Faial—named after one of the islands in the Azorean archipelago—is a nice little treasure, hidden up in the northeast corner of Rhode Island within a strip mall on the way to Bryant College. I had never heard of Faial Restaurant, nor had I ever met anyone, to my knowledge, from that island, as strange as that sounds to even me. I came across it online, and finally had the chance to stop in. Considering it's location, I expected to walk into a fairly sleepy restaurant and have what was hoping would a decent meal. As soon as I opened the door, I could see—the place was packed! The maître D' was right there at the door, and he offered me a seat at one of the tables by the bar, which is on the left as you walk in. The bar seats about 20 people, and there are about six or seven comfortable four-seater cocktail tables along a partition that separates the bar space space from the main dining, which is considerably large for a place in a strip mall.
The bar was full and I'd say 90% of the people there were women having a glass of wine or two after work, maybe before dinner—a total Sex in the City scene. The dining room, also full, had what appeared to me to be local folks (mostly older couples) having a nice dinner to start off the weekend. The atmosphere was lively, but not too noisy and certainly family friendly. The decor was on the better side of "typical Portuguese restaurant" and there was some guy playing American folk music (I blocked it out as best I could) adding to this scene. The sign on the exterior of the building states that this is an American restaurant—Ok, I can feel that. Nonetheless, I'm here for the Portuguese food.
I had a seat at one of the cocktail table by the bar. These aren't the small round tables that barely hold a couple of drinks. They're regular size tables, set for four, and tall with tall chairs. Very comfortable, actually. My server was young and super friendly. After looking over the menu that she had given me, I noticed "Faial Sauce" listed everywhere, even small signs on the table telling me I could buy a bottle and take it home. I asked my server about it and she promptly got me a sample and some bread try it out. That was nice. It turned out the sauce was familiar to me—lots of garlic, wine, vinegar, Portuguese crushed pepper, maybe some olive oil. It's pretty spicy with a serious dose of garlic, very similar to sauces you'd find in Portuguese fish dishes- oily type fish, like mackerel or even tuna.
Amêijoas à Faial
I generally like a light appetizer, and for me, in a Portuguese restaurant, that often means shell fish. The Amêijoas à Faial came to the table in a large flat dish, not a large bowl with lots of broth that is great with bread like I'm used to getting. The broth was set separately in a small bowl, with an accompanying dish of drawn butter. Along with the clams were two large cuts of chouriço and some cooked chopped onion. The chouriço was good, but the clams were really good. There were ocean fresh, briny and sweet at the same time. The clams were so good that I never bothered with the butter, and since I still have some "Faial sauce" for my bread, I didn't miss dunking the bread in the broth either.
Grilled Pork Chop, Portuguese Style
I came hungry and grilled pork chops sounded perfect for satiating my appetite. It didn't disappoint as this giant dish showed up with a huge, thick chop split in half, grilled inside and out, stuff with chouriço and peppers (OMG!) and a side of seafood rice and really great Portuguese round, hand-cut fries - some thin + crispy and some thick + meaty. I love anything off a grill, but these chops were dynamite. Juicy and spicy with garlic and Portuguese pepper. Then the chouriço and peppers inside—what a great idea! I took my time and savored it all
When a have great appetizer, then a great entrée, I usually get even hungrier and want a great dessert. Unfortunately, the dessert menu is a little blah, so I passed and just had a nice expresso to keep me from going into a food coma. The espresso was delicious, and I stayed awake just fine. Wow, it was worth the trip.
970 Douglas Pike
Smithfield RI 02917