An afternoon in Providence

Tom and I spent the afternoon in Providence, or Downtown, as it always is in my head. And of course, when I hear the word downtown, I end up with a song from my childhood stuck in my head. One I learned from Nana or Great Nana. I forget who, but I have a memory of being bounced on someone’s knee to the following tune:

I went downtown to see my lady. Who should I meet but Kitty and the baby. Kitty was drunk, and I was sober. Kitty went “plbbt” and knocked me over.

So anyway, I went downtown, not to see my lady but to catch a Providence Bruins game. I won a four pack of flex tickets at a silent auction last spring, and we needed to use the last two tickets before the season ends. With a busy weekend planned next week, today was our last chance to see a game together.

With a little time to kill before the game, we stopped in to Malted Barley for a drink and a pretzel. Not wanting to drink a full beer, I went for the Dave’s Coffee Martini – I don’t know who Dave is, but his namesake drink was pretty yummy. I had a regular salted pretzel with beer cheese, and Tom went for the cheddar and bacon pretzel with spinach artichoke dip. Malted Barley is quickly becoming one of our go-to places downtown. Can’t beat a pretzel and dip, and their pretzel sandwiches are the best.

After our quick snack and drink it was just a short walk to the Dunk where we traded our flex passes for the best available seats:

I was a sophomore at RIC in 1992 when the Providence Bruins played their first season. Somewhere in a Rubbermaid container in my basement, among the other detritus of my college years, is a keychain replica of the first game’s ticket, along with an old bumper sticker that says “Something’s Bruin in Providence”. My suitemates and I were at opening night and many, many games after that. For the next few years, I knew the P-Bruins roster better than the Boston roster.

We would hit the games and then head over to Players Corner Pub in hopes of meeting the team. One of my friends had a crush on Mike Bales, the goalie, although Andy McKim was more my type. We never met either of them, but I did once get an autograph from Sergei Zholtok.

The games were different then – the crowd was rowdy and between periods Samboni, the ice-skating bear mascot, would fire t-shirts into the crowd. If you got there early enough, you could watch the pre-game warmups and maybe catch a puck. I once had a puck land right in front of my seat. But that was before the ceiling high nets went up around most of the rink.

There was a “mad trumpeteer” who roamed the crowd, bursting into loud trumpeting when play stopped. Every time I go to a game now, I wonder what ever happened to him. I distinctly remember a friend getting up and dancing with him when he neared our section.

The game today was a good one – and ended in a P-Bruins victory. But it was almost like the game was secondary to the other entertainment. Every stoppage of play included another song and opportunity to get your face on-screen. I’m fine with the occasional dance or even kiss-cam, but now everything is sponsored. The low point for me was when they asked the crowd to “Get silly for chili” – the silliest fan won coupons for their section for a free chili at Wendy’s. Really?

Our initial post-game dinner plan had been to try Ken’s Ramen on Washington St, but a visit to Yelp determined that it is permanently closed. So, option two was The Vig – a new-ish restaurant in the Hilton Hotel. I had heard good things and the Yelp reviews were positive.

It was pretty empty, being fairly early on a Sunday evening, and the service was spot on. The bacon caramel popcorn was fantastic!

We ordered poutine for an appetizer – it was not bad, although I felt it needed more cheese. The heavy appetizer filled us up quickly, so we were hesitant when our entrees arrived. I went with the French onion burger, while Tom opted for the bacon mac & cheese. Both entrees were ok, but not anything I’d rush back for. We took our leftovers to go, including the popcorn, which I’m looking forward to enjoying later during our latest Doctor Who binge.

So, Rhode Islanders, if you’re reading along, what are your go-to dining spots in Providence? We do most of our dining out in the Warwick area, so it’s always good to have some other ideas if we are going downtown. And there I go again…I’ll be singing that song all night.

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