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Finding the Perfect Burger, Brew at The Abbey in Providence, Rhode
The Abbey in Providence, R.I.
Story and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 12/12/17.
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Burger joints have been popping up all over the place as of
late, but often served with sides of attitude, entitlement, trendiness
On the other hand, there's The Abbey in Providence, R.I., that got
burgers and the neighborhood restaurant and bar concept right the first
time. The Abbey opened in 2001, quickly gaining a legendary local
serving exactly what the customer wanted -- that is, juicy,
substantial mouthwatering burgers cooked exactly to specification and
ice cold beer at
low prices within an unpretentious, cozy neighborhood
setting. Very little has changed since then, thus sticking to the
adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
At first sight, The Abbey looks like many other local bars with its
small, plain-looking facade. Once inside, however, a
totally different story evolves with a surprisingly
spacious, family-friendly dining area, an attractive long bar, 30
burger options (many you will find no where else), an extensive comfort
foods menu and an astonishing 100
beers from around the world. Jennifer Ricci, general manager of The
Abbey, likes to keep things simple at the restaurant by displaying drink and food advertisements on
the wall, while also showcasing a thoughtfully-designed menu that makes
it easy to navigate the many choices of burgers, as well as
recommendations for the perfect beer pairings.
Dining and bar area at The Abbey.
Menu shows how to best order a burger and brew.
"We never are frozen," said Ricci, of the burgers. "We have literally
tasted a 1,000 different blends and have gone to great lengths to get
the flavor done right. We have a real gas grill for the perfect
The breads for the burgers are well-bred, too (sorry for the bad
pun), brought in locally from Calise Bakery in Lincoln, R.I. The Abbey
also partners with the Wisconsin Cheese Board where third and fourth
generation cheese makers create what is regarded as some of the best
tasting cheeses in the country. The fresh, full-bodied taste of the
cheeses clearly go beyond the norm and wonderfully complement the
incredible, mouthwatering flavor of the burgers.
Even with the clearly-written sections of the menu to assist with
selections, it's hard to know what to order as virtually everything
seems like a "must-try" selection. For starters, The Lumberjack stands
as a top choice for those with big appetites. This colossal burger with
two patties comes with Wisconsin Swiss and cheddar cheeses,
pickles, yellow mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, sliced white onions and
iceberg lettuce on three thick slices of grilled Texas toast.
The humongous Lumberjack burger from The Abbey. Photo source:
Another favorite: the Couch Potato, a 10 oz. seasoned burger with Wisconsin
bleu cheese, thick cut potato chips, BBQ pulled
pork, sauteed onions and garlic mayonnaise on a grilled sourdough bun.
One of Ricci's personal favorites is The Highwayman, a 10 oz. patty
with Wisconsin brick and cheddar cheeses, fried ham and egg, onion rings
and barbecue sauce on two halves of a grilled knot bun. Many love The
Honky Tonk with Wisconsin brick cheese, barbecue sauce, pulled pork and
fried onion rings on a grilled sesame bun. A side of perfectly-formed
sweet potato fries makes a great dish even better!
The Honky Tonk burger from the Abbey.
"The burgers are huge and cooked exactly to specification," said Ricci.
"Employees go through lots of training to get it right. Also, we don't
use a press unless requested. It's important to leave the flavor in.
All the juice is there."
Located in a solid working class section of Providence near Providence
College, The Abbey not only brings in regulars from Providence College and local
neighborhoods, but all of Rhode Island and many towns and cities in
Massachusetts -- even as far away as Boston (an hour away). For a small
restaurant, it is astounding that an average of 900 customers arrive
every week with approximately 600 burgers created in that time span.
Forty percent of those customers come in from Providence College.
Providence College alumni and faculty meet at The Abbey. Photo
credit: Jennifer Ricci.
If not in the mood for burgers, the rest of the menu
will more than
suffice with its impressive offerings of appetizers, soups and salads,
sandwiches, flatbread pizzas and other entrees. The Meatloafer features
a huge block of homemade meatloaf, Wisconsin American cheese, and
house-made ketchup on a bulkie roll. The Porky Pig Grilled Cheese has
pork, tater tots, and cheddar and jack cheeses on Texas
toast. The Tender and We Mean Tender, Tip Sandwich features house
marinated steak tips, sauteed mushrooms, onions and melted provolone
cheese on a warm, baked hoagie roll. The Cajun Fish Sammie offers fried
Cajun white fish, lettuce, tomato, and spicy mayo with tangy red
cabbage cole slaw. One of the current lunch specials: The Billy-Bob
that combines pulled pork rib meat and barbecue sauce on a hoagie roll.
Hearty soups include New England clam chowder,
and baked chili, while tempting appetizers like homemade potato chips,
loaded nachos, fried dough and the marinated and skewered honey cured
are hard for many customers to resist despite the huge main course
servings on the way.
While the mouthwatering burgers often take center
stage, the beer selection proves to be no slouch, either. The Abbey is
named, after all, in honor of Abbeys (Christian monasteries). Short
history lesson: Many Abbeys relied, partially, on Trappist Monks to
create beers in order to survive monetarily. The first Trappist beer
was actually created in 1152 A.D.! While clearly no Trappist Monk beer
production sightings exist at The Abbey, Ricci and staff bring an
almost spiritual beer experience to the bar and restaurant through
knowledge, recommendations and a keen eye for the latest quality brews.
Perhaps something the Trappist Monks of yesteryear
might have found simultaneously amusing and ambitious: The
Abbey in Providence promises not to serve the same "crap on tap." Check
here for the extensive beer selection at The
"We were the only place in (Rhode Island) that had 92 beers, but now we
are over 100," said Ricci. "We have everything from the unique to old
standbys like Narragansett."
Much of The Abbey's success can be traced to passionate and dedicated
long-time owners, management and staff. Jay and Michelle Hoff have
served as the owners from the beginning. Ricci, a
Providence native, has assumed daily operation responsibilities over
the past five years as general manager. With a family background in the
restaurant industry, Ricci knows every job responsibility (including
the ability and talent to cook). Kevin Grant is a master chef with
extensive restaurant experience including the highly-regarded Tavern
From Tower Square in Plainville, Mass., while chef Mark Brito once
the Rhode Island-based Chello's Hometown Bar and Grille. Grant has
worked at The Abbey for 12 years, Brito six.
"I know the front and back of the house," said Ricci, of The Abbey. "We
are a small group of employees that have all been together for a long
time and together have a great time making The Abbey a special place.
We also have a great relationship with Providence College. We are like
one big family."
"I love my job here," said Grant. "I think what makes The Abbey so good
is the quality of the employees. We will never put a burger out until
it is done right. Another great thing is once a month, we try different
burger trends with our specials."
As the list of burger joints grow seemingly by the month, the irony is
that it makes the choice easier to frequent more places like The Abbey.
While some of the newer burger places do a fine job, none that I have
tried even come close to the burger quality of The Abbey. What's
equally important is the sense of neighborhood and the chance to get to
know the staff -- very important elements in a world that increasingly
seems to be
more impersonal. So many high profile burger places have high turnover employee
rates and a distant, contrived vibe that almost feels more like
show than substance. The Abbey remains true to form -- that is,
genuine, neighborly and with time-tested proof of consistently great
burgers. That combination is the greatest recipe any restaurant
could ever give its customers!
The Abbey is located at 686 Admiral
St. in Providence, RI. Tel. 401-351-4346. Web site: http://www.92beers.com. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/abbeyprovidence.
The Abbey is open for lunch and dinner, year-round.
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