A note to readers: A version of this story was originally published the day after the westbound side of the Washington Bridge closed. On Monday, state officials acknowledged their original three-month estimate to repair the bridge is out the window, and that a full rebuild is one potential outcome. Given that news, and the continued traffic headaches in East Providence even with temporary westbound lanes open on the eastbound side of Interstate 195, it appears that this story is still going to be relevant for awhile.
STUCK IN EAST PROVIDENCE — They say East Providence is the place where Townie pride never sleeps. And now, with the closure of westbound lanes of the Washington Bridge, it’s the place where Townie pride never leaves, either.
With the Rhode Island trafficmageddon upon us, the Boston Globe’s Rumford bureau has decided to put together this guide to East Providence. Because what else can we do? Try to drive somewhere? Ha! Hahaha! [sobs uncontrollably.]
This is for East Providence residents who are looking for a reminder of a favorite place to walk or bike. It’s also for Seekonkers and Swanseans who need a place to stop for provisions before they try to ford the river with their team of oxen. Mainly, though, it’s to pass the time until the state fixes this mess. It’s hitting East Providence particularly hard right, leading to long commutes, gridlocked local streets, and in some cases, distance learning for city schools.
Best places to eat
O Dinis: I’ve written and talked a decent amount about this Portuguese restaurant on Warren Avenue. Imagine how much I think about it! It’s really that good. Go on a Monday for fado night and really feel the saudade over the life we used to have.
Other options that people on social media suggested: Honeybird Kitchen and Cocktails, Sun & Moon Korean Restaurant, Red Bridge Tavern, Sax’s, Chong Qing House, Ourplace II Diner, Khaosan Thai Street Food, Jeff’s Pizza, Bella’s Italian Deli.
Best places to drown your sorrows with an alcoholic beverage
The East Providence Yacht Club, for the uninitiated, isn’t the Judge Smails type of yacht club. Think Keno and Bud Light, not cardigans and tax avoidance schemes. Before a recent renovation, it might have even been called a bit divey (in a good way). But the views, especially now that the old bridge to nowhere has been removed, are spectacular; you can see all the way to the faraway land that is Providence. And although some will miss the decrepit old bridge, the yacht club now gets to be the place where the bridge used to be. In Rhode Island, what’s better than that? Infrastructure that actually works? Ha! Hahaha! [sobs uncontrollably]
Other options: Skeff’s Pub, which is offering traffic jam specials. Wine events at Brands of Portugal. The brand-new Crook Point Brewing Company is trying to make the most of the situation by extending its hours. While you’re at the brewery, you can mull over my bold plan to lower the Crook Point Bascule Bridge and let us walk over “Stand By Me” style.
Best place to perk up with some coffee and a pastry
Taunton Avenue is probably going to be one of the most challenging places in the known universe (i.e. Rhode Island) for the foreseeable future, so it’s only right that you should stop by a couple of the bakeries and cafes there. Cafe Zara is absolutely top notch, my No. 1 choice in the city. Taunton Avenue Bakery is a great place for an espresso and a pastel de nata. You’ll need it. Elsewhere, Borealis Coffee Company in Riverside is not to be missed.
Best place to get outside
Turner Reservoir in Rumford takes about an hour to walk all the way around — the same amount of time it’ll take you to drive a couple blocks in some parts of East Providence these days. The scenery is much nicer to look at than your dashboard. You might have to get creative when parking, but as for traffic, the most you’ll find is some nice ducks and geese swimming in the water. Honk honk.
Other options: The Ten Mile River Greenway. The East Bay Bike Path might actually be the best way to get to Providence these days. (Maybe they’ll actually plow it when it snows while the Washington Bridge is being worked on?)
Best arts, culture, and history
Knock knock. Who’s there? Not the governor on the day of the closure! I kid, I kid. Seriously, though, folks, those are the sorts of jokes you definitely will not hear at the Comedy Connection, a club in East Providence that gets good acts.
Other options: The Crescent Park Carousel. The bar/music venue/vintage store Myrtle is getting rave reviews. The 133 Club has live performances. And last but not least: The John Hunt House at Hunt’s Mills is really nice, taking you back to the age of getting around on a horse and buggy. Man, those were the days.