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Aug 16, 2006 08:43 PM

Best coffee in Providence?

Any recommendations for a couple of coffee snobs headed to Providence the weekend after next? I figure with the heavy Italian influence there, we should find lots of good cappucino joints without having to resort to Starbucks? But then, it seems you never can tell.

I define GOOD as deep flavor, thick body, beans roasted dark but not burnt; extra credit to the joint with velvety thick microfoam. No need for fancy apple and fern designs in the foam, although those places also do seem to take care with the brew.

Any other "must-try" places to eat suggestions welcomed as well!

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  1. Try White Electric Coffee on Westminster (nice snacks to go with coffee, too).

    1. Thanks, Alice. I'm not disappointed to find only one reply, because the follow up research I've done tells me that your recommendation is superb. I'll be going down tomorrow, and was pleased to note that my hotel is on the same street!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Avid Rita

        if it's doesn't have to be all about the could go to pastiche and have an incredible piece of cake or cookies with that coffee.

      2. FYI - Westminster is quite long, and you'd have to walk the bridge over Route 95 from the hotel to White Electric (and iffy neighborhood that I wouldn't walk alone at night), from downtown to the West End. Just something to keep in mind.

        1. 3 recs:

          1) Cafe Dolce Vita - table service Italian cafe on Federal Hill, mostly desserts and coffee. They certainly at least profess to take their espresso seriously, eg their menu stipulates that the double espresso uses twice the amount of coffee, but the same amount of water. Open late, full bar, fun gelato desserts. The cakes and tarts are better around the corner at Pastiche, but Dolce Vita won't rush you, and the coffee is much more of a focus.

          2) I wish I could remember the name, but my favorite espresso in town is served in the back of one of the older Italian grocery stores on Federal Hill (towards the end of the Atwells Italian strip, NOT Constantinos or Venda, south/even-numbered side of street). Good, basic Italian pastries, espresso, and cappucino. I seem to recall that the coffee is just Lavazza or one of the other large Italian brands, but this place knows how to pull it. NB it's a grocery store, so it's only open during the day.

          3) For a more American coffee house setting, I'd personally recommend Coffee Exchange on Wickenden over White Electric (which is also American-, not Italian-style). They roast all their own beans, and do a number of different blends quite well. I've only gotten their espresso a few times, which is fine, but I'll go out of my way for their distinctive drip coffee.

          7 Replies
          1. re: finlero

            Wanted to revive this post from last year because I finally got the name of the Federal Hill grocery store I mentioned above: Roma.

            Roma continues to pull a terrific espresso in their cafe located at the back of the store. I visited over last weekend, and it was as good as ever. They're also still quite inexpensive: two double espressos and three excellent Italian pastries came to just over 10 bucks.

            Bonus points for the vibrant local color. My inability to speak fluent Italian left me squarely in the minority.

            1. re: finlero

              Had espresso at Cafe Dolce Vita about 6 weeks ago and was disappointed -- it was really bitter and not pleasantly strong. if there was any original aroma in the coffee they use it was lost in the process. to me a good espresso shouldn't require any sugar to bring pleasure to the palate. my Cafe D.V. espresso experience was one not to repeat.

              1. re: madgee

                Yeah, I must confess that I went back recently and wasn't impressed either. I wasn't sure if it was an off day, a more prolonged slump, or just my tastes getting fussier; based on your post, I'm guessing it wasn't option 1.

                Madgee, is there anywhere in the area you particularly do like?

                1. re: finlero

                  sadly i can't name one place in Providence where i enjoy drinking their coffee, other than at my own home! :-)
                  a friend of mine just told me this afternoon that she had a *good* cup of coffee this morning at the 3 Sisters place on Hope. i was surprised but i might give them a try one of these days.
                  one place that serves perfect espresso is Andrew's Bistro but that's in Cumberland and this thread is focused on the capital...

                  1. re: madgee

                    i'm surprised the coffee is good at 3 sisters because the ice cream is absolutely awful. don't waste your calories on it!

                    1. re: tomatosoup

                      This surprises me about the ice cream (off topic) since I understand they use the Maximillian recipes, and Maximillian was great.

                      - Garris
                      Providence, RI

                      1. re: Garris

                        i was surprised too- but they somehow managed to ruin max's recipes. i really enjoyed maximillian's! but three sisters is icy and flavorless. i head to daily scoop in barrington to satisfy my ice cream cravings now!

            2. wow, you've made me nostalgic! i haven't lived in providence for years, so i apologize upfront that my assessment is dated.

              1. i love white electric. it's a great place to linger, there's great music, there's a scruffy hipster aesthetic without being painfully hip, and the coffee's great.

              2. ocean coffee roasters has great beans, which i prefer over coffee exchange. their food is also pretty decent, though i found that the (painfully hip) staff would consistently space out and burn my bagel or cheesy meaty bready things.

