Food Interviews

Burger Perfection

After 17 years, The Abbey keeps the craft brews flowing and its burger menu flavorful

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The Abbey, the buzzing burger-and-beer joint on Admiral Street, has been serving the area for nearly 20 years, a huge feat in the restaurant industry. Known for its creative burger combinations and vast selection of craft beers, you can expect to eat amongst a broad range of customers here – from politicians and Providence College students to elderly couples and families. I chatted with owner Jay Hoff, a Rhode Island and Arizona restaurateur, and Chef Kevin Grant, who has worked The Abbey’s kitchen for 12 years.

Tell me about how The Abbey came to be.
Jay Hoff: I had been in the restaurant business for a long time. I was involved with Chili’s Grill & Bar for a number of years in my early 20s. When I got out of the restaurant business, I bought a liquor store on Chalkstone Avenue. My wife, Michelle, and I used to go to The Abbey – it was called Gravity Bar & Grill back then – to get a chicken sandwich. It was a PC hangout and Michelle and I were pretty entrepreneurial at that point. I told one of the bartenders that if it ever came up for sale, let us know. Lo and behold, a couple months later, he came into the liquor store and said, “Hey, Joey’s gonna sell it.” So I bought it.

We jumped into it with a menu that was burger-centric even to begin with. The beer picture was interesting because it was very early-stage of this craft beer thing. We got very successful with the beer selection that we had at the liquor store, and we decided to do the same thing with The Abbey.
Now, we have about a 120-beer selection. In an effort to get people to try new ones, we started pairing the beer with the burgers. That was a big hit right off the mark. The pairings started with just the burger menu, but now the entire menu is paired with a beer. We haven’t matched all 120 beers to a food item but there’s a lot of rotation.

What are the most-ordered burgers on the menu right now?
Kevin Grant: The Roadhouse – a 12-ounce beef patty topped with Wisconsin Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, onion rings, and garlic mayonnaise on a grilled onion roll; The Couch Potato – a 10-ounce seasoned beef patty topped with Wisconsin blue cheese, thick-cut potato chips, BBQ pulled pork, sautéed onions, and garlic mayonnaise on a grilled sourdough bun; and The Honky Tonk – a beef patty topped with Wisconsin Brick cheese, BBQ sauce, pulled pork, fried onion strings, lettuce, and mayonnaise on a grilled sesame bun.

What about the three most popular non-burger items on the menu?
Kevin Grant: We sell a lot of loaded nachos, our bacon-aki, which is bacon skewers like beef teriyaki, and we have a good amount of flatbread pizzas that sell really well, too.

The Abbey is going on its 17th year in business. Congrats! To what do you attribute its success?
Jay Hoff: The quality of food – we always make sure we put out food. The selection of beer – our focus has been on that since day one. And our long-standing employees and great customers.

What’s your personal favorite burger on the menu?
Jay Hoff: The Jay Burger is named after me. Give me some lettuce, mayonnaise, sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss cheese and I’m in heaven. We’re actually retooling the entire burger menu. A lot of the favorites will stay, but we’ll bring on a new selection. I’ve got a few favorites on there – one called Get Me to the Greek, which is basically our certified Angus beef burger patty sliced and served like a gyro with tzatziki sauce, cucumbers, red onion, and tomatoes and rolled up in a fresh pita.

The Abbey
686 Admiral Street, Providence • 351-4346