173 Bradford Street
Bristol, RI 02809
I can’t believe that I haven’t done a review of a Portuguese restaurant yet. Actually, that’s a lie. I can. I’ve been avoiding it only because I was unsure how to really articulate all the feels I get about something that’s so closely associated with childhood memories.
Anyhow, my family and I went to Café Central in Bristol for my Aunt’s surprise birthday. Café Central is a small venue whose bar may be the same size as the dining room. There’s no host, although it’s suggested you give them a call if you have a large party so they can hold a table for you. Otherwise you can walk in and grab a table.
My parents made the observation that the long layout of the dining room reminded them of the garage restaurants in Portugal. The last time they were there, my Dad’s aunt and uncle walked him down an alley where they knocked on a door that only had a small window at the top. Someone slide the small window open, my Dad’s uncle chatted them up and they were brought back to a large garage where people were all seated and eating. Chickens were running amuck…I mean, it was like THAT. It’s a restaurant the way small rural towns in Portugal do them.
First things first – I ordered a Sumol. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a Portuguese soda that comes in pineapple, passion fruit and orange flavors. I always get the pineapple; it’s my absolute favorite. It might be a little sweet for some palettes but it’s something I grew up with and something I try to treat myself to when I’m home.
I ordered the camarão mozambique (shrimp Mozambique), my mom and brother got the bife a casa (house steak), and my father got the galinha alentejana (chicken with little neck clams). Of course, all of our dishes came with a choice of salad or soup. Let’s be real here, I ordered the caldo verde (kale soup). Listen up hipster foodies: I’ve been eating kale since before it was the “power food” of the century that you abuse by juicing it to death into smoothies which, LET’S BE REAL, you only PRETEND to like!
Most Portuguese dishes are served with two starches. So the bife a casa and camarão mozambique are always served with rice and fries. Fish dishes are only served with one starch – usually boiled potatoes. Oh and another note: bife a casa as well as a few other steak dishes will come with a fried egg on top. Don’t ask questions. Just ride the wave, man. Ride the wave.
All the food was great. My dish had great flavor and was perfectly spicy. The Mozambique sauce is pretty much butter, saffron or parsley, chili sauce, lemon juice…and that’s all I’ll tell you. The rest is a secret because I don’t want to share. If you see it on a menu though: ORDER IT.
Café Central is known for being consistently good and affordable. You can’t really go wrong here. The service was pretty good too. Although my sister’s fried shrimp came out a while after everyone else’s food I chalk it up to her ordering the only not-so-Portuguese item on the menu. The wait staff was on top of it and between the bread, soup and appetizers we had my sister wasn’t too stressed out about it. She’s also 11 so she’s still pretty laid back about life.
Oh, to be young.
I hope to feature some of these dishes on the blog later on in the year. Except instead of talking about which restaurant I had them in, I’ll be posting recipes and chronicling my sad attempts at walking in my mother and grandmothers’ cooking aprons. Or shoes. Or whatever. You get the idea! Keep a look out!