              3. daily bread has amazing portuguese sweet bread and good foccacia breads. they have coffee, but go there for the snacks. there was one just up the street a bit from white electric back in the day.

              4. cav. food so-so. service apathetic. coffee decent. lovely antique store space.

              5. oh! and there was this tiny little place in a home or cottage or something, with excellent well executed salads and sandwiches. it was a bit pricey for what it was, but consistently excellent. my recollection of the location is that you go south on wickenden street, past the shops, the highway entrance, and a gas station, then it's on the right hand side. does this place still exist? and is it still good? and what on earth is its name?

              13 Replies
              1. re: rose water

                #5 is Olga's Cup & Saucer. Not being a coffee drinker, I can't comment on their coffee. But their pastries, food, and bread are delicious. On a nice day, their patio is a nice place to linger.

                White Electric is great, but their seats are really uncomfortable.

                Ocean Coffee Roasters has become something else - forget the name - but they still do serve coffee, muffins, etc. Though at night they become a Thai (?) restaurant.

                Daily Bread on Broadway is gone, and the one in Wayland has become a new coffee shop - I believe it's call The Edge. My hubby had positive things to say about the coffee.

                1. re: rose water

                  An update on one of your selections...Ocean Coffee Roasters on Waterman & Thayer is by no means any longer "Painfully hip". It changed ownership and is now just painful. Not at ALL what it used to be five years or so ago.

                  1. re: Amygirl

                    Finally made it to The Edge in Wayland Sq. recently and had the best cafe au lait evah. there. Also really like Coffee Exchange. More Serious Coffee People than I am like Seven Stars-----the friend I went to The Edge with used to live here and was back in town visiting. We only went to The Edge because Seven Stars was closed (late afternoon)----she is very much a coffee-head and liked Seven Stars the most.

                    1. re: Moonpie1

                      Did you have any baked goods at The Edge? I went for coffee and a muffin a couple months ago and the muffin was as terrible as the coffee was delicious! Just wondering if they've brought the pastry case. I liked The Edge also because it looks really cozy and welcoming for just sitting and reading for a while.

                      Also, as a more general response to this thread, the coffee beans used at Olga's, Seven Stars, and White Electric (and maybe other coffee places, I don't know) are from the same company: New Harvest. I believe they are based in Warwick, RI and it's all fair trade, organic beans. I think that Olga's and White Electric sell the beans to take home, and New Harvest had their own stand at all the farmer's markets last year.

                      1. re: ginqueen

                        Seven Stars sells the beans too. It's our House Bean, although I can never make a mocha as good as theirs...

                        1. re: ginqueen

                          New Harvest just moved and is now based in Pawtucket. They roast some really spectacular coffee, one of RI's great treasures. For dark roast people, I strongly recommend Cafe Marika.

                          1. re: celeriac

                            Is there a cafe at the Pawtucket location, or is it just retail?

                            1. re: finlero

                              Neither of the above. New Harvest roasts and sells wholesale and via mail order only. Their coffee is served in many places around town though--White Electric, Seven Stars, Olga's and many more.

                              If you are looking for a Pawtucket Cafe, a new one called Kafe Lila just opened up in the Grant, the mixed use redevelopment on Main St in downtown Pawtucket. Haven't tried their coffee yet, but they also have cool homemade ice creams, ices and such.

                          2. re: ginqueen

                            I did not have any baked goods at The Edge. I liked the atmosphere too, though. Looking forward to sneaking in there w/a book one of these days. One person I was with had a brownie----when we sat down, I said, "didn't you order a brownie?" and she said yes, but she had eaten it while still in line and it was very good. Other person I was with had their granola in a bag----she poured it into a dish and I tried some---very good.

                            I love New Harvest for making at home. It's a favorite----I buy it at Whole Foods.

                            1. re: Moonpie1

                              I forgot about this post---I have been back to The Edge a lot since the spring and take back my qualms about their baked goods (when they first opened, I swear they were really not so good). I have devoured pretty much everything pastry-related that I've ordered there---an impossibly light, fluffy blueberry scone, brownies, cupcakes, muffins....all have been delicious and fresh. And the coffee continues to be great, as well as the bright, relaxed atmosphere. Really a nice place to sit and read with a giant cup.

                              1. re: ginqueen

                                Yeah, the Edge has become the real deal. Great pastries, great breakfast, great vibe. I just wish their hours would match Starbucks...

                                - Garris

                                1. re: Garris

                                  The Edge has been varying their hours in the for summer and the rest of the year. During the year, save holidays, they're open until 8.

                                  During the summer I think it's six.

                          3. re: Moonpie1

                            I second The Edge - I especially love their espresso. I'm usually a cafe au lait lover but sometimes I just need to order an Americano there to savor the flavor.

                            I've also had some great cappuccinos at Roba Dolce - very strong and small.

                            I wrote up some of my favorite cafes on my blog here:
                            (This definitely needs a part 2)