I'm going to start reviewing cafes. Good places to get more than a cup of joe are pretty lean outside of the Providence area, and I figured it was time to start seeking them out. While I've reviewed a few non-restaurant places in the past, they all had the common thread of food service. In my cafe reviews, I'll check out places that serve primarily coffee.
After a big, hearty dinner at Feast or Famine, we decided we wanted coffee. Feast or Famine's espresso machine has been broken pretty much since the beginning of time, and even before then the espresso was only OK. I wanted a big, hearty cappuccino.
On the way up, I had spotted a cafe just before which looked very well-appointed and just screaming for a visit. And who am I to deny a talking building? Caffe Bon Ami is wonderfully appointed indeed. The chairs and tables look fabulous, there's a variety of plants in the corners, and the usual array of Italian-ish pictures purchased at Wal*Mart adorn the walls. Luckily, the rest of the place is well done enough where the few smatterings of tack don't ruin it. Overall, the place is very Euro-chic. Humorously, as of this writing, one of the key words on Google Maps for Caffe Bon Ami was "pretentious." A little bit, but I've seen much worse. *Cough*Mediterraneo!*Cough*
Large doors in the front of the building open up during warm summer nights to allow the front stone porch to fill with caffeinated coffee-swillers and some nice speakers provide enough music for atmosphere. They have a variety of Big Train Chai for some pretty standard prices, and a selection of random coffee and tea-related goodies (Like a nice-looking cast iron teapot). On one side of the cafe they have a selection of bean coffees for bagging and selling. While this looks really nice and adds an air of gourmet-chic, any coffee lover will tell you that open-air beans is the worst way to store coffee.
Service was very friendly and looked suitably bohemian. One of the women there was apparently a family member, perhaps the mother of the owner, judging from the picture on the shelf. Overall service is as quick as can be and produces some very good espresso. They have a wonderful-looking and well-worn semi-automatic machine (sorry for all the hyphens) in the back, and a large selection of teas, Big Train chai, coffee, espresso, and juices. They also have a good-looking selection of brownies, something with caramel in it, and other such gut-busting "immondizia delizioso." Nothing amazing, but a good selection to compliment the coffee.
The selection of drinks is one of the better ones I've come across. Since this is a cafe and not much else, this is a good thing. I don't understand cafes that serve primarily coffee and have such small menus. Diversify, for Pete's sake! Prices are competitive across the board. Three drinks came to about $10, very reasonable,♦ and they have an adorable selection of mugs and cups if you drink it there.
Tea, mocha, and chai were all ordered. The chai was... chai. It was Big Train. Very good, but it's very good everywhere. The tea was also excellent. The mocha was very well-prepared, with a good heap of dense, light foam on top. I requested whole milk, which is harder to steam than 2% or less, which means the barista actually knew what she was doing. Shocker!
Their cinnamon on top was sweet and not very strong. I think it may be a sugar/cinnamon mix, or it may just be sweet cinnamon. I'm not sure. Nevertheless, it was good. The espresso had a good, strong coffee flavor. Tasted Columbian to me, but in a mocha it's hard to tell. Big kudos goes to them for not dumping half a barrel of cocoa into the mocha. I find that lots of places think "the more chocolate, the better!", a crime even the venerable White Electric Coffee and Pastiche are guilty of, which completely ruins the taste of the coffee. Coffee and chocolate compliment each other very well and a mocha is designed to express that.
Overall, I was impressed with Caffe Bon Ami. It doesn't break any ground, but it does everything it sets out to do very well. The selection is wide, the atmosphere is excellent, service is excellent, and it makes no errors in its coffee offerings. They don't do anything amazing to really set it apart, but doing everything well is an achievement in and of itself, which raises Caffe Bon Ami to an above-average status that's totally worthy of your time and dime.
Caffe Bon Ami: ***1/2
Price range for two: $5-$15
View Larger Map
Caffe Bon Ami
1082 Park Ave
Cranston, RI. 02910
Monday through Wednesday 7:00am to 5:00pm
Thursday 7:00am to 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday 7:00am to 11:00pm
Sunday 8:00am to 1:00pm