Dining Review: Rhody Roots
The Warren eatery marries a midnight refrigerator raid with technical skill.
Cassandra Brimmer and Luis Cruz think it’s a crime to follow a single path when you can ramble down several. The mantra is manifest in the eclectic decor of their restaurant, Rhody Roots: farmhouse windows at the bar, Italian tile on the dining room floor, a graffiti wall that asks what type of superhero you are, and an array of vintage plates that make it clear that nothing is meant to match and yet everything goes together in patchwork style. Think of it as a Greatest Hits, restaurant-style, in which bestsellers are pulled from every corner of the country.
Most of the menu is a homage to over-the-top, from a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich drenched in duck gravy to a lobster roll that’s poached in butter before being tossed in aioli, and a mid-morning waffle covered in liquid cheesecake cream and candied lemon zest. If this year has taught us anything it’s that life is short and now’s the time to eat. Cruz, who mans the kitchen, treats every meal as if it’s checking boxes on your bucket list: hoisin citrus ribs that fall from their bone when jostled, nachos riddled with pork belly and Bolognese in vegan or carnivore varieties.
If that’s not enough, some dishes arrive accessorized to the hilt, with a flourish of crispy rice noodles or a pyramid of fried potato shards. (“Do you remember those cans of Durkee potato sticks?” asks a guy, fully ensconced in his childhood. “I have just been taken way back.”)
But if the bread and butter at Rhody Roots is about fried, gravy-doused indulgence, the light side of the kitchen comes out in plates of sushi — the most unexpected arm of this anything-goes joint. The catch is streamlined — tuna, salmon, eel, crab — but the rolls, wrapped in slightly warm rice, are really good and worth taking a more straightforward path through dinner.
You can, after all, just drink creatively. Cruz also takes on the role of mixologist on occasion and the bar is full of sour mixes and syrups that create a collection of rainbow-hued cocktails. Thyme and blood orange, blackberry, blueberry, rhubarb: All of them show up to spike the booze in Skittles fashion. If it sounds silly, it drinks seriously. Nothing is cloying and, like the menu, there’s a layered effect of heat, sweet and sour to punctuate a meal that runs the gamut from downright healthy to covered in cheese.
If you doubt his ability to marry a midnight refrigerator raid with technical skill, it’ll all come down to a single dessert that calls itself fried rice pudding and climbed out of the recesses of Cruz’s childhood. It’s a scoopful of rice pudding, thick with warm spices, that’s deep-fried and drizzled with chocolate-hazelnut spread and some sort of hypnotic opiate that will make you young again — or, perhaps, older and better. Fried food rarely disappoints but this manifestation delivers way more than it humbly suggests. Like everything at Rhody Roots, it’s a DIY project that went right in almost every respect, for half the price. Hey, the decor may be every which way, and outdoors the glasses might be plastic, but the love is real.
511 Main St., Warren, 903-9159, rhodyroots.com.
Must get: Sushi, sticky ribs, fried rice pudding.
Capacity: Based on social distancing requirements.