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providence design guide

by Grace Bonney

illustration by julia rothman

today we’re happy to welcome back christine chitnis for our providence guide update!  christine wrote the original guide, and has now added some great new finds as well as updating the original post with closings, changes, etc. if you’re traveling to providence this year i hope you’ll take christine’s guide with you. thanks christine for keeping up up-to-date with all that is going on in providence! –stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full providence guide after the jump!

providence has often been thought of as the “suburban sister” of boston, but whoever said that, obviously hasn’t been to providence in a while. downtown providence, while not quite bustling, is experiencing a resurrection, with a large mall and many new boutiques setting up shop. but the real heart and soul of this town is the higher learning institutes. providence is home to brown university, rhode island school of design (RISD) and johnson and wales (among others). these schools and their students add flavor and diversity to the area and are instrumental in drawing in the quirky stores and restaurants that appeal to the college crowds.

although Providence is not an incredibly large city, there are several different shopping sections, each with a very different feel. besides shopping, there are many university attractions and local activites, which are highlighted at the end of the guide. i hope you’ll enjoy the guide and check out some of the great shops and attractions that providence has to offer.

Federal Hill: This is the Italian section of town, our very own “Little Italy” and while there is not a lot of shopping to be had, the food, art galleries and atmosphere make it a must see while in Providence.

-Diva’s Palace, 299 Atwells Ave., 401-831-0148; trendy womens clothing store

-My Sister’s Attic Consignment, 342 Atwells Ave., 401-351-4092; vintage clothing shop

Area4zero1, 102 Dean St., 401-383-8509; Clothing store carrying a wide selection of upscale jeans

-Gallery Z (http://www.galleryzprov.com/), 259 Atwells Ave., 401-454-8844; fine arts gallery

Royal Gallery, 298 Atwells Ave., 401-831-8831‎; newly opened, April 2008, fine arts gallery

Chabot Gallery, 379 Atwells Ave., 401-432-7783, brand new art gallery opened August 2008

Where to eat:

Just as a side note, there are so many restaurants on Federal Hill that it would take an entire guide just to name them all, so here is a very, very small selection of a few favorites

Tony’s Colonial Food Store, 311 Atwells Ave., 401-621-8675; hard to find, specialty Italian food store

Geppetto’s Pizzeria, 55 De Pasquale Avenue; Enjoy their famous grilled pizza while listening to local songbirds belt it out in the hopes of bringing home the gold in Geppetto’s own version of American Idol.

Venda Ravioli ,265 Atwells Avenue; Find more than 200 types of ravioli with unusual stuffings like artichoke or broccoli rabe. The lobster with gorgonzola is one of the most popular.

Mediterraneo,134 Atwells Avenue; Sit outside when the weather turns nice and tuck into the sinfully delicious fettuccine alfredo.

Caffe Dolce Vita, 59 DePasquale Plaza, 401-331-8240; enjoy your authentic Italian dinner on the patio overlooking the DePasquale Fountain.

Pastiche, 92 Spruce St., 401-861-5190; Hands down the most amazing dessert place you will ever find, people have driven from Boston just to fill a Pastiche craving

Wayland Square: Set away from the universities, this area caters to an older, more upscale crowd. During the summer, all of the resteraunts here offer outdoor seating and the streets just come alive!

Kyureo, 13 S. Angell, 401-437-6677; fine furnishings, art and gifts

Butterfield, 187 Wayland Avenue; Incredibly upscale home furnishing store, beautifully curated.

Myopic Books, 5 S. Angell, 401-521-5533; Amazing selection of rare and recent used books

Books on the Square, 471 Angell, 401-331-9097; Fantastic independent book store

What Cheer Antiques, 7 S. Angell, 401-861-4244; One of the best, most eclectic antique stores in Providence, tons of old vinyls and movies

Dorothy Williams, 200 Wayland Ave., 401-331-8811; Upscale women’s clothing store, carries lines such as Theory and Vince

CoMina, 201 Wayland Ave., 401-273-4522; high end furniture carefully selected from around the world

Simple Pleasures, 6 Richmond St., 401-331-4120; An adorable gift store tucked a bit out of the way, but totally worth the trip. Unique selection of items, all with a very global, ethnic feel.

