At AS220, ambiance outshines food

Staff Writer
Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amid the tunes of a local Irish music ensemble, bright splashes of color and a rich cultural history lies Foo(d) at AS220, a casual restaurant nestled next to a community art space. Located in downtown Providence, Foo(d) has a one-of-a-kind environment, but the cuisine does not quite live up to the lively atmosphere.

Opened in 2009 and managed by Guy Michaud, Foo(d) at AS220 stands out because of its mission — preparing dishes using only fresh ingredients from local farmers with all profits going to support AS220’s artist community.

The decor of the restaurant reflects life in Providence over the years, with local artwork and concert programs dating back to the 1980s lining the walls. Each wall is painted a different color, and in the corner there is a dim, swanky bar  offering a different ambiance than the rest of the restaurant. Foo(d) also offers patrons many quirks, like playing cards used to mark orders, silverware wrapped in brown paper towels and bathrooms decorated with graffiti.

A live local band performs most days on the adjoining concert stage, and the social atmosphere includes debate on current issues and simple chats about life.

The food’s presentation mirrors the restaurant’s vibrant atmosphere, but the food falls short in taste. The spicy tomato soup, topped with smoked goat cheese and a sprinkle of crisp herbs, displayed a contrast of colors foreshadowing an explosion of flavors. But after a few spoonfuls, it was clear the taste was the exact opposite. Though spicy, the soup tasted like little more than tomato puree. The overwhelming spiciness of the dish eclipsed all other flavors and required a full glass of water.

The grilled chicken sandwich also fell short of expectations. Artistically crafted, the sandwich was served on a durum baguette with pear and ginger chutney and smoked goat cheese alongside salad greens. Despite the flavorful description, the sandwich tasted bland, and the chicken was dry. Since the bread was hard, it was also difficult to eat and the sandwich quickly fell apart.

The local apple cider was a pleasant surprise. The drink can be ordered hot or cold and was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Keeping with the restaurant’s unconventional ambiance, the drink comes in one of Foo(d)’s many eclectic mugs that feature winter scenes and local companies and colleges.

The rest of the items on the menu are friendly to people of all dietary restrictions and are priced under $10. The menu changes seasonally, but its limited number of choices is disappointing.

A downside to Foo(d) is the service. Though all the staff was friendly, the wait for meals was upwards of 30 minutes. After eating, all diners have to bus their own plates­ — similar to Ratty-style dining. The restaurant was very crowded and has limited seating, since the two booths and few small tables inevitably leave diners awkwardly standing while waiting to be seated.

Though meals are not as colorful as the art many of its patrons create, Foo(d) has a dynamic, energetic atmosphere that is evident in the smiles of staff and diners alike. Foo(d) at AS220 is a great place to socialize and listen to interesting music — all while supporting a good cause.

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