Warwick and Cranston commuters driving down Allens Ave. to Narragansett Blvd. have seen the old Howard Johnson’s morph into Mexican, seafood, Mediterranean and now Mexican again.
The difference is that we finally have a first class Mexican restaurant with a first-class chef only a few miles from our Cranston/Warwick neighborhoods.
Café Ole has opened with rave reviews from its customers and this reviewer. It has been tastefully renovated, with a large bar, comfortable seating, a 24-seat outdoor patio, a function room, friendly staff and an executive chef who knows what he’s doing.
Kurt Galloway, a 1999 Johnson & Wales graduate, left Rhode Island to work at the Ritz Carlton, the Lowe’s Miami Beach Hotel and other top hotel kitchens in Florida.
“My wife is from Rhode Island, and we wanted our five-year-old son to grow up near his relatives,” Kurt said. “I found a position at the Stone House Inn in Tiverton, and then they sold it. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to bring my skills to Café Olé.”
And skills he has. Using experienced mentors to develop a unique menu, insisting on only fresh ingredients, hiring a new staff, and bringing consistency to the kitchen, Galloway has quickly turned the location into a quality restaurant.
On our first visit, we zeroed in on the appetizers, starting with the traditional chips and salsa ($4.95). The chips were warm when they reached our table, having been made fresh and accompanied by roasted corn salsa chipotle salsa and pico de gallo, also freshly made.
How could we resist the alligator bites, seasoned and fried and served with chipotle aioli ($10.95). Alligator is by its nature chewy, so Chef Kurt cooks them thin…and they are delicious.
Pan-fried Cajun shrimp with cilantro lime crema and margarita shrimp with chilled citrus and marinated in tequila ($9.95) complement each other perfectly.
You can make a meal out of the appetizers, sharing, of course. So we did, finishing off with Wings Ole, tender chicken wings rubbed with jalapeno and tossed in buffalo sauce ($8.95), just hot enough to satisfy the palate.
Café Ole uses only the freshest of meats in their fajitas, enchiladas and burritos.
Bartender Rob Deady of Warwick tells us that few people finish the huge burritos, which are loaded with pulled or grilled pork, beef or chicken. Try them with salmon or shrimp or seasonal veggies. They are accompanied by beans and rice and smothered with sauce and cheese. Prices range from $10.95-$14.95. And you may have some left for the next day.
Speaking of Deady, the man is one heck of a bartender. Eager to recommend both food and drink, he makes incredible specialty drinks, like margaritas with a jalapeno infusion.
Rob was a food and beverage manager at Foxwoods and recently joined the Café Ole staff, grateful for a much shorter commute. He serves the best margarita of an Eagle Scout I know.
My advice: Eat half of your burrito, wrap the rest and order the desserts (including ice cream) made fresh every day. The Molten Lava Cake takes 15 minutes to prepare, so order it when you are halfway through your meal. We watched sous chef John Veiga and Galloway putting the final touches on the warm, sinful dessert before devouring it.
The Mexican Grille and Cantina caters to you every need. There’s a kids menu with tacos, Mexi Pizza, fish fry and a quesadilla that is similar to a grilled cheese. All this and a soft drink for $6.95.
A lunch take-out express is available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., which caters to the many offices in the area. Burritos, tacos and a variety of wraps cost $6.95. You can call ahead or have them made fresh to order while you wait.
Café Ole is open seven days a week, beginning at 11 a.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and for Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Their address is 800 Allens Ave. in Providence, and their phone is 785-1818.