300 Things We Love About Providence

Celebrating our tricentenary issue by reflecting on the people, places, and things that make this little city our favorite place on earth

Posted

The year was 1997. Maybe you saw Titanic or Men In Black. The world mourned as we learned that Princess Diana died in a car crash and the Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Ellen DeGeneres came out on the cover of Time, Teletubbies made its debut, and the final season of Seinfeld started. Closer to home, Providence looked much different – it would be two years before Providence Place opened on what was once a dirt parking lot, the Graduate was still the Biltmore, and the publishers of East Side Monthly decided it was time for Providence to have its own namesake magazine. Through the years, there have been many changes – from staff to paper stock – but one thing remains constant: an unyielding adoration for what would be named The Creative Capital. Through our 24 years, we’ve worked tirelessly to spotlight the unique people, places, and things that make our little city the special place it is. As this, our 300th issue, goes to press, we thank our readers, contributors, publishers, and all the small businesses that advertise with us for being part of our story.

This list begins at 300! Let’s keep it going for the next 300.
If we missed your favorite, please let us know. Email us at Mail@ProvidenceOnline.com (Subject: PM300) or tag photos on Instagram using #PVD300.

DINING

From James Beard award-winning chefs and 18-seat restaurants to plucky pop-up businesses and NY System hot wieners – and nestled between the bigger but not better New York City and Boston scenes – Providence has forged a foodie identity all its own. Both born-and-bred Rhode Islanders and chefs from all over the world bring their distinct cooking to all varieties of eateries, while our very own green hub, Farm Fresh RI, helps feed our farm-to-table obsession. The list of PVD food love is long enough to fill a book, but we’ll try to distill it into a delectable multi-course sampler, here.

JAMES BEARD AWARDS

The past 20 years saw a host of PVD chefs nominated for and winning awards from the James Beard Foundation, a prestigious honor in the culinary industry, not to mention Al Forno’s nominations for Outstanding Restaurant 1998-2000.

Derek Wagner, Best Chef Semifinalist | Nicks on Broadway

James Mark, Best Chef Semifinalist | big king & North

Benjamin Sukle, Best Chef Nominee | Oberlin & Birch

Johanne Killeen, Outstanding Chef Semifinalist | Al Forno

Champe Speidel, Best Chef Semifinalist | Persimmon

Olneyville New York System, America’s Classics Winner

Matt Jennings, Best Chef Nominee | Farmstead Inc. (now closed)

Cook & Brown Public House, Outstanding Bar Program Semifinalist (now closed)

Kate Jennings, Best Chef Nominee | La Laiterie (now closed)

The Dorrance, Best New Restaurant Semifinalist

  1. Bruce Tillinghast, Best Chef Semifinalist | New Rivers

PIZZA JOINTS

In every neighborhood of the city you can guarantee there’s a place to grab a slice of ‘roni or a whole pie, whether Neapolitan (Figidini) or Sicilian (Caserta Pizzeria), brick-oven (Federal Hill Pizza) or coal-fired (Providence Coal Fired Pizza), topped with salad (Pizza Marvin) or tortellinis (Antonio’s). There’s even gluten-free (Pizza J) and vegan (Nice Slice) options. Pizza is a language every Providence dweller speaks.

FOOD TRUCKIN’

Before food trucks were even a thing, we had Haven Brothers in 1893, a horse-drawn cart bringing lunch to folks working in the city, and later the iconic “Aluminum Room” trailer diner in Kennedy Plaza. Today, a fleet of Haven Brothers trucks posts up at events designed with the mobile scene in mind. A visit to Roger Williams Park for Food Truck Fridays or weekends at breweries and other pop-up destinations will satisfy your cravings for all styles of cuisine.

BURGERS: Atomic Burger

SOUL FOOD: Black Beans PVD

SANDWICHES: Dips Dips

FUSION: HG80

HEALTH BOWLS: Incred-A-Bowl

JAMAICAN PATTIES: JA Patty

FILIPINO STREET FOOD: Lumpia Bros

BIRRIA TACOS: Masa Taqueria

CEVICHE: YEYÉ

VEGAN EATS

Home of the first vegan food hall, Plant City, and an annual RI Veg Fest (returning February 12-13, 2022), it’s safe to say PVD likes celebrating the plant-based lifestyle. Finding a veg-friendly cafe or dinner spot isn’t hard to do in our little city, with several only serving vegan and vegetarian eats! 

Afro Indigenous Vegan

Beatnic

Blush Bakeshop

Born from Pain Baked Goods

The Grange (temporarily closed)

Like No Udder

Liv Prepared

Veggie Fun

SPEAKEASIES

The Industrious Spirit Co. became our first distillery since Prohibition in 2020, but the roaring 1920s have been felt in small doses at cozy neighborhood bars – dare we say “speakeasies” – for some time now. Here’s a few spots to visit if you like your drinks up and an atmosphere with a little bit of mystique.

