In Providence

In Providence: Kow Kow

If you’ve looked at my social media recently, then I should probably apologize to you.

Just, you know, in general.

But if you went looking for photos of ice cream and bubble waffles, then I probably didn’t let you down.

Like just about everybody else in the state, I have found myself addicted to Kow Kow.

The food truck has grown into a shop on Ives Street that’s so popular, I was turned away the first two times I got there because it was after 8pm and the line was so long, there was no way I was going to make it to the front before closing time.

Another day I brought a friend with me, and we waited halfway up a side street while others peeled off, most likely assuming that nothing could be worth investing that kind of time.

Poor fools, I thought, as I inched closer to getting a Graham Canyon.

You have to know something about me before I continue.

I refuse — absolutely refuse — to wait in line for just about anything.

This is not my worst trait, but it’s at least Top Five.

(The other four involve swing sets, elevators and my undying devotion to Love, Actually.)

Many times over the course of my life, I’ve been told that a wait at a restaurant is 10 to 15 minutes and walked right out the door. I don’t cause a fuss or make a scene, but in my mind, there are so many places to eat, why would you ever wait for a table that wasn’t immediately available?

But Kevin, you might be saying, why don’t you just make a reservation?

Because Reader, like all true nightmares, I both want to decide what I want five minutes before I want it and I want it given to me the second I do.

(I fully expect to be driven out of town by torch-bearing villagers any day now.)

And yet, even the Man Who Would Not Wait for Anything happily waits for Kow Kow. 

My first time there was in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. I had the advantage of a day off during the week, and found that there was no line. I immediately considered ordering everything on the menu while I had the chance, but I talked myself down and just went with a Berry Nutty.

The staff at Kow Kow are so friendly and calm for people who are essentially running the waffle equivalent of Studio 54. Any expansion is bound to be tricky, and a big part of my newest addiction is following them online as they document some of the growing pains they’ve experienced. I have to refrain from posting a “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!” meme every time they post an apology.

Upon an evening visit a few days ago, I found myself in line behind two other gays comparing what we’d had so far.

“He always gets the Oreo Factory,” one of them told me, rolling their eyes at the short blonde he was there with. “But I like to try a different one each time.”

We immediately bonded over our desire to check off the entire menu. We compared notes, and I wondered if this is the kind of excitement I missed out on as a young child when all the straight boys were trading baseball cards.

One friend told me that she stopped by Kow Kow on the way home from work and ate the entire dessert in her driveway so her kids wouldn’t be mad that she went without them. Upon going inside, her two sons did start badgering her to take them.

“I ended up driving all the way back there,” she said. “It was partly out of guilt, but it’s also my cheat day, so I figured why not? I was praying the girl behind the counter wouldn’t recognize me and rat me out to my kids.”

Now, if you think all of this sounds a little extreme, I won’t argue with you, mainly because I don’t argue with idiots, but aside from that, I think the best experiences aren’t only about the main event, but about so much more.

After a year inside, visiting a little shop run by lovely people on the Wickenden side of Providence for something as simple as a cone full of sweets seems like the kind of simple, warm weather behavior we’ve all been missing, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to satisfy someone like me. I think there’s a lot more that encompasses why I enjoy it so much. It’s the high demand for the product, so that you feel like you’re really getting something special. You’re in line with other people (still wearing masks) but socializing again. The day I took my friend along with me, I met two adorable dogs and a baby. It’s a new experience with a comforting sense of familiarity. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my parents would take us all over the state just to get the best this or that according to their own personal tastes. The point wasn’t to drive 45 minutes for a cup of chowder. It was that we were going to hop in the car as a family, roll down the windows, put on music and enjoy the ride.

The chowder was just a bonus.

Last year, I wrote about how when I started this column, my plan had always been to take a break during the summer, because, like most cities, Providence sort of empties out after Memorial Day. It feels like other than a few big events, there really isn’t that much to write about, and while that might be changing as more and more people are moving into the city from bigger places like New York and Boston, I still wondered whether there were going to be enough reasons to stick around.

But that’s the thing about Providence. While we like to overcompensate for our size by labeling much of what we offer as “the best” (Please, DC, I want you to be a state, but don’t take “Smallest” away from us, I beg of you), the truth is the best thing we have to offer is the understanding that it’s not about what you’re getting, it’s about who you’re getting it with — whether it be a friend, a first date, your two kids, your new puppy or some strangers you befriended while you waited to get to the front of the line.

It’s about living somewhere your entire life only to say, “Wow, I haven’t really explored this part of the city yet,” and then exploring it. It’s about spending a little less time online.

And learning to enjoy your time in line.

Disclaimer: The In Providence column is a slice of life in Providence based on true stories. Each column may include elements of creative non-fiction. See our story on that concept here: