Food Experience

Beef Up

Build your own burger – and find a beer to match – at The Abbey


I’ve always loved the build-your-own-burger concept. In part, it’s practical: My social circle is a minefield of dietary restrictions. Friends are lactose-intolerant. Workmates eat gluten-free. My wife is a pescatarian and allergic to nearly everything. Nieces and nephews will consume only foods that rhyme with “tack-and-fees.” Out-of-town visits induce panic, as I wonder where we can eat that serves no nuts, wheat, dairy, meat, or un-bottled water.

In these times of crisis, I need a place like The Abbey, where folks can order whatever they want – including meatless options – and pair it with nearly any beverage imaginable.

The Abbey stands on a quiet stretch of Admiral Street, around the corner from Providence College. Its slogan is (and I quote) “a burger and beer joint,” which is about as self-aware as nomenclature gets. This is the kind of neighborhood pub with low lighting and a long bar. Knick-knacks are everywhere, like a slice of a fermenting barrel from Newport Distilling Co. bolted to the wall. TVs are visible from every angle, and a queue of beer taps – including local drafts like Whalers and Shaidzon – await tasting. The Abbey boasts 92 beers in all, so consider the gauntlet thrown.

In general, the menu is a litany of barroom favorites, with peppy names like “Basket o’ Fries,” “Giant Pull Apart Pretzel,” and “Tater Tots Your Way!” (sic). If you’re like me, and you’re happiest gorging yourself on beer-battered mozzarella sticks, then you will also embrace The Abbey. The standard burger menu will satisfy just about any living human; as a Green Mountain State-er, my personal favorite is the Jay Burger, owing to its heap of mushrooms and Vermont Swiss.

The real challenge is to create your own. None of the ingredients are outrageous; you’ll find down-home fixin’s like olives, coleslaw, and green peppers, and you could theoretically put your burger on flatbread or marble rye. But the combinations are nearly infinite, and the trick is to find ingredients that (a) you love and (b) taste great together. You will be forgiven for chickening out and ordering – well, the chicken sandwich. The menu is robust, and an Abbey burger is not something you want to mess up.

My picks: a beef burger, cooked medium, on a standard bun, plus blue cheese, sautéed onions, portobello mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, and chipotle ketchup. This, to me, is a perfect lineup. You might as well have just read my stomach’s Christmas list.

I hate to brag, but my selection was an even greater victory than I’d hoped. Each bite was a savory detonation. In retrospect, I wonder why ketchup was ever made not chipotle. The meat itself, rich and tender, is a compliment to bovine evolution. From first bite to last, the bartender didn’t hear a word from me.

But the best decision was a happy accident. At the last second, I picked onion rings instead of sweet potato fries. When the basket arrived, I was startled; the rings were huge and weighty, like deep-fried bracelets. These are the onion rings that other onion rings aspire to be. They stuffed me so fully that the last two remained untouched. The Abbey had left me deeply gratified, and in exactly the ways I like. This is a place that defies the conventional wisdom; maybe you can please all of the people all of the time.

The Abbey
686 Admiral Street • 351-4346


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