In March 2017, former Staff Writer Joseph Essig wrote a review titled, “Foodie’s First Taste: Flat Waves,” where he reviewed the food of the new Emporium restaurant Flat Waves at the top of the University of Rhode Island’s campus. “I was optimistic upon seeing the food in front of me, but sadly expectations only resulted in disappointment…” said Joseph Essig. “Any faint flavor left to be found in the mush got no help from the lack of seasoning.”
Needlessly to say, the review was less than positive. However, Flat Waves has not given up. Recently Flat Waves underwent new management that brought with it fresh leadership and a new menu. As a result, Flat Waves invited the Good Five Cent Cigar to give them a second taste and that’s exactly what I did.
At first impressions, Flat Waves branding is spot on. The logo is big, bright and recognizable, but if you miss the sign you will not miss their branded van and trailer parked right outside the restaurant. The interior is colorful, cheerful and, most importantly, clean. The blue and green striped walls mixed with the shiny chrome kitchen countertops give the place the fun and bright summer feel you would expect. The staff was very friendly and very knowledgeable. You will have no qualms about asking for help on what to order or what the best combinations are.
Now onto the meat and potatoes of a restaurant, the menu. Visually the menu is extremely simple, easy to read and slimmed down. You should have no problems being able to easily walk in and quickly know what you want. Secondly, the new menu is very appetizing, just looking it over made me want to try many options, like the Kalua pulled pork tacos or grilled shrimp plate. The restaurant features an artesian selection of sodas, lemonade and teas. You won’t find your typical brand of soda here, which is a good thing as all the soda is made with pure cane sugar and almost certainly better than any brand name you would have gotten somewhere else. The lemonade was real lemonade, but not overly sour or acidic as you sometimes may find.
I ordered two ginger beef tacos, with stir fried vegetables and the protein acai bowl. Firstly, let’s start with the stir fried vegetables, which were previously described as, “…shockingly bland vegetables that seemed to have all flavor cooked out of them.” Upon my first taste I found them to be improved, with a nice mix of complementing flavors all while tasting very fresh. However, the flavor is still very subtle compared to any entree you may have. This is not a bad thing, the stir fried vegetables are meant to complement the dish, not be their own shining star.
Now let’s get to the main entree, the ginger beef tacos. The ginger tacos come with marinated ground beef, caramelized onion, chili mayo and tropical salsa. The new Head of Operations, Tyler Hookanson raised the bar as he described the tacos as the, “best tacos you’ll ever have.” At first I scoffed at the remark, I’ve had some pretty killer tacos, but after a few bites I soon began to realize he was right. The taco’s flavors was an exploding complex barrage of taste, that first began with the expertly placed chili mayo on bottom of the taco that hits your palate first followed by the slight ginger tang with the sweetness from the caramelized onions and tropical salsa and finished by a spice kick aftertaste. The surprising thing about the tacos is that the ginger is not overpowering or underpowered, it was just the right amount of ginger that mixed very well with the chili mayo. Every bite brought surprisingly different intensities of flavor keeping you from getting bored. Somehow Flat Waves managed to marry all the flavors and textures together into one amazing taco that I will now crave throughout the week.
The last thing to cover is the acai bowl. The protein acai bowl is organic Sambazon acai berry topped with almond slivers, crushed walnuts, coconut and granola with drizzles of peanut butter and honey and finally finished with chocolate flakes. I had never had an acai bowl before and had no idea what to expect. The acai is more of a liquid with the whole berries mixed in and chilled to ice cold that works amazingly well with all of the toppings. It is sweet, but not too sweet, it is berryish flavored, but not too much and all of the nuts and granola work pretty well with it. I could see this being an amazing snack on its own or being a pretty delicious and healthy breakfast to kick off the day.
All-in-all, Flat Waves seems to have gotten their act together. I did not have high hopes walking into the restaurant, but left wondering if it would be weird if I went back for dinner. Flat Waves is no longer the typical fast food joint you would expect at a college campus, it is now a newly hidden gem filled with extremely satisfying island flavored food. I most certainly will be back and give Flat Waves a 10/10 not only for blowing my expectations out of the water, but for also being courageous enough to send a food critic back for a review.