The Wickenden Walkabout

wickenFIt’s soon to be that time of year again. Crazy uncles taking over the living room couch, chaos in the kitchen, giant plucked foul defrosting on the counter. No wonder Rhode Islanders have chosen the night before (or after) Thanksgiving to be the night of high school reunions and boozing with friends. This year, however, think about abandoning the local watering hole and exploring some untapped neighborhoods. For instance, Wickenden Street in Providence has a great selection of pubs to bounce between, from the well-known summer hangouts to the hidden side-street gems that only the Fox Point locals know of. I got the insider’s look during my walk down Wickenden, all thanks to an accidental Facebook invite.

It wasn’t until our first stop at Captain Seaweeds that it occurred to me I didn’t know the host or anyone else in attendance. The friends I’d invited — a girl visiting from Hawaii and a guy from France — were among the first to arrive. The bar was identifiable by a hanging wooden plaque that featured the Captain himself, his beard reminiscent of Medusa’s hair, and the interior decoration was superb: walls and ceilings covered in pictures, posters, and memorabilia related to ships, pirates, hula dancers, and creatures of the sea. There was a pool table and a few tables, but most seating was at the bar itself. We ordered our first round of drinks, though none of us were brave enough to try the $1 Captain Seaweed’s Lager, and we waited for everyone to trickle in.

By 9:30, Captain Seaweed’s was a happenin’ place. I’d made friends with those who were intentionally invited to the “Wickenden Walkabout” and discovered that I knew the host’s brother, which I pretended was the reason I was there. I also ran into a coworker—an event that made me feel like a true Rhode Islander.

Running an hour behind schedule, our host informed us we were going to the next bar. “We’re going Round the Corner!” he yelled. Our group of 15 followed the leader, and it was more complicated than simply walking around the corner. We walked through a maze of side streets and residential neighborhoods until the houses split and we saw a dimly lit sign for Round the Corner. The window revealed only a neon shamrock and ATM logo. I would have never found this place on my own.

The inside was completely full, but given its small size, it’s hard to say how many people were really there. We squeezed in, our group separating around the bar in order to find enough standing room. The other patrons eyed us warily, and as there was only one bartender, he didn’t seem thrilled at our arrival. We ordered Sam Seasonals and my friend contemplated stealing the pint glass. “How great is this?” she asked. The glass read, “For the love of beer,” which would have made a great Rhode Island keepsake, but her conscience was too pure.

Given the tight quarters, we quickly moved to Wickenden Street proper and attended its namesake bar. Compared to Round the Corner, Wickenden Pub was huge and carried an unusual musk. “This is what I envision a medieval pub being like,” someone in the group said. There was a dartboard in the corner, tables and booths scattered about, and a lot of wood and stone. It felt like we were inside a cellar where it wouldn’t be unusual to order a pint of mead. I found the Walkabout host, and he gave me some background on our previous locations.

“When I discovered Captain Seaweed’s, it was completely sketchy. The first time I walked in, there was a woman wearing just a bra with a knife tucked in; people were doing drugs and gambling. But now, it’s a tourist destination. Old people and families go there. It’s completely different.” He also described Round the Corner as being the opposite, a safe haven full of quiet and welcoming locals. “It wasn’t quite as friendly tonight,” he added, but it might’ve been better if we hadn’t gone with an entourage.

The group’s next stop was Point Tavern, but I ditched the walkabout out of hunger and landed at Fellini’s Pizzeria, where I ate two amazing slices of pizza. (Note: from my quick glance inside Point Tavern, it appeared to be the classiest of all the bars we visited.) My friend and I re-joined the group at The Hot Club, our final destination.

The Hot Club by day, especially by summer day, is not the same as The Hot Club by night, when patios are closed and strangers come together at the bewitching hour. Crowds consists of locals, visitors, young adults and the young-at-heart, and everyone is beyond the tipping point. I wrote the best quotes from the evening, but none of them are appropriate for this magazine. After a single vodka soda, I called it a night, but the party raged on into the early morning.

So this November, gather your friends, sing a little Kumbaya, and give thanks for Uber because the Wickenden Walkabout is worth leaving the neighborhood to experience.

Captain Seaweeds: 162 Ives St, Providence

Round the Corner: 12 Governor St.

Wickenden Pub: 320 Wickenden St.

The Point Tavern: 302 Wickenden St.

Fellini’s Pizzeria: 166 Wickenden St.

The Hot Club: 575 S Water St.

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