Review: J.P. Spoonem’s

Repeat visits encouraged (and rewarded)
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  November 8, 2011

When a friend whose professional office is nearby said, "It's a great little neighborhood joint, with a touch of nouvelle in the menu," and another friend was found sitting at its U-shaped counter, extolling the virtues of their omelets, we knew we'd stumbled upon a diner-style eatery that we should check out . . . more than once.

It was close to 11 one recent morning when a buddy and I felt the need for a smackerel of something, Pooh-style, so we headed to Spoonem's — J.P. Spoonem's, to be precise, with co-owners Joseph and Pat Mangione being the "J" and the "P." This summer marked their thirtieth year on Broad Street, where Pat has seen "the highs and the lows, new people moving in, others moving out."

But despite the socio-economic and ethnic shifts in the neighborhood, locals and non-locals have supported Spoonem's, and a few months ago, the mayor brought them a plaque to mark their 30th anniversary. The décor has an early '80s feel to it, though it most likely has undergone several upgrades. The walls are shades of pumpkin and avocado, the countertop (with 10 stools) a lighter lime green.

Copper pots hang over the kitchen pass-through; pumpkin-colored café curtains, with caricatured chefs along the bottom, accent the wrap-around windows of this corner building. Those windows, along with the high ceiling in Spoonem's, give it a light, airy feel that would pervade even on a cloudy day.

After an initial strong tug on my appetite by the "chocolate lovers waffle" — a chocolate-flavored waffle, adorned with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and chocolate pancake hearts — I turned my attention elsewhere, upon learning that the batter was a mix. Perhaps I shouldn't care, but that day I did.

Our smiling, welcoming waitress Cecile guided me to the stuffed French toast, and I chose wheat bread ($7.25). The six halves were layered with strawberry cream cheese and fresh strawberries (I could have had pumpkin cream cheese and warm apples). Topped with whipped cream, I found myself eating half of this filling dish and saving the rest for supper.

Baiba had been drawn to the "Johnny Cake Platter," posted on a specials board outside, though it's also a regular on the breakfast menu. Two "New England style Johnny cakes" are stacked with "hand-carved ham" and melted Swiss and served with home fries and fresh fruit ($7.50). Note the "New England" in the description, to avoid West Bay/East Bay disputes; and the spelling, with an "h," also indicates these are not authentic made-with-ground-white-flint-corn Rhode Island jonnycakes. Nonetheless, this dish is a winner, with its thick-cut ham and tasty yellow-corn cakes. Baiba was quite pleased.

I noted that there were a half-dozen Benedicts, plus a "ranchero rollup" — scrambled eggs with veggies and pepper jack cheese in a taco shell, and "eggs carbonara" — scrambled eggs with veggies and Romano, served over Italian toast with a creamy, bacon-stoked carbonara sauce. I had envisioned Bill heading straight for something like this.

But on my next visit with him, Bill noticed another item, smack in the middle of the menu: "R.I.'s #1 corned beef hash & eggs" ($7.25), and there was no dissuading him. He pointed out the shreds of corned beef, allowing a better surface for browning; and he liked his eggs, home fries, and rye toast just fine.

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