The Avery

Courtland Club

The Dean Bar

The Eddy

Justine’s

Needle & Thread

The Royal Bobcat

The Walnut Room

GLOBAL FLAVORS

Our very own Little Italy in Federal Hill is home to the best Italian food you’ll find in the city, from Massimo to Pane e Vino and everything in between – not to mention the sounds of live music mingling with the smell of garlic coming from Pasquale Square, the pinecone or La Pigna Archway serving as a welcoming symbol, and Al Fresco on the Hill summer weekends. Atwells Avenue is home to a slew of multicultural restaurants, too, and across the city you’ll find even more global flavors. These are just a handful worth visiting along your culinary journey.

CARIBBEAN: Garden of Eve

CHINESE: Y Noodle & Bar

EUROPEAN: Chez Pascal

GREEK: Kleos

INDIAN: Kabob and Curry

IRISH: McBride’s Pub

JAPANESE: Tori Tomo

KOREAN: Mokban Korean Bistro

MEDITERRANEAN: Marcelino’s Boutique Bar

MEXICAN: Casa Azul

SPANISH: Palo Tapas Bar

THAI: Thailand

WEST AFRICAN: Bintimani

FARM TO TABLE

Along with the small farms you see cropping up in once-vacant properties – from What Cheer Flower Farm in Olneyville to Southside Community Land Trust’s City Farm to Quaintly Farm feeding North Providence neighbors – our vibrant urban agriculture scene gets everyone involved with community gardens where individuals can tend to their own plots. SCLT notes over 60 gardens they manage or support, including gardens that are part of the African Alliance of RI and Sankofa Gardens across the West End. If you don’t have a green thumb yourself, farmers markets connect us with fresh, often city-grown goods.

Armory Park, Thursdays

Broad Street, Saturdays

Hope Street, Saturdays

Neutaconkanut Park, Mondays

Sankofa World Market, Wednesdays

Sims Market (year-round), Saturdays

ART/CREATIVE CAPITAL

Art is everywhere in Providence. There is a palpable entrepreneurial spirit within each city block and it makes perfect sense we call ourselves The Creative Capital. That moniker was actually the result of a $100,000 rebranding effort spearheaded by then-mayor Congressman David N. Cicilline in 2009. Former mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci called Providence “The Renaissance City” but when he went to federal prison on a racketeering conspiracy charge, that closely connected moniker lost some of its luster. No matter what you might dub the city, it has a long history of creative visionaries making their mark locally and globally.

PERFORMING ARTS VENUES

Academy Players of Rhode Island

AS220

The Columbus Theatre

Festival Ballet Providence

FirstWorks 

Providence Performing Arts Center

Rhode Island Philharmonic

Trinity Repertory Company

WaterFire Arts Center

The Wilbury Theatre

Veterans Memorial Auditorium (The VETS

STUDIO SPACES

The Dirt Palace

Nicholson File 

Rathbone Studios

The Wurks

FILM FESTIVALS

Flickers’ Vortex Sci-Fi

Providence Children’s Film Festival

Providence LGBTQ Film Festival

MURALS

Bidur

Biofuture

Derailed

Love is a Many Gendered Things

Mi Gente Siempre Responde

Misty Blue

Ode to Artist in Spraypaint

Ruins

Salt Water

Still Here

Selfie Wall

Stories of Mt. Hope: East Side Mural Project

The Revolution Starts in the Earth

VOTE

LIVE MUSIC

Alchemy

Askew

AS220 Main Stage

Colosseum

Columbus Theatre

Dusk

Fete Music Hall

ISCO

Nick-A-Nees

The Parlour

Revival Brewing Co.

The Scurvy Dog

The Strand Ballroom

The Swank

Union Station Brewery

NIGHT/DANCE CLUBS

Alley Cat

Dark Lady

Ego Providence

Fête Lounge

Mirabar

Providence Eagle

The Queer Art Collective

The Stable

YOUTH ARTS

The first step to earning the title of “Creative Capital” is championing new perspectives and diversity – and at a young age. While there’s always more work to do to represent all voices, these organizations begin by fostering safe spaces for Providence youth to be themselves and practice art.

