By Celina Tennant
I was lucky enough to have a few days off from work during August to enjoy the weather and get some things done around the house. (Let’s be honest, I just enjoyed the weather.) One of those days, I made plans to drive down to Rhode Island and take an extra-long lunch with my father. There was no question about where we would go—Geoff’s Superlative Sandwiches, one of my favorite lunch spots in Providence.
My dad has worked in Rhode Island for my entire life and about ten years ago he came home raving about a sandwich shop where one of their menu items was the “Celina.” Those of you with unique names understand my excitement knowing that this sandwich is spelled exactly like my own name. I still have flashbacks about looking for my name on a souvenir magnet and ending up with my doll’s name instead. We went as soon as we could to try out this delicious sandwich and I have been enjoying it ever since.
Geoff’s is located on Benefit Street, adjacent to the Brown and RISD campuses. You’ll often find students and business professionals alike there during peak lunch hours. Time has to be on your side for you to get a spot in the small parking lot next to the building; other than that, it’s street parking wherever you can find it.
There are chalkboards lining the small, cellar-like room with a counter at the back, a few tables, and barstool seating along the walls. One of the unique things about Geoff’s is the bucket of homemade pickles that are always available for free in the middle of the shop. The menu features sandwiches named after local and well-known celebrities and politicians and a few are named after employees or their family members.
The “Celina” is named for the daughter of Julio, one of the owners, and my dad always makes sure to pull him aside when we visit and introduce me. This time, we got up to the busy counter with Julio, and after telling us that his daughter was named after her grandmother from Nova Scotia (same!), he pulled up a picture of her in her second year of college and zoomed in to show me a birthmark that she had over most of her body (also same!). For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have a port-wine stain birthmark on my right cheek. Not only was this a cool personal connection for me, but Julio could not have been more kind and welcoming and that is the mark of a great restaurant.
Let’s move on to the “honest-to-goodness great food,” as my dad describes it. He ordered The Geoff ($8.99) with hot pastrami, melted Swiss cheese, and mustard on rye. Dad switches it up every time he gets lunch and is never disappointed.
I, of course, ordered the Celina ($8.99) with turkey, Havarti cheese, coleslaw, and picante sauce on a bulkie roll. The turkey and coleslaw make it really fresh, the melted Havarti is excellent, and the sandwich has a slight kick from the picante sauce. I might be partial to it, but this is definitely the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten—I never even think about ordering anything else because the flavors are so satisfying.
They’re expanding their brand to a second location and continuing the love at 401 South Main Street in Providence. Geoff’s Superlative Sandwiches are a must have when you travel to Providence. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
163 Benefit St, Providence, RI 02903