Where to eat:

The Edge, 199 Wayland Ave., 401-490-2227: A great independent coffee shop specializing in cupcakes with frosting in all colors of the rainbow.

Farmstead/ La Laiterie, 186 Wayland Ave., 401-274-7177 : An incredible cheese store and restaurant combination. If you are in the mood for a very nice night out, you can’t go wrong with dinner at La Laiterie. The use of fresh, seasonal, local ingrediants is an important element of the dining experience here. They also offer an amazing wine selection.

Red Stripe, 465 Angell St., 401-437-6950: Upscale bar and great dinner selection, nice for a relaxing after dinner drink and appetizers.

Haruki, 176 Wayland Ave., 401-223-0332: The best sushi in town!

Eastside Market, 165 Pitman St., 401-831-7771: Although grocery stores are not usually all that exciting, this is an exception with its dedication to local, organic foods at reasonable prices. The selection here is plentiful.

Wickenden Street: An eclectic mix of coffee shops, antique store and tattoo parlors, there is really no great way to sum up Wickenden Street. It is a busy, albeit random street.

5 Traverse Gallery, 5 Traverse St., 401-278-4968; Contemporary art gallery, very cutting edge

Adlers Hardware, 173 Wickenden, 401-421-5157; The best hardware store around; helpful staff, great paint selection and offers interior decorating services.

Studio 539 Flowers, 174 Wickenden, 401-454-4400; high end floral design studio

Curatorium, 199 Wickenden, 401-453-4080; as the name suggests, a well curated home accessories store

-Round Again Records, 278 Wickenden, 401-351-6292; Quality, hard to find vinyls, tapes and cd’s at great prices

Mignonette, 301 Wickenden, 401-272-4422; This amazing little gem of a store feels like a Parisian boutique offering exquisite bath and body products, lingerie, perfume, clothing and jewelry

-Curiosities, 460 Wickenden, 401-421-0023; Odd collection of random antiques, fun to dig around for hidden treasures

Where to eat:

Coffee Exchange, 207 Wickenden, 401-273-1198; Top notch neighborhood coffee joint

Taste of India, 230 Wickenden, 401-421-4355; best Indian food in Providence (personal opinion!)

-Brickway on Wickenden, 234 Wickenden, 401-751-2477; charming breakfast joint

The Duck and Bunny, 312 Wickenden St; A brand new all-day cafe and snuggery (what is a snuggery you might ask: a cosy, comfortable place, of course)!  Their crepes are killer!

Thayer: Situated in the middle of Brown’s campus, Thayer caters to college students with lots of small, cheap food joints, an Urban Outfitter and the Brown Bookstore. During the school year, this street is bustling at all hours of the day and night! Shops go in and out of Thayer Street pretty quickly, so not many have websites. Be sure to check local listings to see if these shops are still around when you plan your visit.

-Foreign Affair, 219 Thayer, 401-274-1484; great vintage clothing finds

-Pie in the Sky, 225 Thayer, 401-861-3954; fun little gift store

Facing Thayer, 297 Thayer, 401-331-4777; Spa services and shopping in this little beauty store, which stocks brands like Fresh, Bliss and Red Flower

-Second Time Around, 294 Thayer, 401-455-2050; Another vintage clothing store (notice a Thayer Street trend?!)

Where to eat:

Again, there are a ton of little eateries on Thayer, here are just a few good ones

Nice Slice,  267 Thayer Street; My favorite place to grab a slice.

Blue State Coffee, 300 Thayer, 401-383-8393; organic, fair-trade coffee served in a politacally charged environment

Kabob and Curry, 261 Thayer, 401-273-8844; tamed down Indian food for those who like it light on the spice

East Side Pockets, 278 Thayer, 401-453-1100; amazingly cheap and delicious middle eastern pockets, great taste on a college budget

Meeting Street Cafe, 220 Meeting St., 401-273-1066; fresh sandwiches and famous cookies the size of your head

South and North Main: The strip of Main St. that runs through the East Side is home to many RISD building as well as a mix of cute shops and great restaurants.