AS220 Youth

Community MusicWorks

DownCity Design

Everett Company Stage & School

RIOT RI

The Manton Avenue Project

New Urban Arts

Providence Children’s Film Festival

Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth

Youth Pride RI

GALLERIES 

Bannister Gallery at Rhode Island College

Bert Gallery

The Center For Reconciliation

Chazan Gallery at Wheeler

David Winton Bell Gallery

Gallery Z

Providence College Galleries

Public

Studio Hop

URI Feinstein Providence Campus Gallery

The Gallery at City Hall

Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery

World’s Fair Gallery

FOR ARTISTS

AS220 Community Print Shop

Blick Art Materials

Gather Glass Blowing Studio

Handicraft Club

Haus of Glitter

Jerry’s Artarama

Little Free Craft Library [Photo]

Muse Paintbar

Providence Art Club*

Providence Public Library offers collections full of useful materials for artists and designers: books and media that you can check out with your library card, and reference books and historical collections that you can use on site. 150 Empire Street

Since 2015, the RISD Museum has offered the Rhode Island Artist Membership program, free admission to the museum for one year for one adult who identifies as an artist or designer and resides in Rhode Island. RISDMuseum.org

RISD Store

The Steel Yard

Wolf E. Myrow, Inc. 

FOR WRITERS

Whether penning written works or broadcasting spoken word, What Cheer Writers Club is a community of creatives hosting events, coworking spaces, and business services for PVD authors, podcasters, and more. Also, check out Goat Hill for workshops.

INSTRUMENTS

Avery Piano 

B Sharp Music 

Empire Guitars

The Music Store

 

PEOPLE & PLACES

For a small city, let’s face it, we’ve got a lot of bravado, and it all starts with the big guy at the top. We’re talking about The Independent Man, the bronze statue covered in gold leaf that embodies the plucky spirit and drive that led Roger Williams to settle in Little Rhody in his search for freedom of worship. If this gilded dude can withstand storms and lightning bolts atop the State House Dome, we feel pretty emboldened to do the same. Through our 299 issues, we’ve seen it all and are sharing some standouts.

THE DIRTY DOZEN By Barry Fain & Steve Triedman

A who’s who of Providence’s not-so-long-ago shady past

When podcasts burst into the national scene, one of the first mega successes was Crimetown, which covered the mob and its intertwined history with Providence. Here are some of the lesser known (or perhaps forgotten) scandals and scoundrels that make our capital city the quirky place we all love.

  1. Stanley Henshaw: The prominent insurance executive who lived on Benefit Street and recruited Brown students for courtesan work.
  2. Heidi Matson: In her tell-all book, this Ivy League stripper recounts her time at the Foxy Lady, where she worked as a stripper to help support herself since it paid more than the Ratty and offered a better benefit package.
  3. Edward “Buckles” Melise: This mobster and long-time City worker in the public works department who spent some time in a “gated community” also had a good side: Cianci used him to help end the famous sanitation strike with cops riding shotgun on the garbage trucks.
  4. Blaise Marfeo: At Adesso, the upscale restaurant on Thayer, the food was always better on the days when owner/chef and according to Wikipedia, Patriarca bookmaker, Marfeo, was out on work release.
  5. Joe Mollicone: He was everyone’s best friend, handing out loans like they were Halloween candy, until he skipped town and his Providence Heritage and Loan collapsed overnight and blew up the banking system. Months later, he was located in Utah with his girlfriend, and admitted to embezzling over $15 million. He served a brief period in jail and began a court demand to repay his debt to the state at $30/month and expects to be finished in 4,597 years.
  6. Gordon Fox: From Camp Street to running the state, this wonderful rags-to-riches-and-power story ended when he got sent to the “hen house” for bribery, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return.
  7. Kevin Jackson: The former longtime city councilor started a wonderful youth track program until his constituents told him his running days were over and voted him out in a recall election. He was later sentenced to work-release – for embezzling, filing false documents with the state Board of Elections, and misuse of campaign funds – and two counts of unlawful appropriation.
  8. Arlene Violet: A religious sister in the Sisters of Mercy, upon becoming the first female Attorney General elected in the United States, she was told there were 12 local eateries she couldn’t go into because of their Mafia connections. Coincidentally, we’re told 12 of the best restaurants in the state refused to take reservations from “Attila the Nun”.
  9. A uniquely Providence love story: Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio (nicknamed for his taste in women) and “the Doctor Broad” – the well-respected cardiologist Barbara Roberts, who has since written a book about it.
  10. Dr. E. Gordon Gee: After just two years at Brown University, President Gee agreed to head a search committee to help Vanderbilt University find its new chancellor before ending up taking the job himself. He’s the only president of Brown who doesn’t have his portrait hanging at the school. Wife Constance Gee wrote a book about it: Higher Education: Marijauna in the Mansion.
  11. Juliett 484: The Soviet Submarine that starred in the movie K-19: The Widowmaker became a tourist attraction in Providence Harbor. Never very popular, it could barely stay afloat and then sank during a freak storm. Getting it up was a problem, and when it was finally raised, it subsequently caught fire and was scrapped at the adjacent scrapyard.
  12. Buddy Cianci: Need we say more?

