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The Ocean State's Hidden Gem: Melanie’s Vegan Eden

From the outside, it’s nothing extraordinary. Capped by a small black-and-white striped awning on the outskirts of Brown University, most passing by wouldn’t give the place a second glance. Yet behind this modest façade is a the first-ever vegan restaurant in Providence, its bright purple and green walls reflecting the lifestyle of co-owner and chef, Melanie Burtt, who believes that “life should be entertaining.” Accordingly, Burtt cooks without cookbook or pen, and talks of plans to add a leopard print motif to the kitchen.

Burtt, 24, along with mother and partner Kimberly Burtt, opened Melanie's Vegan Eden in January 2005. The pair's teamwork is putting Rhode Island on the map for the country’s ethical diners.

Burtt, seated in front of an array of glass tile imprints of some of the world’s most revered vegetarians, including Mahatma Gandhi, Gloria Steinem and Albert Einstein, says, “These are some of my heroes.”

The restaurant's five tables were filled throughout my three-hour dining experience. Melanie is visible from the kitchen, from which generous dishes appear on stylish, rectangular plates.

The Magic 8 Ball ($5.50) is a nice start — a dish of soy drumsticks served with home-made ranch dressing. For a chilly day, I’d pick Melanie’s Southwest Soup, a tomato-based chowder topped with a dairy-free sour cream.

Fear and Loathing in Philly ($8.00) is a vegan rendition of a Philly Cheese Steak, spiced and served on homemade bread. Other sandwiches include restyled versions of clubhouse fare: a Cajun Shrimp Salad Sandwich; a Turkey Club ($8.00 & $6.50). A Boy Named Sue is a liberated version of a chicken, artichoke and cheese quesadilla served with salsa, sour cream and fresh greens ($8.00).

The most popular main dish is The Stinky Cheeseman ($11.00). Named after a children’s book, it's a generous soy cutlet sautéed with herbed lemon and garlic, and served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and grape tomatoes seared with garlic and mozzarella. Other dishes feature creamy macaroni, or bowtie pasta tossed with walnut and basil pesto.

For the ice cream lover, the Breakfast of Champions combines soy ice cream, homemade caramel, and walnuts. The Steel Pulse features chocolate brownies crumbled over vanilla soy ice cream. The vegan cheesecake menu includes creamy oreo, pumpkin, and peanut butter chocolate styles.

Ready to Go?
Staff and hours are limited: Melanie’s Vegan Eden is open Wednesdays through Fridays, 1 - 8 p.m.; Saturdays 1 - 7 p.m.; and Tuesdays by appointment.

From Route 95: Take Route 95 North to Providence to the route 195 exit. Take 195 East to exit 2. (Wickenden Street, India Street Exit). At end of exit, take a left onto Wickenden Street. Go through 2 lights and 2 stop signs to a blinking red light. Take left onto Ives Street. Melanie’s is one block from Wickenden on the left. On-street parking is available.