For all of you New Yorkers that are looking to get out of town for a little bit, there is nothing like the New England area to give you a twist on your typical city vibe. One of the best cities in New England is Providence, Rhode Island, which I spent five years in as I was a student at Johnson & Wales University. If you are traveling and need a place to crash along the way into New England or staying in Providence in general, your best bet would be to stay at The Providence Biltmore, located in the heart of downtown Provi. [Read more…] about Heading to Providence? Check into The Providence Biltmore
As someone who has primarily lived in New York his entire life, the only other place that I can call home to a certain degree is Providence, Rhode Island, where I attended college for five years. Providence has the convenience of being wedged between New York City and Boston and even though is a smaller city than both, it makes up for it with its charm, beauty and endless amounts of fun things to do. If you are planning on heading to Providence in the upcoming weeks or months, or even want to stop by and experience all it has to offer, one place that I highly recommend checking into is The Omni Providence, located right in the heart of the city on W. Exchange Place. [Read more…] about Travel Idea! Stay at The Omni Providence in Rhode Island
Now that the warm weather is finally upon us here in the New York City area, many of us NYC’ers are looking to travel outside of the gritty streets of Manhattan and see where life takes us for the Spring and Summer seasons. With New England being a particularly beautiful area during the warmer seasons, I find that a great stop along your route up the east coast is in Providence, Rhode Island. I am very familiar with Providence due to my five year stay there when I attended and eventually graduated from Johnson & Wales University.
I was there last weekend to teach at my alma matter regarding Manhattan Digest and other publications that I worked for, and chose to stay at Hotel Providence, which is right in the heart of downtown on Mathewson Street. I am very aware of this hotel due to it being so close to a lot of the academic halls that studied in, as well as several friends and parents I knew staying there when they were visiting the great city of Providence. I always heard great feedback about this particular hotel, so I was excited upon my arrival to see what all the fuss was about.
I will say this simply- if there is one hotel you are going to stay in when you visit Providence, or even other fabulous parts of the state, you should stay here. Hotel Providence really sticks with the rustic theme of the area in terms of its outdoor presence and switches that inside with a much more modern take on what a hotel really should be. Even before my entrance to the actual hotel, I was made aware of the beautiful park like setting that was to the left of it, where guests can go and mingle, share a coffee and enjoy their time outside of the room they are staying in. The entryway was beautifully adorned and spacious, with clocks representing several different major cities from left to right. The service itself was quite incredible, with amicable staff who was helpful for me during my time there. Parking in Providence can be a bit of a hassle, yet they have great rates for overnight’s in case you need to leave your car there or if you have friend’s coming down. Just from my first couple of minutes there is that they are there to make you feel welcome. That is something I don’t get from major hotel chains or even some that I have stayed at in Manhattan.
The room that I stayed in was quite beautiful and tailored to my liking. The windows open to a breathtaking view of Providence and the room itself was comfortable and spacious enough for one if not more people. I really enjoyed the classic touches that it had in it with the warm colors adorned throughout. What is even better about this particular hotel is that it is literally steps away from some of the best bars, clubs and hot spots in Providence such as PPAC (Providence Performing Arts Center) as well as minutes away from great eateries on popular streets and locations like Thayer Street and Federal Hill. If you don’t feel like traveling for your food, they have a wonderful restaurant attached to the hotel called Aspire, which is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a tasty and delicious brunch that I was treated to over the weekend. For menu, hours and more details about Aspire check out their official site.
During my stay at Hotel Providence, I sat down with the fantastic and kind General Manager David Benton, who told me a bit about the history of this location. He also chatted with me about going above and beyond the call for each individual guest and his hopeful future for the hotel.
So tell me about the history of Hotel Providence.
The hotel, interestingly enough, was built in the 1890’s and went through five different transitions of names and hotels. It eventually became a department store, and when that closed it became silent for many years until it turned into dorms for Johnson & Wales University students. A local developer renovated it, bought the building next door and combined the two buildings together to make a 80 room boutique hotel back in 2005. The present owners bought it from that developer from 2009, and now it is Hotel Providence. Matter of fact, the other building that was bought to combine with the original has also been around since the late 1890’s, so this has a history to it for over a hundred years now.
What amenities does Hotel Providence provide that you think would ultimately want the consumer to choose you over the chain type of hotels?
I think we have a different approach because we try to tailor-make the experience. I’ll give you an example that happened yesterday. There was a couple in who we knew were vegetarians and it was interesting that the chef went to meet the and say “I heard you are vegetarians and I know you are dining with us tonight. We would like to make you something you would like versus something you wouldn’t like”. They were kind of surprised that someone would go out of their way and reach out to them, and they had dinner with the chef preparing a very special salad course, entree and a passion fruit dessert. That doesn’t typically happen when you go to a branded hotel that you would get that kind of treatment and individual kind of service.