Providence Art Club, 11 Thomas Street, 401.331.1114; The second oldest art club in the country

Touched by Green, 271 South Main Street; Everything you need to live a greener life, including sustainable jewelry made by Colombian artisans and soft knits woven from Peruvian alpaca wool.

Social Expressions, 295 South Main, 401-831-1000; Gift shop stocking Vera Bradley, Lollia, and MOR soaps

David Charles Gallery, 263 South Main, 401-421-6764; fine arts gallery housed in a charming spot

Where to eat:

Al Forno, 577 South Main, 401-273-9760; THE culinary desitination of Providence

Mills Tavern, 101 North Main, 401-272-3331; Great tavern environment, with upscale cuisine

New Rivers, 7 Steeple St., 401-751-0350; All local food, can’t get any more fresh and upscale than this cozy spot

Hope Street: Set back from downtown and the college scene, this little section of town appeals to those in search of quiet residential streets. During the day, strollers line the block and at night, families who live in the area can delight in the quaint restaurants.

Clarke Flower Shops, 398 Hope St., 401-421-6700; great selection of potted flowers and herbs as well as cut fresh flowers

-Frog and Toad, 795 Hope St., 401-831-3434 ; chock full of great finds, a sure thing for unique hostess gifts

Fresh Purls, 769A Hope St., 401-270-8220; the only knitting store on the east side, but luckily it’s a great one

-Studio Hop, 810 Hope St., 401-621-2262; a great little art studio featuring the work of over 40 Rhode Island artists, also offers a small selection of vintage home decor

Kreatelier, 804 Hope Street; All handmade goods, crafty workshops for kids and adults

Where to Eat:

Seven Stars Bakery, 820 Hope St., 401-521-2200; the most AMAZING bakery ever, an absolute must if you are in Providence, their almond chocolate croissants and lemon cake are to die for

The Blue Cottage, 748 Hope St., 401-383-7307 ; a sweet little diner with an all day breakfast menu

Hope Street Pizza, 722 Hope St., 401-273-5955; best pizza on the Hope Street strip

Three Sisters, 1074 Hope St., 401-273-7230; great little ice cream shop!

Chez Pascel, 960 Hope St., 401-421-4422; upscale French dining at its best, offers a three course Bistro menu worth checking out

Garden Grille, 727 East Ave., Pawtucket, 401-726-2826; amazing vegetarian and vegan options

Rasoi,  727 East Avenue; Fabulous Indian cuisine, and the friendliest staff around.

Broadway: An up and coming area, Broadway is still a bit light on the shops and restaurants, but the ones that are there, make it worth the trip.

Rocket to Mars, 144 Broadway, 401-274-0905; great vintage clothing finds

Jephry Floral Studio, 432 Broadway, 401-351-3510; Best place for gorgeous flower arrangements

Armageddon Shop, 436 Broadway; 401-521-6667; hip indie music store

Where to eat:

Nick’s on Broadway, 500 Broadway, 401-421-0286; Very popular diner with an upscale twist, make reservations

Avery, 18 Luongo Memorial Square, Chic new bar raising the nightlife scene in Providence

Seven Stars Bakery, 342 Broadway, 401-632-4496; Offshoot of the Hope Street Seven Stars, equally as yummy baked goods

Julians, 318 Broadway, 401-861-1770; ridiculously good brunch!

-Loui Fuller’s, 1455 Westminster Street, 401-273-4375, ; authentic French bistro vibe, opened in 2007 to rave reviews

Westminster and Downtown: With downtown Providence experiencing a sort of resurrection, with a large, new mall at the center, many unique boutiques and fabulous restaurants are calling this once vacant area home.

AS220, 115 Empire Street; A non-profit community arts space in downtown Providence, the gallery space and classes are definitely worth checking out.

Craftland, Craftland started as an annual retail craft show and has now grown into a year-round shopfront full of local and national handmade goodies.

Queen of Hearts, 186 Union Street; This cute little clothing boutique stocks only handmade, one-of-a-kind designs and currently features about 20 artists/designers.

Heir Antiques, 65 Eddy Street; Keep your eye out for quirky vintage anatomical prints at this gothic-cool antique store brimming with covetable home goods.

