The frequenter of chic East Side eateries cannot help but be haunted by the ghost of the Blue Elephant — former resident of 312 Wickenden St. — upon entering the building's new pristine foyer. But the Duck and Bunny, which opened in February, soon coaxes nostalgic memories out of mind.
The attention to detail is superb: the petite cupcakes, blue velvet curtains and menus on clipboards align to create a cozy aesthetic. The Web site proclaims the Duck and Bunny to be a snuggery: "A cosy and comfortable place."
The toasty feel was calculated by husband and wife team Daniel and Jessica Becker. The couple actively sought to create a space where they would want to spend time, Daniel said. They find many cafes to be pretentious, and they feel people should be able to have a drink outside of a nightclub or bar setting. Daniel said it is important that the snuggery not be thought of as a cafe, a tearoom, a bar or a restaurant.
While the couple treats the culinary aspects of the snuggery with the utmost attention, the overall experience is the primary focus. The culinary element is just one part of creating a superlative snuggery experience. Being at the Duck and Bunny for them is about being comfortable and being able to do what you want, when you want. Some people come for dinner, some come to sit and work for hours on end. They love the diversity of their customers' needs, and aim to please everybody, they said.
It has been a challenge to break free from the "restaurant" definition, Jessica said.
The menu, the Beckers' own creation, is a medley of old personal recipes, six months of watching the Food Network and modifications by their chef, a Johnson and Wales graduate. The couple has made an effort to be creative and push culinary boundaries.
They are particularly disappointed with the cupcake scene in New York, which they called all show without the quality to back it up. They've made an enormous effort to produce interesting, high quality cupcakes here in Providence.
All of the items on the menu are offered all day. Many of them are named after children of the Beckers' friends. The couple has also provided drink pairings. While some items are paired with wines, Jessica explained that the mushroom dish "the Wee Baby Joseph needs to be paired with a Guinness."
Daniel's current favorite menu item is the "T.S. Geller," a heaping roast beef sandwich served in a rye crepe. The sandwich is a spectacle, a monstrosity of meat — enough to feed one person for a few days. Jessica is partial to the "Miss Harriot," a brie, pear and scallion sandwich. She pointed out the menu's other highlights: the bacon-wrapped dates, and the PB and B — a peanut butter and banana sandwich drizzled with honey, served on Portuguese sweet bread. If you choose to get the "Full Elvis," they'll add a few strips of bacon.
The success of the menu is dependent on both the Beckers' attention to detail and the variety of interesting local vendors they have chosen. The coffee is from New Harvest Coffee Roasters, the bread from Olga's Cup and Saucer, cheese from Shy Brothers Farm in Massachusetts.
They feel that the Providence food scene has embraced them heartily and love the sense of community they have found there. Daniel, who worked in the New York bar and restaurant world prior to starting the Duck and Bunny said the Providence environment is far more friendly and less competitive.
The house is perfect for their snuggery's feel — it was important to Jessica not to be in a storefront, she explained. Her background is in interior design, so she had a great time cultivating the snuggery's aesthetic. It is broken up into three rooms: a foyer, painted deep blue, with a white chandelier and blue velvet curtains; a bar, with white-tiled walls, zebra-print stools and unmarked beer taps; and a dining room with a homey dining set up and "altered masterpieces."
The art in the dining room includes a Van Gogh self-portrait morphed into a bunny and Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" as a duck, commissioned from a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. The music varies from the Beatles to the Gorillaz, but the eclectic environment suits any music.
The Beckers met on Fire Island, N.Y. through mutual friends a few years ago. On a recent visit to Providence to visit Daniel's family, he took her on a walk down Benefit Street.
Seeing the colonial houses, she decided she could call Providence home. The decision seems to be sound, and business is booming in the first two months. They have built the paradise they envisioned.