We Rhode Islanders are a funny bunch. We like things the way they are, where they are. We don’t like change, especially when losing something iconic: think Benny’s or Ann & Hope. So you’ll imagine my attitude one morning when I wandered into All Favorites Cafe on Broad Street in Cranston. I had been coming there for breakfast on and off since I was a kid, when Joe and Pat Mangione opened it as J.P. Spoonem’s. Who, I wondered, dared to fill such big shoes?
I sat on a stool at the retro, horseshoe-shaped counter and started to get a sense of who as I perused the menu, filled with options like an Herbed Goat Cheese Omelette, Grilled Ham and Pimento Cheese Sandwich, and Shrimp Po’boy. I had a hard time deciding, but I opted for a classic: the Eggs Benedict, with over-easy eggs and roasted jalapeño hollandaise. I’m often freaked out by the idea of uncooked eggs, but have always wanted to be able to order an eggs benny, and this version sounded like something I could get behind.
As I waited, I got more of a sense of the new owners, Emily Marye – the welcoming face in the front of the house – and chef Berke Marye, who calls his culinary style “upscale comfort food.” I spied a four-foot-long shelf of cookbooks by notable chefs above the tidy service counter. I snuck a peek into the tiny kitchen, where pictures are taped, teenager-bedroom-style, alongside the prep station: Julia Child, John McEnroe, The Who, Johnny Cash. There’s a Shepard Fairey-style portrait of Anthony Bourdain underscored by the words: “Cook Free or Die.”
These things tell me that Berke is a chef’s chef, preparing the kind of food other kitchen professionals want to eat on their days off. He grew up in Houston, Texas and ran a gourmet pizza place there with his father. In 2005, he moved to Boston and worked under the iconic chef Gordon Hamersley and eventually became executive chef at Winfield’s on Block Island. He and Emily, a potter, lived on the island in the summer and in South County in the winter. But after a dozen years and with a young daughter, they moved to Edgewood looking for stability and diversity and happened upon J.P. Spoonem’s. When they learned it was up for sale, it seemed that kismet was knocking. “I’m so glad we can do this for the neighborhood, and for our family,” Berke says.
So am I! When my dish was delivered, I was delighted. Thick, grilled sourdough was a more fitting base than English muffins might have been, playing the role of a thirsty sponge that absorbed the fat of the ham, juice of the tomato, silky egg yolk, and kicky hollandaise. I cleaned my plate, right down to the shaved, pickled red onion garnish. On another visit, it was the El Burro that bowled me over: a grilled flour tortilla wrapped around scrambled eggs, sharp cheddar, salsa, black beans, and crema, with home fries. I added juicy house-made pork sausage.
My Edgewood neighborhood has a lovely new family who are killing it in both the back and front of the house in their new-again cafe – and for the first time in my life, I’m salivating over the eggs benedict. It’s a win-win for everyone.
1678 Broad Street, Cranston • 941-3550 • AllFavoritesCafe.com
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