Oop! Contemporary Gift Gallery, 220 Westminster, 401-270-4366, Quirky gift store

Butterfield, 232 Westminster, 401) 273-3331, Incredibly upscale home furnishing store

Symposium Books, 240 Westminster, 401-273-7900, Indy book store with low prices and plenty of hard-to-find titles

Elsa Arms, 231 Westminster, 401-383-5558; Nili Lotan dresses and Clu tops fill the racks of this minimalist clothing store

Eno, 227 Westminster, 401-521-2000; Hip wine store, great staff

Design Within Reach, 210 Westminster, 401-831-1452; Needs no introduction!

Clover, 233 Westminster, 401-490-4626, Another great clothing store stocking hard-to-find hipster labels

Cellar Stories Bookstore, 111 Mathewson, 401-521-2665; amazing selection of new and used books

Ada Books, 330 Dean, 401-432-6222; Tiny, well-stocked book store around the corner from White Electric Coffee

Where to eat:

AS220 FOO(d), 115 Empire Street; Affordable cuisine, all local, with great vegan options.

Cuban Revolution, 50 Aborn St., 401-331-8829; Authentic Cuban food served in a lively atmosphere

Gracies, 194 Washington St., 401-272-7811; Upscale American cuisine, great wine list

White Electric Coffee, 711 Westminster St., 401-453-3007, amazingly hip coffee shop

Farmstead Lunch, 223 Westminster St., 401-274-7177; Offshoot of Wayland Square Farmstead, serves lunch to-go and offers a large selection of cheeses and specialty foods

Tazza, 250 Westminster St., 401-421-3300; Lively cafe offering movies on monday nights and live music most evenings

Local 121, 121 Washington Street, 401-274-2121; Farm fresh local food and a great night life in this restored 1890’s hotel

DownCity, 50 Weybosset St., 401-331-9217; Best of RI Brunch award, don’t miss the monthly drag brunch!

Jewelry District: Formerly the industrial part of Providence, many of the old warehouses have been converted into lofts and interesting restaurants. There is no shopping to be had, but a few amazing little breakfast and lunch places are springing up to serve the employees whose offices are housed in the converted warehouses.

BeadWorks, 16 Bassett Street; A cute little bead shop.

Where to Eat:

Olga’s Cup and Saucer, 103 Point St., 401-831-6666; great little breakfast and lunch place with the cutest outdoor seating area

Rue Bis, 16 Bassett St., 401-490-9966; Can’t beat their coffee with a free, homemade muffin for a quick breakfast

Farmers’ Markets:

Providence has a number of wonderful farmers’ markets. The best part about it is that they are spread out over the course of the week, so is you miss the regular Saturday market, you can still find fresh produce!

-Best Market: Hope High School Farmers’ Market; 324 Hope St, Saturdays 9:30am-12:30pm, June 7-November 29.

For more information: http://www.farmfreshri.org/


Providence has an amazing network of libraries, with classes on everything from email basics to starting your own blog (and their all free). They also have great author book readings and childrens activities. Another wonderful thing about the Rhode Island library system is their online queue, so similar to Netflix, you can request popular titles and when they are available, they will hold them for you!

-Best Library: Central Library; 150 Empire Street

For more information: http://www.provlib.org/


Avon Cinema, 260 Thayer, 401-421-3315; A great indie theater nestled into the bustle of Thayer Street

Cable Car Cinema, 204 South Main St., 401-272-3970; An amazing little artsy theater that has replaces uncomfortable theater seats with couches! An annual host for the RI International Film Festival (http://www.film-festival.org/)

Movies on the Block, Corner of Westminster and Union; Different movie every Thursday night at dusk, all FREE

Other Attractions:

Brown University: This Ivy League university draws a diverse crowd of students, whose accomplishments put most of us to shame! The campus rambles through Providence; beautiful buildings, green spaces, and amazing architecture are all part of its charm.

-RISD Attractions: A renowned school of design, all their museums and galleries are worth a visit!
RISD Museum
Chase Center
Graduate Gallery
RISD Works
Fleet Library

Children’s Shops and Activities

KidOInfo Blog– The best blog for kids activities in Providence!

