The stretch of Hope St between Rochambeau and 10th St, on the East Side of Providence, is a charming little neighborhood and an untapped treasure for dining and boozing. I consider this to be the Goldilocks of destinations: It’s not too big, not too small, not too expensive, not too crowded, not too sketchy… it’s just right — and it’s my favorite place to go for a relaxed night out. Unlike my other pub “strolls” and “meanderings,” here it is literally possible to get on one’s hands and knees and journey from one bar to another. So, one mellow Sunday night, I picked four bars and a group of friends who needed enlightenment, and we began our Hope Street adventure. We started with Blaze.
Blaze is the only restaurant with which I am not familiar, having only dined there once before, but I remembered their impressive cocktail list and was recently told they had the best mojito in town. I didn’t realize they closed early on a Sunday (kitchen closes at 8pm), so when we arrived at 7:30, I expected to feel rushed, but the staff did no such thing.
The four of us (three ladies and one lucky gentleman) managed to find seats at the nearly-full bar. The bartender, Will, seemed to know all of his patrons, which doesn’t surprise me because Hope tends to create regulars. The ladies examined the cocktail list with wide eyes while Dave, our token male, fancied a beer. I asked Will what his specialty drink was, and coming off of an especially long weekend shift, I could tell this was not a conversation he wanted to have. I decided to trust the advice of my friend and get the mojito. Thirty seconds later, my girlfriend asked Will, “What do you think is the best drink? Or what is your favorite thing to make?” Poor guy. He sighed. “It depends on what you like. I can make anything.” We looked over the menu further, and by the time we’d made decisions, we could see the chaos behind the bar had subsided and the light had returned to Will’s eyes.
“I’ve created half of this menu, so tell me what drinks you like,” he said. “I make awesome cocktails.” With a little guidance, Anne ordered the Summer Solstice (key ingredient: orange vodka) and Yelena ordered the Blue Goose Martini. All of our drinks were spot on. The mojito was a delicate balance of refreshing with just a touch of sweet; the Summer Solstice was summery and easy to drink; the Blue Goose Martini was actually blue and very boozy. As the four of us discussed the merits of Tinder, our drinks vanished, and soon it was time to head across the street to Kitchen Bar.
If Hope Street is the Goldilocks of PVD, Kitchen Bar is the Goldilocks of Hope St. It’s just the right amount of everything one needs in a bar, from great drinks to great food, an intimate feel but not too romantic — I’ve taken many a friend and many a first-date here. (The employees must question my lifestyle because I’m there every week with a new person.) This time around I tried their White Peach Sangria, and even though I’m not a go-getter of white sangrias, this was divine. I was fishing out blueberries from the bottom of the glass with a straw by the time I finished, so the booze did its job.
We lost one person of our party to a date (we spied on them from our high-top table), and we acquired a French guy. Everyone except me ordered lagers and ales, and we shared apps and entrees. I would (and did) encourage the calzones, which lasted only a few minutes longer than the burger Dave and I inhaled.
Insider tip: The best fall drink EVER is Kbar’s Pumpkin Pie Martini, which is lined with a caramel and cinnamon sugar rim and is the realized fantasy of all liquor-drinking, pumpkin-flavored-anything lovers. Look for it on the specials board from September to December.
After food and a couple rounds of drinks, we crossed the street to Hope Street Pizza, where we ran into friends who’d already acquired pints of beer and were sitting outside. We ordered our own pints and joined them.
Hope Street Pizza is what I consider Hope St’s sports bar, where there’s always a familiar face, everyone knows the owners, and where I feel comfortable showing up after a night at the gym to ravage a Greek Salad and pizza and watch the game (Insider tip #2: The Greek food here is worth trying — their feta cheese is like no other!). Some nights are packed with standing room only; others, like this evening, are particularly quiet. Only a couple of patrons were left inside (including Will the bartender!), and very few people strolled by as we absorbed the cool night air. With one stop left, it was time to head next door to Ivy Tavern.
The Ivy Tavern is the most traditional pub on Hope St, small and cozy, decorated with photographs, baseball memorabilia and chalk-written menus. The outdoor sign rests above an American flag, and it looks deceptively small from the windows. The most unexpected surprise here is their eclectic sandwiches, from bacon and chili topped burgers to Polish, Korean and vegetarian-inspired options, the aromas of which can convert even the most satiated individuals into famished creatures of the night.
I arrived feeling cold (perhaps I’m not a true Rhode Islander, after all), so I asked if they could make a warm drink, maybe an Irish coffee? “Absolutely. Jameson and Baileys okay?” It was more than okay. It was the best Irish coffee I’ve had on this side of the pond. I melted into a heap of happiness, both from the drinks and from the evening: surrounded by good company, feeling grateful that this is my home and knowing that everything about this place is just right.
Blaze: 776 Hope St
Kitchen Bar: 771 Hope St
Hope Street Pizza: 772 Hope St
Ivy Tavern: 758 Hope St