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Aug 8, 2008 09:33 AM

Review - North Side Grille

In my quest for trying many new restaurants in the Providence area this summer, my friend and I decided to head to the newly opened (August 1) 'North Side Grille' on Mineral Spring Avenue. It's been under construction for about six months (maybe longer?) located in the former 'Bickfords Restaurant'.

Again, it seems as though the place has been under renovations for a long while, but I'm not sure what was renovated. The inside looks different than from what I remembered from Bickfords, yet it didn't look "new" (especially not the bathroom! ). Tables, booths, fixtures, etc. - everything looked like it was used (chipped/scratched) and worn (either from Bickford's or another restaurant). A bit of a turn off for me, considering it's a new restaurant.

The menu is very basic and simple, non-pretentious. No-frills appetizers (calamari, onion rings, etc), salads, sandwiches, burgers, a few pasta and chicken entrees. Nothing really "jumped out", nothing really "tempting", nothing "different" nor "intriguing". What was a nice surprise: the prices did reflect this simplicity - they were very affordable (compared to what some other restaurants have been charging for similar offerings - starting with 'Everyman Bistro' and 'Euro Cafe' which I both reviewed recently).

We skipped the apps since there really was nothing that 'stuck out'. My friend and I settled on burgers for dinner. She chose "The Original Burger" (which she could add a few toppings) while I chose the "Bacon Cheese Burger". I must say, the burgers were huge and served on a ciabalta roll/bun. They were cooked to our specifications (why has that been a problem with other restaurants lately?) and juicy and delicious. We chose the 'hand cut' potato chips as our 'sides' at the suggestion of our waitress, and they were just as good as the burger as well as very filling. Both burgers came to about $8 each - very worth it.

For dessert our choices were "Vanilla-bean Cheesecake" (which seems to be a staple on everyone's menu these days) and something called a "Chocolate Bomb Cake" (ditto) - the food suppliers must be offering a special on these two desserts this summer! We each settled on the chocolate cake, which was a moist chocolate layer/mousse cake. Nothing surprising, except the price (each dessert under $4 while I've been paying $6-$8 for the same dessert at other 'cafes' and 'grilles').

Service was friendly and helpful, though our waitress was a bit on the 'nervous' side. The manager ( a bit nervous herself) visited our table a few times to make sure everything was to our liking, and then asking if we would return again as we were leaving. Could be because we were only one of three tables taken in the whole restaurant at 7 PM on a summer night.

Burgers/drinks/desserts for two, including a 20% tip (no alcoholic beverages were ordered) came to $21 a piece. Not bad at all.

Overall, it seemed to be a scaled-down 'Greggs' or 'Chelos'. I definitely recommend for a family restaurant with a simple menu, generous portions, and affordable prices. If you're looking for a filling "cheap eat" with family or friends (especially in this economy), this is also the place to go. (Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days).

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  1. I'm glad to hear that it was a pleasant experience. It's actually still owned by the Bickfords folks...they're doing a lot of re-branding (like Wicked in Sharon, MA) in hopes of saving the company. That probably explains the worn fixtures, I'm willing to bet they're the same ol' Bickfords tables. It's a shame, because Bickfords revamped their selections a few years ago and actually had pretty high quality food, but couldn't seem to escape their reputation. I hope the new names work!

    6 Replies
    1. re: lilypi

      Interesting to hear that! I didn't know it was still owned by Bickford's.

      It's been in the news that their Seekonk location (Fall River Ave) is gone as well. The investors in the (awful) "1149" restaurant in East Greenwich are taking over that location to do another "1149";I believe this one is going to be called '1149 East' . I guess Bickford's didn't see that location worth changing themselves?

      1. re: OOliver

        I know that they were planning to let certain locations go due to chronic bad sales, but locations like Sharon were once upon a time HUGE money makers. The owners aren't really the smartest restauranteurs....I hope they've hired a good business manager!

        1. re: lilypi

          Thanks for the info.

          Now you have me wondering - is/was Bickfords a national or regional corporate chain restaurant (such as Applebees) or is it privately owned (such as Gregg's) ? I don't recall if I've ever seen any outside of New England. I do remember them sprouting up all over the place in the 1970s.

          Also - is the one in Cranston (Reservoir Ave) still open and operating as a Bickfords? I believe that has opened and closed many times, just not sure what it's last identity has been.

          1. re: OOliver

            They were privately owned, at least as far back as a couple of years ago. That may have changed based on their financial struggles. I haven't been in Cranston in awhile, so I have no idea whether that Bickfords is still kicking around...The Jefferson Boulevard location still exists as a Bickfords as far as i know

            1. re: lilypi

              Bickford's was a chain only in New England. They had stores in MA, R.I., CT, VT, and N.H. Bickford's was and is a corporation and have been for many years. Many of their financial struggles began when the people who owned a majority of the company took over in the head office. While the food at Bickford's was a high quality, the customers that Bickford's had did not want it or appreciate it. That is something that the main office did not think of when they changed the Bickford's menu. If they wanted to get away from breakfast then they should have closed the stores down and reopened them under other names--like they did with Wicked in Sharon.

              Honestly, a big problem that Bickford's has is that the majority owners didn't believe in a lot of the management staff they had in place in many of their locations. They ended up hiring managers who came from "better" restaurants and these managers did not know how to actually work. It was laughable really. I can tell you about one manager who left on a busy Sunday morning shift because he had to take his wife grocery shopping! And then people want to know why Sharon lost sales? And the other managers weren't any better. They didn't know how to cook, or serve, or even wash dishes quickly--in fact they were just good to be out front to talk to the guests. Glorified host people is what they were. One of the managers didn't even know how to place his food orders correctly--these are just some examples of how and why many of the Bickford's started having financial struggles. Oh, and I know for a fact that ALL of the new and better managers who Bickford's hired have all left the company. LOL.

              My opinion about the Seekonk Bickford's is that they should have stayed a Bickford's and not been turned into a Grille. The guests didn't want a Grille and the main office was surprised they weren't doing better there. Why? They could go down the street to all of those other dinner restaurants that are there and have a much better experience with the full bar available and a cozier atmosphere. I thought the Seekonk store was not very comfortable. The colors looked nice but it wasn't a cozy and comfortable place to sit in for too long.

              I believe the Cranston store is closed now, and I've heard that the Jefferson Blvd. location closed down for the late night shift.

              Also, the North Side Grille is NOT owned by Bickford's at all. I know the owners very well and while they are able to use some some of Bickford's suppliers, they make all of the decisions regarding that restaurant and they are on the hook for any losses the place incurs during the start up.

              1. re: Melanie50

                I enjoyed North Side Grille also. I thought the prices were good and the food was also good although I wasn't as happy with the Italian food. You were better off ordering something that was not Italian. It was a nice restaurant, but apparently they went out of business this week. I drove by and they were closed and the building was for lease and there was a truck outside that said "Bickford's Companies" on it. In this economy the restaurant business is very tough. I think a Chelo's or Greggs would do better there even if its a smaller scale of one of those places.

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