The Disabled Foodie’s New England Vacation – July 28 – August 2, 2015
This past week, I vacationed with my husband in Rhode Island. We also took a side trip for his birthday to have dinner with friends in Dorchester, Massachusetts. It was lovely to get away and enjoy a change of scenery and some fresh ocean air. Naturally, I had to review a few places, including the introduction of a new type of venue as you will see.
Meritage – East Greenwich, Rhode Island – July 28, 2015
Meritage is a lovely restaurant in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island. They are known for their thin crust pizzas. We arrived there for dinner on the first night of our vacation.
Dinner started with the lobster macaroni and cheese. The creamy casserole was loaded with huge chunks of sweet, briny lobster. Some places skimp on the lobster in their lobster macaroni and cheese, but Meritage did not. It was perfectly creamy and cheesy, and crumbled crackers added just the right amount of crunchy texture.
Next came the portobello mushroom thin crust pizza and the house salad with bleu cheese dressing. The pizza had tiny cubes of sautéed portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, and caramelized onions. The crust was crisp. The earthiness of the mushrooms was lusciously balanced by the sweetness of the onions. While the salad was beautiful and filled with plenty of vegetables, I did not detect one bit of bleu cheese flavor in the dressing. That was disappointing since the other two dishes were so good.
Left: Lobster Macaroni and Cheese Center: Portobello Mushroom Pizza Right: House Salad
Accessibility Rating for Meritage
I used my wheelchair to visit Meritage.
- Entryway – 5: The entrance has one wide door with a slight bump. There are no stairs. The outside entry is covered, which is nice during inclement weather.
- Bathroom (Men’s) 1: The accessible stall is not accessible at all. While I was able to enter the bathroom, I was completely unable to get my wheelchair into the accessible stall. There are two grab bars around the toilet, but there is a large piece of furniture inside the stall which blocks wheelchair access. Additionally, the stall door swings open toward the toilet, which blocked off any possible accessible pathway to the toilet. The bathroom was brightly lit. The faucet had long handles on it, and I was able to fit underneath the sink in my wheelchair.
- Walkways/Space – 3: The pathways are easily passable when the restaurant is not crowded. The space was quite dark, and there was loud music and talking contributing to a noisier setting at the time we were there. I was unable to fit underneath the table while in my wheelchair, so I had to transfer to a chair.
Left: Seating area Right: Bar area
- Staff – 5: The staff offered me the option of remaining in my wheelchair or transferring to a chair at the table. They waited patiently while I tried to fit underneath the table in my wheelchair. Upon finding that this did not work, they offered to help me transfer to a chair. Additionally, the hostess was very open to my complaints about the bathroom’s accessible stall not being accessible at all. She told me that she would inform the manager about the problems.
- Braille Menus: They do not have Braille menus.
Tavolo – Dorchester, Massachusetts – July 29, 2015
My husband chose Tavolo in Dorchester, Massachusetts for his birthday dinner with our friends who live there. The menu sounded very good, so we were excited to dine there.
To start the meal, we shared an antipasto plate. This came with Prosciutto di Parma, Genovese, cured olives, asiago cheese, mozzarella, marinated roasted peppers, and Tuscan beans. The meats were salty and savory while the cheeses were fresh and creamy. Everything on the plate was good, but nothing really blew me away.
I chose the seared potato gnocchi with applewood smoked duck, charred scallions, and pecorino. I always become excited over a dish with duck, and applewood smoked duck was particularly intriguing to me. Unfortunately, the dish was mediocre. The gnocchi were seared perfectly and had a delightful creamy texture. The duck lacked any duck flavor. I actually thought I was eating pork at one point, which indicated that the duck lacked its characteristic gamy flavor which is what I enjoy so much. For $22, this dish was disappointing and overpriced.
Left: Antipasto Plate Right: Seared Potato Gnocchi
I have to give credit to Sweet Tooth Bakery in Boston. I arranged for them to make a cake for my husband’s birthday, and deliver it to Tavolo. They made a scrumptious vanilla cake with lemon butter cream and cream cheese filling. The cake was so light, fluffy, and moist. The lemon flavor was bright, but not overpowering. I emailed them photos of our two dogs, and they created fondant sculptures of them for the cake. The sculptures looked just like them!
Birthday Cake with Fondant Sculptures of Our Dogs on Top
Accessibility Rating for Tavolo
I used my wheelchair to visit Tavolo.
- Entryway – 5: The entrance has one set of wide doors on the outside, and then one wide door in the vestibule. There are no stairs.The transition from the sidewalk to the interior is smooth.
- Bathroom 3: The designated accessible bathroom has two grab bars around the toilet. I was able to turn my wheelchair around easily within the bathroom. I was not able to get close to the sink while in my wheelchair, but it does have an automatic faucet. The bathroom is dimly lit.
- Walkways/Space – 3: Some of the spaces within the restaurant were tight and took some effort to get through while using my wheelchair. I was able to fit comfortably underneath the table while in my wheelchair. The restaurant is dimly lit,andat the time we dined there they had low music playing in the background. Most of the sound came from talking patrons.
