari was virtually greaseless, still largely crisp since it hadn't been tossed with the balsamic vinaigrette. The hot pepper rings, halved grape tomatoes, and strips of sundried tomatoes worked nicely together. Instead of hot or BBQ wings, I chose Thai and was well pleased with it being garlicky and spicy as well as soy-sauce salty.

My tablemate considered having the lobster ravioli with pink vodka sauce ($16.95), and I thought about the penne with spicy red sauce ($8.95) and the salmon ($16.95), served encrusted with panko crumbs and topped with a lemon-dijonaise sauce. She ended up choosing the cheese tortellini ($14.95) and had no regrets. It was baked with a plum tomato and garlic cream sauce, tossed with baby spinach, and topped with more cheese for plenty of meatless heft.

My tentative choice of salmon was because it was more challenging to prepare than the other main dishes on the menu: BBQ ribs ($15.95), fish and chips (market price), and pub steak and fries ($19.95). What I really wanted was that steak, but Johnnie has been guilt-tripping me about french fries lately. A special was the same 10-ounce New York strip ($21.95), served with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Permitted to indulge in good conscience, I dug in. There was plenty of the announced lime and jalapeño butter on top, as well as some fresh cilantro, and the roasted potatoes were crisp and creamy, but the special addition was the veggies — sautéed strips of red pepper and baby pea pods, as fitting a taste complement as a color contrast.

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