The Dish: Providence's Five Best Secret Bars
It's time to out some of our favorite spots (because we've finally learned how to share).
One of the cool things about Providence is the small number of off-the-radar bars that take a little sleuthing to stumble on. Why would these watering holes want to be so secret that you need to know someone who knows where it is to find out where it is? The goal is to maintain a sense of intimacy where like-minded locals can gather without dealing with the obnoxious things people do when they are drunk (or just obnoxious people in general).
But the more Providence begins to make international headlines (like, say this New York Times piece), the more important we think it is for people who travel to Providence (okay fine, I’ll say it, tourists) to experience the best we have to offer. These people might need a little insider info to figure out where to go out. Case in point: we should have given Uberding a welcome tour. So we’re spilling the beans about some cool places in PVD. Our home is pretty great. Let’s be kind and share well with others.
18 Luongo Memorial Sq., Providence, averyprovidence.com
Our number one secret bar (voted best neighborhood bar in our 2015 Best of Rhode Island Readers’ Poll) has been a favorite since we got lost trying to find it five years ago. So Westminster is separated by a highway, and there’s this whole other side… .On second attempt, I questioned if I was in the right place as I approached what looked like a private home with no sign and darkened windows in the early evening hours. Upon entering, I finally felt in the know, soaking up the dark wood detailing and the naked lady illuminated bar, Lovecraft’s Lament in hand. Over the years, the bartenders haven’t gotten any friendlier, but even that hautiness is one of the reasons why we love the Avery.
49 Peck St., Providence, 401-861-3825
Hidden down a side street, “in the heart of the parking lot district” known as Peck Street, the only thing signifying the Fez is a small sign with a red fez cap hanging out front. No flashing lights, lots of darkness; you're in the right place. The bar is well known just as much for its exceptional food as it is for the drinks, but it’s also the casual, comfortable atmosphere that brings regulars back here again and again. You can also get your late-night grub on. Go for the poutine and the chickpea fritters, and also the mac and cheese, and you might counteract your buzz, but at least you’ll be fat and happy. Drinks have creative names like Fez Fiz (dry gin, St. Germaine, grapefruit juice, Champagne) and the Dirty Jersey Jambot Sour (old overholt rye, fresh lemon, simple syrup topped with white port, with a cherry) but nothing’s ever wrong with ordering a good old 'Gansett (heck, make it a six-pack and share with the kitchen!). Also: Sometimes we call the Fez on off hours just to hear the weird message on the answering machine.
11 Olneyville Sq., Providence
Need a new bustier and a stiff drink? You’re in luck because you can get a glance at both at Justine’s. Just don’t be that guy wandering in and clearly looking for the wrong thing… . Justine’s has breathed new life into Olneyville by way of vintage coupe and martini glasses. Beyond the velvet curtain lies a time machine that transports you to a simpler time when cocktails cost less than $6 each. You can thank cheaper rent and less overhead for that prize. Dark lighting, half-moon tufted booths and vintage photographs complete the vibe alongside drinks named after Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, and charcuterie and olive snacks for just a few bucks.
Olneyville Sq., Providence
Instead of knocking down a wall, why not just make a whole new bar? This is the latest Mike Sears operation, located right next door to beloved Justine’s. There’s no signage out front so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s empty. With more of a '50s and '60s vibe, the bar boasts a jukebox with rotating forty-fives, a black and white photo booth, purple velvet upholstered chairs and a little Farrah Fawcett love.
425 West Fountain St., Providence
This spot opened up in late December in the new West Fountain Street complex that includes Cleverhood’s new headquarters and Long Live Beerworks microbrewery. The Southern-style restaurant comes from the same owners of Broadway Bistro and small plates are the way to go. We love the fancy toasts spread with avocado and bacon, light and fluffy crawfish beignets with big chunks of crawfish and the roasted cauliflower on a blanket of tasty beet hummus. The fried chicken is super spicy and kept simple on a piece of white bread, accompanied by potato salad and sweet pickles. The craft beer list is small but curated with selections from Stone and Revival and cocktails are organized by the spirit (vodka, gin, tequila, rye and bourbon, and a Manhattan for good measure). Choose your liquor and a good drink awaits you: gin is paired with spicy orange liqueur, pamplemousse and fresh lime. You’ll soon become fast friends with the Slow Rhode.