A Newcomer’s Amble Through Providence’s Finest

“This Friday my husband and the kids are out of town, so girls’ night is happening. Where can we go in Providence?”

This was the call I received from my friend who rescued me when I needed to know the go-to bars in her town of Warren, and now it was time for me to return the favor. She and another friend, also a Warren resident, wanted to hit the downtown streets of Providence, but didn’t know where to begin. I somehow became the knowledgeable expert, and even though I am a newcomer to Providence myself, I knew immediately where we should start.

The Eddy.

I developed a fondness for true mixology when I spent time in New Zealand watching UK-born bartenders muddle, swirl and shake fresh ingredients into masterpieces with the concentration and precision of artists. The closest recreation I have seen of this art form is at The Eddy. We arrived just before 9pm, having parked far enough away that I required Google Maps to get me back to Eddy Street, but we found the bar just off of Westminster, an unlit sign marking its location. The Eddy doesn’t need neon lights and fanfare because those who know of it are devoted fans, and they bring others, almost like initiation into a secret society.

The inside is small: four tables nestled near the front window, two hidden cubicles in the back, and a line of bar stools around the main attraction. The magic comes from watching the bartenders, so I suggested we sit at the bar, but there were only two empty seats. The other patrons, seeing our predicament, parted like the Red Sea to allow the three of us to sit together. We immediately felt a sense of camaraderie with our neighbors.

We were given tall glasses of water while we decided on cocktails. I ordered an Orange Julius Caesar, a frothy white rum drink that had less sugar and more elegance than its frozen namesake; Sarah ordered the House Punch!, a drink that was a good as its exclamation point suggested; and Carol ordered the Bartender’s Choice, a customized drink created from the bartender’s expertise.

“What do you like?” he asked.

“Not gin,” she replied.  “Something summery and fruity, but not too sweet.”

“How about vodka?”

Approved. The result was something delicious.

Having overheard her distrust of gin, the couple sitting next to Carol made it their mission to convert her. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian man next to Sarah offered to read her palm and predicted she was an exotic dancer (“close … I’m a gym instructor and stay-at-home mother”). I joined in with the pro-gin argument, and after some convincing, Carol decided to try a gin drink, but the bartender modified it with his own ingredients, saying “Be careful; it’s boozy.” Operation success: Carol is now a gin believer. The cocktail was cucumber-y and refreshing (we all tried it), and we concurred: the man knows what he’s doing.

Our next stop, at the bartender’s suggestion, was the Rooftop Bar, around the corner and up the Providence G’s elevator. As soon as the doors opened, we were transported to a Vegas-like atmosphere: a glass canopy in the center, couches and high tops along the periphery, twinkling city lights, loud conversations, slinky dresses and suits. “Where ARE we?” I asked. If The Eddy was a secret society, the Rooftop Bar was a secret clubhouse for the cool kids.

We stood at the bar waiting to be served. The couple in front of us recommended drinks while the guy behind us drunkenly cursed about the service. I got something that tasted like a Pina Colada on the rocks, with the ratio of juice to alcohol largely skewed. At a whopping $42 price tag for three drinks, we wandered toward the edge of the rooftop to enjoy the view we paid for. When a couch opened up, we swooped in. After we poached the cushions, another girl wobbled over and pilfered what was left of a champagne bottle. It was time to move on.

Congress — the tavern, not the congressional body — was the place to end the night. It’s the epitome of an American pub: $5 beers and an easygoing crowd. We relaxed at an empty table, from which we admired a cute guy wearing a knit hat and carrying a man purse (definitely not Rooftop dress-code), and we discussed our evening. “It was a lot of fun, but this is the kind of place I feel most comfortable,” said Sarah, voicing all of our opinions. We sighed, happy yet fatigued, and decided to forego the dance club around the corner and head back to the car.

As we walked, we dreamed of cheap pizza, and behold: across the street from our car was a pizza-by-the-slice joint. We took our paper plates outside and rested against a cinderblock wall. First a police horse trotted by, then a gang of bikers. They waved. We waved back.

“Welcome to Providence,” I said, “where things get real after 11pm.”

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