We have a family program here as well. So as soon as the family arrives you will see a flyer wagon with toys in it. We encourage the kids to go over and choose the toy. Often the child is tired from the journey here and less well behaved, and when they see the variety of toys it becomes an instant mood changer for the better which then makes the parent happy as well. We also have three kinds of children’s robes, from very small for babies and ones that would fit a child of 10-12 years of age. Parents really get a kick out of that. If the mother has forgotten some common products for her children we have an emergency kit for them to use just in case.
For animals accompanying you on your trip, we have a pet stand in the lobby and give them a little room with a great doggie pack full of treats and a dog bed for them to rest on. Matter of fact, when you get your pre-stay letter online, it gives you the option to list if you are bringing children and/or pets with you with their age and what kind of pet that they are so we can be more prepared upon your arrival. Also on the pre-stay it asks if you have any special preferences, which we seem to get twice a day upon completion of the form. I find this sort of thing nice because you get to know a little bit more about the guest before they check in and its essentially all there for them.
For our international guests, we have special key cards made for them- 54 in total. So they are made that if you are coming from a particular country it will include their flag on the card itself. On top of the key card, we also write welcome letters from every language in the world. It really is about the individualization of the service so with that we empower the staff. Instead of them going to the manager and asking if they can do a sort of thing, they simply just go ahead and do it for the customer to enjoy their stay even further.
The great thing about Rhode Island is that you have so many incredible colleges here from Brown, RISD, Johnson & Wales and so on. Do you cater anything in particular to the college students?
What often happens is firstly we have this college package when they are coming to look, which is available on the website. On top of that, we host an enormous amount of organizations like Brown Alumni a couple of weeks ago for a variety of events that each particular association is having at that particular moment. Often, when the parents are coming here they are referencing things like “Where is Ikea, where is the local Supermarkets, etc”… and we are very helpful in helping them navigate the city of Providence in order to make them feel more comfortable not only for themselves but for their children as well. When we go above and beyond to sit down with each individual parent or set of parents it then reflects on them coming back and staying with us multiple times throughout the duration of their children being at the particular university as they really get familiarized with this city.
Now that your ranking seems to be going on the up and up on TripAdvisor, what are you hopeful for in regards to Hotel Providence in 2015 and beyond?
Well the hope always is to increase business and get a ton of repeat business. It is really a great aspect to our hotel when we get repeat clients coming in because it means we have done something right in order to retain their business.
Outside of your run of the mill hotel stay, Hotel Providence can host any sort of big arrangement that you have coming up in the future from weddings, conventions and so on and so forth. They have a beautiful terrace located in the hotel that serves multiple types of purposes, and as mentioned before the park like atmosphere right outside the hotel can also be a big part of your big day whether it is walking down the aisle or catching up with friends at an alumni party that you haven’t seen in a while. Overall, this place is your one stop shop in Providence for travel, engagements and just to have a nice, relaxing time. Don’t take my word for it! Check out their official site for more details.
Safe Travels everyone!
Even though Manhattanites live in the best city in the world, sometimes it is good to go outside the gritty streets of NYC and see what else is out there. Seeing as this past weekend was the warmest weekend in months, I was delighted to travel and explore Providence, Rhode Island; an area that I am very familiar with already as I went to school there for five years. The intent for me to visit was that I was invited to speak at my alma matter, Johnson & Wales University, about Manhattan Digest yet there was also the intent to try some of the local cuisine and give my readers what I believe to be the best of the best of this always up and coming city. Being wedged between two landmark cities like Boston and New York City can be tough on a town like Providence, yet they have done a phenomenal job over the past ten years in developing themselves into an area you want to travel to, and of course eat at. So whether you are looking for an elevated dining experience or a delicious burrito, we have got you covered. Check out what I think you should visit and try the next time you are in Providence.
Cilantro Mexican Grille- 127 Weybosset Street
If you want a good burrito with a Margarita on the side, this is where you go. Located right in the heart of downtown Providence and across the street from Johnson & Wales, this simple but amazing location has been the helm of many nights for me spent with my friends during my college years. Although it may seem like your basic Mexican Grill, Cilantro’s really is more than just that. Similar to Chipotle, they do the same type of options you can get at a chain but with better & more authentic flavors in their burritos, belly bowls, tacos, quesadillas and more. What is even better is that none of the food you will try there comes from a freezer, it is all brought in fresh as they partner with Farm Fresh Rhode Island and other suppliers to guarantee the food you are having is up to quality with what you are paying. What do I recommend? Get a burrito with adobo style chicken and all the fillings you want (corn salsa in particular. They should jar that stuff). For more information, check out their official site.
Hemenway’s- 121 S. Main Street
It is incredible to me that I lived in Providence for five whole years and never experienced this place while I was there. Located right in the middle of Providence, and steps away from the major universities there (Brown, JWU, Rhode Island School of Design), Hemenway’s is an absolutely stunning location that really shines even brighter now that the warm weather is here. I would recommend getting a window seat next to the ocean as on a beautiful, sunny day will really enhance the entire experience while you are there. Hemenway’s itself is spacious in size and works very well for a simple dinner/lunch for two or a big party of 10 or more. The wait staff was quite accommodating which can really add to the experience as well beyond how great the food is.
