Boston has some serious local competition when it comes to restaurants and bars.
There’s Portland, Maine, which some food nerds travel to just to eat and drink; New Haven, Connecticut, for its outstanding pizza; and Providence, Rhode Island, which has a little something for everyone, including an array of options for Italian food in the Federal Hill section of the city.
But did you know that Federal Hill extends well beyond bustling Atwells Avenue and its cozy ristorantes, classic pizzerias and old-fashioned Italian markets? If you head south off Atwells for several blocks (and make sure you have your car’s navigation system on), you’ll soon find yourself in a quiet old residential and industrial area that looks like the last place you’d go for food and drink options.
Yet this section of Federal Hill is home to lightly traveled West Fountain Street, and it’s something to behold. It’s a place like no other — not only in Providence, but in New England.
When you first arrive at West Fountain Street (which is commonly known as W Fountain Street), you’ll notice that it isn’t like other “restaurant rows” of Boston or Providence. It’s a short, dusty road that actually switches to cobblestones for part of its length.
The overall vibe is certainly industrial, which comes from its history as a working-class area that attracted immigrants, many of whom worked in the neighborhood’s manufacturing companies. Today, W Fountain and the surrounding streets continue to look much like they did years ago, which may be why the food and drink options here tend not to be known all that well.
Perhaps the best place to start on your food/drink journey to this part of Providence is 425 W Fountain Street, which is a squat commercial building that looks like it may have been a garage or a warehouse back in the day. Beer lovers will appreciate stopping in, as the structure is home to Beer on Earth, a friendly and quirky brewery that gets very little press but which features some excellent beers. There’s a Polish-style smoked lager, a German Weissbier and a stunningly great grisette, which is a style of beer that’s a bit like a French or Belgian farmhouse ale. Beer on Earth has a small, industrial-feeling space inside along with an outdoor area that’s bare-bones but pleasant for sipping brews when the weather allows.
A couple of storefronts over from Beer on Earth is a tiny restaurant called Y Noodle & Bar. The eatery offers warm, comforting items that are perfect for a cool fall day, including some wonderful crab and pork soup dumplings that explode in your mouth; savory pan-fried gyoza that you can order with shrimp, pork, or vegetables; spicy dan dan noodles that come with shrimp, egg, and veggies; a very spicy miso ramen with seaweed and pork; and, if you want a real splurge, a wagyu beef sushi dish with garlic chips and caviar. Y Noodle also serves beer, wine, sake, whiskey and cocktails, along with a number of tea options, and you can also try some Korean soju, which is a clear, colorless distilled spirit that comes in several flavors.
Situated between the two restaurants is Fearless Fish Market, and while it isn’t a dining or drinking spot per se, is a must if you are a big fan of seafood. This fishmonger offers pickup, delivery and online ordering in addition to in-store purchasing, and the offerings change daily but include fresh Atlantic salmon, bluefin tuna, hake, halibut, monkfish, sea bass, scup, Wellfleet oysters, sea scallops, littleneck clams and blue shrimp. Frozen seafood options include lobster tails, chopped surf clams, snow crab and unagi, while lovers of smoked fish can choose from herring, bluefish, lox, tobiko and more.
The food and drink options on W Fountain are generally ultra-casual, but if you want something just a bit more chic and upscale, The Slow Rhode (also in the same building) may be the place for you. Like all of the businesses in this structure, this restaurant is a bit tight on space, but it does have an outdoor dining area, and whether you eat indoors or out, expect a mix of New American dishes and southern-influenced comfort food, including (depending on the day’s offerings) duck fat popcorn, mushroom tempura, braised pork, chicken dumplings and bluefish cakes. There may be other breweries in the area, even in the same building, but The Slow Rhode has a fantastic beer list featuring a number of local brewers, and those who want cocktails should be happy here as well.
It would be easy to spend the day eating and drinking in the building housing Beer on Earth, Y Noodle & Bar and The Slow Rhode (and picking up seafood at Fearless Fish Market), but then you would be missing out on some other great spots along W Fountain, including one just across the street called Moniker Brewery. One of the newest beermakers in the area, Moniker makes its home in an old auto garage and includes an airy and colorful indoor area (complete with garage doors) along with a beer garden out front and off to the side, with the latter being a private-feeling and cozy space. You can find the usual IPAs and DIPAs here, and fans of pilsners, cream ales, stouts, lagers and sours should be able to find something to their liking.
Take a left out of Moniker Brewing and a short walk up the cobblestoned section of W Fountain Street will bring you to Tricycle Ice Cream, which sits on the corner of Battey Street. Located on the ground floor of a residential building, Tricycle has an old-school vibe to it, looking more like a sub shop or pizzeria from the outside, but it’s all about the ice cream here. And what ice cream options they have! There are freshly made ice cream sandwiches, ice cream tacos (in which the shell is basically a waffle cone with a taco shape) and ice cream drumsticks, as well as sorbet push-pops. The shop doesn’t have a patio out front, but there is a little pocket park around the corner on W Fountain where you can sit on a bench and enjoy the sweet treats from this friendly place.
If you retrace your steps, going past Moniker on the right and Beer on Earth, Y Noodle & Bar, The Slow Rhode, and Fearless Fish Market on the left, within a couple of blocks you’ll come to Bayberry Beer Hall, which is part restaurant, part beer bar, and offers some of the best brews found in New England and the Northeast. Food options at this attractive spot include sourdough pretzels, chips and dip, short ribs, hot chicken sandwiches, burgers, littlenecks, steaks and ice cream cakes, while beers from such top breweries as Schilling, Oxbow, Widowmaker and Finback are available. The interior of Bayberry is laid-back and welcoming, but a handful of tables are also set up outside when the weather is decent.
Some great options for food and drink can be found in nearly every section of Providence, from College Hill, Wayland Square and Fox Point to the downtown area and Federal Hill. But there’s more to Federal Hill than the very well-known Atwells Avenue area, and if you love discovering places that few seem to know about, you can’t do much better than W Fountain Street. There are even more restaurants and bars on or near W Fountain, including a chicken and fish place called Bucktown, a speakeasy-style spot called The Avery and a fun, retro joint called Ogie’s Trailer Park, which may mean that you’ll need to plan more than one visit to this fascinating neighborhood.
Ed Note: It is best to call the places on W Fountain Street in advance, as hours sometimes change due to the ongoing pandemic, and patio seating may be affected by the weather.