Mod Mama, 16 South Angell, 401-273-7800, Fashionable moms shop here

Pow Science, 192 Wayland Ave., 401-432-4070, Learning is tops at this toy store that offers science workshops

CreaTOYvity, 808 Hope, 401-351-5718, A toy store with old-fashion fun and all the latest toy fads

Providence Children’s Museum, 100 South Street, 401-273-5437; Hands-on museum is a great way to pass an afternoon

Bambini, 251 South Main, 401-490-6952; Upscale baby boutique

Roger Williams Park Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, 401-785-3510; Who doesn’t love a great zoo?

Other fun things to check out:

Four Town Farms, 90 George St., Seekonk, MA, 508-336-5587, U-pick farm with a farm stand for all your produce needs

Roger Williams Park Botancical Center, 401-785-9450; New England’s largest indoor garden

Blackstone Boulevard, Historic East Side Providence neighborhood with beautiful homes and a greenway with a bike path and running trail

East Bay Bike Path, A 14.5 mile bike path running from India Point Park in Providence to Independence Park in Bristol

Waterfire, Providence is famous for this art instillation which consists of fires burning all down the river in downtown. Music, food and beer gardens makes this a crowded, lively event. Waterfire occurs on Saturday nights, see their website for the calender.

Where to Stay

Hotel Providence, 311 Westminster St.; 401-861-8000; The stand-by hotel that Providence is known for

Old Court B&B, 144 Benefit, 401-751-2002; Great B&B in the heart of the East Side, your stay includes a great breakfast every morning

Biltmore Hotel, 11 Dorrance, 401-421-0700; Gorgeous hotel with a Starbucks and Red Door Spa inside, can’t beat it for a romantic over-night stay

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    • elise

      at the moment i don’t think julia’s going to be selling these prints. but i’ll be sure to let her know you’re interested :)


  • Christine did a great job with the Providence guide, and I don’t mean to be nitpicky but I have some further updates. In the downtown section: Craftland is now at a permanent location at 235 Westminster Street, and new permanent shop website is here: http://craftland.myshopify.com. Heir Antiques just moved over to 231 Westminster Street, and Queen of Hearts is now at 222 Westminster Street. Elsa Arms is closed.

    If you are on foot, Ada Books and White Electric Coffee (both under the Downtown section) might be more appropriate in the Broadway section. The portion of Westminster Street that they are located on is separated by I-95 and is considered in the same neighborhood as the businesses on Broadway. Thanks so much for having the guide up!

  • Love this guide – went to Brown for grad school, met my husband there and got married in the First Unitarian Church at Benefit and Benevolent – 7 great years in Prov! We lived just off Hope and I wanted to note the awesome restaurant Pizzico just up from Hope St. Pizza. I noticed the another commenter mentioned Geoff’s sandwiches – there’s one on Thayer and another Benefit – I’m getting hungry….

  • We just spent a great week-end in Providence and sadly did not find all of your great recommendations – Therefore, we will have to visit again soon! We loved Providence!! Thanks for your suggestions.

    We also loved Chez Pascal and had a fantastic dinner there – a must when we return…

  • To answer the first question about Relish, Laura (the owner) returned to Portland, OR. :( I keep meaning to look her up and see if she’s got a new place there.
    Yay Providence! :)

  • Heir JUST moved, but it is right around the corner from their Eddy St. location, on Westminster now.

    I moved here two years ago from the Pioneer Valley and have been stubborn about it but I’ll admit it, Providence is KIND OF A BALDWIN…and it’s thanks to all these great places, and the awesome crafty people who inhabit them.

  • Hi everyone! Being a Providence local myself, I have a few extra recommendations:

    First, I would very highly recommend AMA’s. It is adjacent to the Avery (3 Luongo Memorial Square; Providence, RI 02903; 401 421-1100) and serves delightful fresh local oysters and delicious Japanese influenced New England fare in a dimly lit and hip environment. Culinary highlights include the teryaki glazed scallops, vegetarian udon, and fish and chips (really lightly pan-fried lotus root, so tasty!). Great atmosphere, and tasty food.