WALKING TOURS 

The Avenue Concept Public Art Wayfinding Tour

Benefit Street: A Mile of History

Bookworm Tour

Downtown Historic Walking Tour

Downtown with Kids

Early Black History Walking Tour

East Side Historic Walking Tour

H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour & Film Screening

Jewelry District Historic Walking Tour

Providence Ghost Tour

Providence Independence Trail

Roger Williams Park: Art & Architecture

Unseen Providence During the Revolutionary War

West Side Historic Walking Tour

HISTORIC PLACES & RESOURCES

The Arcade

Benefit Street

Stages of Freedom Black History Museum

John Brown House Museum

Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum

Historic Marker Houses

Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

The Providence Athenaeum

Providence Children’s Museum

Providence Preservation Society

The Rhode Island Historical Society

Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art

Roger Williams Park Conservancy

The Stephen Hopkins House

Swan Point Cemetery

COOL SIGHTS

Axelrod Music Neon Sign

Barnaby Castle

The Box Office (Shipping Container Building)

Cranston Street Armory

The Crayola House

Gotham Greens

Gun Totem

500 Trees at RWP

Prospect Park

The Wedding Cake House

CELEB SIGHTINGS

What’s more fun than spotting famous faces around the city? Providence’s colleges and universities have long drawn talented students and their visiting parents. Pro-tip: Cafes along Thayer Street are where you’re most likely to run into the latest crop of celebs, including James Broderick, son of Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. Here’s a who’s who of who has traipsed our streets through the years.

Julie Bowen, Brown

David Byrne, RISD

Jessica Capshaw, Brown

Amy Carter, Brown

Dale Chihuly, RISD

Viola Davis, RIC

Shepard Fairey, RISD

Peter Farrelly, PC

Tyler Florence, JWU

James Franco, RISD

Janeane Garofalo, PC

Hill Harper, Brown

Dhani Harrison, Brown

David Hedison, Brown

Marin Hinkle, Brown

Emeril Lagasse, JWU

Laura Linney, Brown

John F. Kennedy Jr, Brown

John Krasinski, Brown

Seth McFarlane, RISD

Nicole Miller, RISD

Martin Mull, RISD

John O’Hurley, PC

Leelee Sobieski, Brown

Gus VanSant, RISD

Emma Watson, Brown

Tina Weymouth, RISD

Andrew Yang, Brown

COLLEGES

Brown University

Johnson & Wales University Providence Campus

Providence College

Rhode Island College

Rhode Island School of Design

STATUES

A Memorial to Young Womanhood

Abraham Lincoln

Benjamin Franklin

Bowen R. Church

The Boy and Girl Fountain

Civil War General Ambrose E. Burnside

George M. Cohan Statue

The Hiker

The Independent Man

Indomitable

Juan Pablo Duarte

Korean War Memorial

Marcus Aurelius and Caesar Augustus

Orpheus Ascending

Roger Williams

The Scout Monument

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Spirit of Youth

The Sultan

Textured Gear

Union Soldier

WWII Memorial

WWII Monument

World War I Memorial

SHOPPING DISTRICTS

Broadway

Fox Point

Hope Street

Thayer Street

Wayland Square

For detailed listings visit ProvidenceOnline: Shop Small

RHODY GEMS

Ever visit a small business and think to yourself: How did I not know about this place? I must share about it! That’s the essence of what it means to be a Rhody Gem. It’s a physical place with a door, it’s in Providence, and it’s special. The Rhody Gem column launched in December 2018 and ever since we’ve mined so many cool and unusual, hole-in-the-wall places that make our city so special. 

Benefit Street Antiques

Bin 312 Wine Cellars

The Blue Cottage

Bolt Coffee

Books on the Square

Cellar Stories Bookstore

Coffee Exchange

DWRI Letterpress

Farmacy Herbs

Found RI

Gather Glass 

Good Game Grill

Groden Greenhouse

The Handicraft Club

Homegrown

Hungry Ghost Press

Jephry Floral Studio

Jerry’s Artarama

Jordan’s Jungle

Lazy Dog Antiques

LOLA

Lovecraft Arts & Sciences

Mack and Hound

The Map Center

NAVA

Nikki’s Liquors

Paper Connection International

Paper Nautilus Books

Peaceable Kingdom

Pie in the Sky Gift Boutique

POP Emporium of Popular Culture

Providence Pilates Center

Reliable Gold

The Red Fez

Rhody Craft

Simple Pleasures

Studio 539 Flowers

Studio Hop

Tea in Sahara

Three Wheel Studio

The Thrifty Goose Gift Shop

WaterFire Arts Center

Wayland Bakery

West Side Sewing Studio

White Buffalo

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here