- Staff – 3: The staff removed a chair for me at the table ahead of our arrival as I had told them I would be using my wheelchair when I made a reservation. They did not let me select where I sat, as they had already done that for me. They did choose an appropriate area with more space around it, but I would have preferred being allowed to make my own decision. Beyond that, they did not offer help to me in any way.
- Braille Menus: They do not have Braille menus.
Culinary Arts Museum – Providence, Rhode Island – July 31, 2015
I was excited to learn that Johnson & Wales University has a Culinary Arts Museum on campus that is open to the public. Our tour book for Rhode Island made it sound like this is a tiny museum, but it turned out to be quite large, and it is incredibly interesting for those who love all things having to do with food.
Clockwise from Top Left: Old-style Frankfurter Cart, Sign for Stanley’s, Student’s Pastry and Chocolate Work, Old-style Bar, State Fair/Carnival Exhibit, and Ice Cream Soda Counter
The museum has a great deal of things on display including an exhibit about diners, which includes the Ever Ready Diner (You can view the actual diner, which is not accessible, though I was able to see inside from my wheelchair). They have exhibits about travel and food, food preparation throughout the ages, chefs, and the list goes on and on. An adult ticket costs $7.
Foreground from Left to Right: Front Entrance to Ever Ready Diner and Side Entrance to Ever Ready Diner Background: Moody’s Diner sign
Accessibility Rating for Culinary Arts Museum
I used my wheelchair to visit Culinary Arts Museum.
- Entryway – 5: There is a ramp up to the entrance. There are designated accessible parking spots near the foot of the ramp. The wide doors have a button that can be used to open them automatically. There are no stairs. The transition from the outside to the interior is smooth. (I apologize that I do not have a photograph of the entrance.)
- Bathroom (Men’s) 5: The designated accessible stall has two grab bars around the toilet. I was able to turn my wheelchair around within the stall. I was able to get close to the sink while in my wheelchair. The faucet has long handles. The bathroom is brightly lit.
- Walkways/Space – 4: The museum is spacious and has wide pathways throughout. The museum is well lit for the most part, though there are some darker areas. It was almost silent when we visited. The only problems were that some exhibits are placed up high making them difficult to see from a wheelchair, and the Ever Ready Diner is not wheelchair accessible.
Inset and Background: Interior of Culinary Arts Museum
- Staff – 3: The staff member (who appeared to be a student) pointed out that the entire museum is on one level. There was no offer to help beyond that should I have required any assistance.
- Braille Documents: The staff member I spoke to at the time (who appeared to be a student) did not know if there is any information printed in Braille for blind visitors. She did not offer to find out.
Mediterraneo Caffe – Providence, Rhode Island – July 31, 2015
After visiting the Culinary Arts Museum, we were both really hungry, so we went to Federal Hill, an area of Providence known for its Italian restaurants. Our guide book suggested dining at Mediterraneo Caffe, so that is what we did. I am really glad we ate here, as the food was great!
We arrived in time for their prix fixe lunch. For $17.95, you get a choice of one of three salads, a choice of an entree, and either tiramisu, gelato, or sorbet. I started with a delicious Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, ripe, red tomatoes, and floral basil. The balsamic vinegar drizzled on top was deliciously sweet. This was a Caprese salad done right.
I selected the penne al pesto as my entree. The al dente pasta came in a creamy pesto with sun-dried and grape tomatoes. This dish was so good. The bright basil flavor worked in harmony with the nutty pine nuts and the cream.
My husband and I shared a side of cold green beans. The beans were a beautiful bright green, and they were in a vinaigrette that brought an even brighter flavor to the dish.
The tiramisu was luscious and bursting with the flavor of espresso. The lady fingers were soft and nutty from soaking in amaretto liquer. What was a pleasant surprise was the complimentary shot of house made limoncello that came after dessert. The bright lemon flavor was a great palate cleanser after this fantastic meal.
Foreground Clockwise from Top Left: Caprese Salad, Penne Al Pesto, Tiramisu, and Cold String Beans Background: Exterior of Mediterraneo Caffe
Accessibility Rating for Mediterraneo Caffe
I used my wheelchair to visit Mediterraneo Caffe.
- Entryway – 5: There are wide exterior and interior doors at the entrance. There are no stairs. The transition from the sidewalk to the restaurant is smooth.
- Bathroom (Women’s is the designated accessible bathroom) 2: The designated accessible stall has one grab bar next to the toilet. I was unable to turn my wheelchair around within the bathroom. I was not able to get close to the sink while in my wheelchair. The faucet has standard length handles. The bathroom is brightly lit.
- Walkways/Space – 3: The main pathways within the restaurant are wide, though the spaces off of the pathways could be tight for some. I was able to fit comfortably underneath the table while in my wheelchair. The lighting is brighter near the windows than further inside the restaurant. They were playing light jazz quietly in the background at the time we dined there.
- Staff – 4: A staff member removed a chair from the table so I could sit in my wheelchair at the table. Upon our arrival, I needed to use the bathroom, and the staff member sent me to an inaccessible bathroom off of the bar. When I brought this to her attention, she kept apologizing for not thinking about this. She immediately offered the use of the designated accessible women’s bathroom.
- Braille Menus: They do not have Braille menus.