Thriving city neighborhoods are like communities unto themselves, such as Providence’s East Side. The area is college-centric, with Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design figuring prominently in life here. But even if you largely avoid the two college campuses, visitors still find the East Side rich in history, unique architecture, culture, and culinary flavor.
The East Side offers lodging options, both historic and charming. The Old Court Bed & Breakfast (144 Benefit St., 401-751-2002, www.oldcourt.com, rooms from $135) was built as a rectory in 1863, with some rooms overlooking the state capitol and Providence’s downtown. Antique furniture, chandeliers, and 19th-century memorabilia abound and the daily full breakfast wins raves. The Annie Brownell House Bed & Breakfast (400 Angell St., 401-454-2934, www.anniebrownellhouse.com, rates from $120) is a Colonial Revival dating to 1899, with widow’s walk, Ionic columns at its entrance portico, and leaded glass double front doors. The interior features a winding staircase, large breakfast room with fireplace, and the homey and comfortable rooms come with private baths.
Grab some morning vegan or gluten-free pastry and practically get caffeinated just smelling the aroma at The Coffee Exchange (207 Wickenden St., 401-273-1198, www.sustainable
coffee.com). The Exchange boasts organic and Fair Trade coffee from around the world, Bohemian ambience, and year-round outdoor deck that fills up in sunny weather, even in winter. Warm up with a hearty lunch in Wayland Square at Red Stripe (465 Angell St., 401-437-6950, redstriperestaurants.com, from $9), a brasserie that serves up a carefully prepared array of soups, salads, small plates, and sandwiches like the famous Red Stripe grilled cheese, with prosciutto, poached pear and basil pesto and roasted tomato soup or house fries. Get your ethnic fix at places like Not Just Snacks (833 Hope St., 401-351-1150, www.letseat.at/notjustsnacks, entrees from $6), serving Indian food such as idli and masala dosa, and Sawaddee Thai Restaurant (93 Hope St., 401-831-1122, www.sawaddeerestaurant.com, ) where the pad Thai is authentically amazing and curry dishes as blazing as you like. Romantic and cozy is Waterman Grille (392 Waterman St., 401-521-9229, www.watermangrille.com, entrees from $24), serving food from many local purveyors and noted for offerings like the lobster grilled-cheese sandwich and shrimp-and-sweet-potato ravioli, with terrific views of the Seekonk River.
Take a brisk walk past million-dollar homes on Blackstone Boulevard’s wide, tree-lined median and then through nearby Swan Point Cemetery (585 Blackstone Blvd., 401-272-1314, www.swanpointcemetery.com), one of America’s first garden cemeteries and final resting spot of governors, industrialists, and Civil War notables, including Union Army officer Sullivan Ballou, made famous in Ken Burns’s “Civil War” series. Up for some shopping? Even if you don’t buy anything, owner Marc Streisand is happy to talk fashion at Marc Allen Fine Clothiers (200 South Main St., 401-453-0025, www.marcalleninc.com), a men’s boutique where you can spend as little as $40 for silk socks or upwards of $35,000 for a bespoke cashmere ensemble that Streisand said “pretty much guarantees you won’t be wearing the same suit as the guy next to you at a business meeting.” For less masculine options, try Shoppe Pioneer (253 South Main St., 401-274-7467, www.shoppepioneer.com), where owner Natalie Morello stocks items like bohemian peplum tops, chevron dresses, and Jenny Bird bracelets, most of it well under $100. Flat-out fun is Nostalgia (236 Wickenden St., 401-400-5810, www.nostalgia
providence.com), which owners Mike and Karen Antonowicz call “a curious emporium” of antique furniture, vintage clothing from as far back as the early 20th century, jewelry, old cameras, and collectibles, all displayed by more than 50 co-op vendors on three floors. Of the many holders of history on the East Side, one of the most compelling is The Holocaust Education and Resource Center of Rhode Island (401 Elmgrove Ave., 401-453-7860, www.hercri.org, free admission), housing a library, some artifacts from the era, an audio-visual collection and memorial garden, and which arranges for Holocaust survivors to speak to local students or groups. The center is quite small and not always staffed, said executive director May-Ronny Zeidman, suggesting visitors call ahead.
Music, lectures, poetry readings, book launches, and a Friday night salon series are found at one of the country’s oldest libraries, the Providence Athenaeum (251 Benefit St., 401-421-6970, www.providence
athenaeum.org, most events free), a classic Greek Revival structure where the ill-fated romance of Edgar Allan Poe and poet Sarah Helen Whitman took place amid the stacks. Theater buffs have long flocked to the Barker Playhouse (400 Benefit St., 401-273-0590, www.players
ri.org, tickets $25), founded in 1909 and said to be the country’s oldest continually running community theater, a cozy 100-seat venue where “Woman in Mind” finishes up Feb. 7-9 and in March, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will be staged. If you eventually manage to quaff all 99 beers from around the world (don’t even think about trying it in one sitting) at the Wickenden Pub (320 Wickenden St., 401-861-2555, www.facebook.com/pages/The-WickendenPub/177455229071), you get on the Wall of Shame, which, attesting to the bar’s longevity, more than 600 devoted beer drinkers have done so far. Popular for live music, acoustic karaoke, trivia nights, and sports on dozens of HD-TVs is The Whiskey Republic (515 South Water St., 401-588-5158, www.thewhiskey
republic.com), located on Fox Point Marina and living up to its name by offering about 50 whiskeys, including Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve. Grab a sandwich and a glass of wine and catch a flick at the popular Cable Car Cinema and Cafe (204 South Main St., 401-272-3970, www.cablecarcinema.com, tickets from $8.50), a longtime movie art house where in February they air 2014 Oscar-nominated short films.