My ginger beer travels have brought me to a lot of great places, but it’s always nice returning to places where you used to live. One of those places for me is Providence, RI.
Providence is an interesting capital city in a state that has often been perceived as corrupt.
Once upon a time, Providence was down in the dumps before it was reborn with the forceful pushes of a former mayor who went to prison on RICO charges. The locals are a tight-knit community. And yes, there’s the sense that every Rhodie knows they live in the smallest state, but makes up for it with an outsized personality. Newport is a fantastic summer spot that is well known amongst the well-heeled (often searching for the well-endowed),but the beaches along the Long Island Sound are the well-kept secret. Needless to say, I’m a fan of Rhode Island. Especially Providence.
One aspect of Providence seems to stand out above other New England cities: the food. Although the food has gotten much better in cities like Boston and Portland (two other former residences of this mildly annoying brand manager), the food in Providence is rooted in immigrants with Italian, Jewish and Portugese roots. All three ethnic groups know how to use a spice rack, and it’s evident those skills have been passed on through generations. It also helps having Johnson & Wales in your backyard. If you’re interested in Italian food while you’re in Providence, be sure to visit Federal Hill. There are too many spots to count, and it’s fun to simply walk up and down the main strip on a sunny weekend afternoon.
On the East Side (where Brown and RISD are located), it’s worth stopping in the seafood restaurant Hemenway’s. The chowder is incredible. There’s bacon in there somewhere, and it makes it all worth while. The tuna sashimi is also fantabulous.
When you leave Hemenway’s, a quick stroll down the street brings you to a great hangout, The Wild Colonial.
The Wild Colonial is a great spot to relax and have a few drinks with friends at any time of day or night. The beer list is solid all the way around. On top of a great beer list and chill atmosphere in a cavernous space, they make a proper Dark ‘n Stormy with Barritt’s and Gosling’s rum. If memory serves correct (and a lot of time it doesn’t), last winter one of the bartenders told me he likes to have a DnS after his shift. Whatever works.
Another spot worth while is the Renaissance Providence Hotel, which is owned by Marriott. I know. A Marriott. Sounds exciting, right? Well actually, when you check out the pictures you’ll see why it’s a destination. The hotel is a major reclamation project of a Masonic Temple that was left for dead when funds ran out during the Great Depression. It was only until 2007 when this hotel opened.
During all those decades in between, the Temple was vandalized and covered in spray paint. Instead of whitewashing this history, the hotel chose to keep pictures and portions of the graffiti alive in the hotel as well as in the stylish basement bar and restaurant, Temple Downtown. The food and the cocktails are creative and delicious, so it’s worth the trek up the hill to this hotel, bar and restaurant.