The Cranston Dirty Dive Crawl

Cranston and its inhabitants are given a pretty bad rap by its neighboring towns, stereotyped as a pack of uncultured townies who take the Rhode Island accent to all new levels of, “Wait, what did she just say?” So naturally, it’s not exactly a nightlife destination. Despite this, there is no shortage of watering holes, leading one to draw the conclusion that A) Cranstonians drink too much, or B) the Cranston bar scene is RI’s best kept secret. The latter theory shaped my recent Wednesday night (though the choice of weeknight didn’t do much to help the former).

I am a Cranston girl born and bred (East side, not West). The Wednesday Night Dirty Dive Cranston Bar Crawl was born out of the realization that I’ve never really given my hometown a fair chance, and the options in Providence are so overwhelming that my friends and I always end up in the same spot. So I rounded up my partners in crime in manner along the lines of, “Get dressed, Cranston Bar Crawl.”

“Oh, it’s on.”

And so it began.

The night started in the Edgewood neighborhood at O’Rourke’s Pub (note: the zip code is Warwick technically, but the neighborhood is Cranston). Located in sweet, charming Pawtuxet Village, O’Rourke’s is anything but, in the best way possible. It’s the type of stereotypical Irish bar where people are constantly clinking their pints together and drunkenly singing along with the acoustic guitar player, arms around each others shoulders, swaying back and forth (seriously, that happened). Soon there was a consensual hunger for Mexican food that O’Rourke’s “Irish Nachos,” (take the hot mountain of cheesy goodness that is nachos, but replace the tortillas with potato chips) could not satisfy, so down the street to Poco Loco we went.

After our fill of $2 tacos the crawl headed down Park Ave. to The Legion (for the sake of editorial clarity, it’s actually called the Pub on Park). I recently discovered The Legion after my 40-something-year-old friends dragged me along as I bitched the whole drive over, deeming it, “where people go relive the ‘80s.” Long story short, I was wrong. We had just settled into our stop on the crawl in the small dimly lit room. The vibe was intimate and welcoming with a strangely extensive menu of Black-and-Tan variations that screamed, “Get whatever you want, but we think it would taste better with some Guinness in it.” Our stop was cut short after the resident cover band got into a very public, very entertaining argument mid-song and stormed out, quickly made up with each other, and shot us a menacing look after hearing, “They got the band back together!” shouted from our side of the bar. Time to go.

Because the best dives are tucked away into the shadiest neighborhoods, the next stop was McShawns Pub, the gem of Cranston Street. A friend tipped us off on this hole in the wall. Hole in the wall in the literal sense, as we did in fact get confused outside a wall. There are few bar interiors more welcoming than floor-to-ceiling oak fixtures covered in flags, patches, and vintage beer shwag. The long round bar was reminiscent of Cheers. A few rounds of $2 domestic drafts and several dirty punchlines from bartenders later, it was time to draw the crawl to a close and finish out the night.

Cranston nightlife doesn’t have the swank and sheen of its neighboring city, Providence. It doesn’t get reviewed by the state’s publications and generally gets overlooked as something beneath our standards. But the simplicity of its dive bars is something that still manages to captivate all who let it no matter how many acclaimed spots are 5 minutes down the road. Our Cranston Crawl was ageless, shared with fellow bar goers from 21 to 61. It was unpretentious, honest, and beautifully gritty. And incredibly Irish (because it’s fair to say that the majority of anyone with Cranston roots and a European heritage is Irish).  And yes, maybe we’re a town that does drink just a little bit too much — Sláinte.


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