    The other spot I would recommend checking out is the Broadway Bistro (205 Broadway; Providence, RI 02909; (401) 331-2450; http://www.broadwaybistrori.com). I have to admit I have only been there once (recently) but I will definitely be going back! I had a risotto dish that was absolutely out-of-this-world delicious and my dining companions all very much enjoyed their meals as well.

    Last, but not least (and Downtown, not on Broadway) I’d like to recommend The Red Fez (49 Peck St; Providence, RI 02903; (401) 272-1212). Great artsy and laid-back atmosphere with a restaurant downstairs and a more casual bar upstairs, the Red Fez is also the RISD grad student hang-out of choice. I go there with my friends after long days in the studio for a good beer and some hearty and delicious comfort food. I definitely recommend the quesadilla (with everything – the smoky/slightly sweet tomato salsa is AWESOME), the mac and cheese (home made and super cheesy awesomeness), and the garlicky kale (tasty and healthy). I can’t speak to the meaty items on the menu, being vegetarian myself, but my mom and friends assure me they’ve enjoyed what they’ve ordered in the past. Not to be missed if you’re looking to unwind!

  • Awwww… I went to RISD too and am loving this little feature :) I live in Boston now and it’s totally not the same – Different vibe completely. Providence has so much beautiful architecture and just such a great feel… I’m just thinking that spring is on it’s way and that’s the best time of year in Providence – all of the trees bloom and the sun shines… ahhh *sigh*

  • …ahhh…providence! It’s an amazing little city…and the renovations/river relocation have made it even better. I miss it—would love to move back. risd and brown give it incredible vibe…it’s busting at the seams with creativity!

  • Christine – Thank you so much for including Simple Pleasures in your great Providence guide. And thank you to Anna and Alix for your lovely comments. Please stop in and say hello.

  • I used this guide when I visited Providence last summer and had the BEST breakfast I have ever eaten at Nick’s on Broadway. I would go back just for that bread pudding..oh man.

  • Thanks for this guide! One little correction: the Farmers Market moved from Hope High to Lippitt Park, where Hope St meets Blackstone Blvd. It’s better than ever, with more room for musicians, arts/crafts, playground n roaming.

  • Thank you for listing the Movies on the Block! We’ve just released our 2010 schedule, and we’re super excited! Hope to see you there! The website you have linked isn’t the best place to find the season’s schedule though, try http://www.indowncity.com/news to see what’s showing in 2010.

    Another fun event is the Providence Art Festival in the downtown/westminster area of the city. If you are in Providence on June 12th, 2010, be sure to check it out. Over 100 local artists, live music, local food, and free kids craft tables. (http://www.shopdowncity.com/news/?page_id=8603)

  • Awesome! My wife and I are moving to PVD in the next 2 years. Love the vibe and energy there. It’s exactly what we’re looking for in our future city to raise kids in!

  • I am fairly certain that the Design Within Reach store closed. (It’s no longer listed on their web site, for whatever that’s worth.)

  • Thank you for this guide! Going to Providence today and i’m sure to go to some of the places you listed. So helpful!

    If you are ver going to Rome, you can find my city guide too on D*S.

  • We are moving to Providence this week and as luck would have it, I found this post through the farm coast city guide. I just printed the whole thing and will use it as our survival guide over the next few months. Thanks!

  • Great guide! Helpful for those of us who just moved to Prov.
    Something to add to the next list is Seams Couture, Providence is getting a real handmade Bridal house in College Hill!

    • jackie

      they’re updated as frequently as possible, but when you’re asking locals to provide their advice and time for free, you’re working with their schedule.
      re: maps, the updated guides all get them- providence is the way.


  • Thanks for this guide. I’m a life long Rhode Islanda and have worked at RISD for over 20 years and even though I have seen and gone to many places on this list I’m finding many things I haven’t done. My heart will never leave Providence or RI. I’m not a big city girl so Providence is the perfect place for me. I’d also like to mention attending the Newport Polo matches in Portsmouth. A perfect summer evening. Bring lots of picnic food because it’s one big tailgate party; many families attend and all the kids and adults too like to go out and stomp the divets during intermission. Bring along your dogs too – they are welcome; plus there are vendors with crafts, food, etc. Oh – and the polo match is fun too.

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