Now, onto the food. First off, come hungry. Because the variety of fresh food they provide is going to be worth the full stomach you will have upon your exit. To start, do a shrimp cocktail. Simple yes, but they are jumbo in size and taste delicious. Their Crab & Lobster Cakes were also divine as they come with spicy chipotle aioli, bacon, corn succotash on the side. Bacon in anything is great, and it elevated the flavor of the cakes to where it became my friend’s overall favorite dish of the day. If you are staying on the healthier side and want to do a salad, try the Spinach Salad with Great Hill blue cheese, toasted walnuts, poached apple, pickled red onions, apple cider vinaigrette. I for one am not the biggest fan of Spinach however when paired with all these other tasty ingredients really made the salad overall very delicious. Two more filling options for appetizers, which can have duality as an entree are their Lobster Mac N Cheese and Bacon Wrapped Scallops. The Mac N Cheese is served in the lobster shell and is plentifully served with chunks of lobster that pairs greatly with the mac n cheese itself. The scallops are cooked wonderfully and with the bacon wrapped around it really makes for a tasty treat.
Onto the main courses, they had two different items that I have never seen on any menu before in my entire life. When you pair Short Rib and Grilled Cheese, you naturally have my attention. So the Short Rib Grilled Cheese was simply amazing and the taste exploded in your mouth. With a horseradish cream on the side, it became one of the most inventive and unique grilled cheeses I have ever had in my life and would recommend anyone trying next time they are in town. The Cajun Chicken Penne Pasta with grilled chicken, spicy Cajun sauce, baby spinach, cherry tomato and a grilled baguette was also a standout. Usually with cajun it can be a bit much when it comes to the spices, however that was not the case in this situation. The spices were used generously but not to the point where it engulfs your entire mouth, and all of those ingredients combined made a great pasta dish. Overall a 10/10 in my book. For more information on Hemenway’s, check out their official site.
Waterman Grille- 4 Richmond Square
Waterman Grille is a bit of a contrast from Hemenway’s in its overall look, yet still kills it in execution in its technique. Another example of should’ve eaten here when I lived here, Waterman Grille is based close to Brown University and has a perk that many restaurants in Providence don’t seem to have- a parking lot. Anytime you can find parking easily in a bigger city is a positive thing, and that was one of the many positive notes I noticed throughout the night.
The location itself has a warm and homey type feel to it. Also located right next to the ocean, Waterman Grille’s does very well with its wood furnishings throughout and lovely atmosphere it presents itself to its customers. The food was just as impressive as the atmosphere. The Pt. Judith Calamari is a great way to start as this is quite possibly the freshest calamari I have ever had in my life. Complimented with Crispy banana peppers and peppadew aioli, it is a starter dish that I recommend anyone trying. Another good starter is the Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Local cornmeal, creamed leeks, and bacon aioli. I never thought of putting cornmeal with Oysters, however with the leaks and bacon aioli really brought the entire dish together as it was a great bite.
Onto the main courses, two dishes that I would recommend trying while you are there are the Duck Duo with Pan-roasted duck breast, stir-fry vegetables, duck confit, lemongrass forbidden rice, and red curry cream sauce and the Wood Grilled Filet Mignon with Blue cheese-bacon butter, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, braised Swiss chard, demi-glazed pearl onions. The duck and filet were both perfectly cooked and came with the appropriate sides that showcased just how well done the meats were in general. Also recommended is their Pan-Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Braised beluga lentils, shiitake mushrooms, haricot vert and beet vinaigrette. Tasty, fresh and overall a great dish. For dessert try their Red Bridge Dessert Sampler which contains Fried Apple Pie, Vanilla-Orange Creme Brulee and an Almond Joy. Simply a great way to finish off your meal. For more information on Waterman Grille check out their official site.
Happy Eating everyone…
Rhode Island is poised to become the tenth state in our union to legalize gay marriage. The state senate approved a bill extending marriage rights by a vote of 26-12, not a landslide but a great enough margin where you can tell there was a common theme here. This has even gone so far to have independent Lincoln Chafee, who was Governor when I lived there, and the Senate Republican Caucus has all expressed unanimous support for the bill.
There are of course, the naysayers in all of this. According to CNN.com, The Rhode Island Catholic Conference said Tuesday in a statement posted on its website that it appreciated that exemptions for religious organizations had been included in the bill. “Unfortunately, the exemptions fail to protect individuals and small businesses who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman,” it said.
Scott Spear, an advisory board member of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, said he would have preferred the fate of the bill be decided in a public referendum rather than by the Senate. “We believe the record of marriage as has existed throughout the history of civilization stands for an empirical truth, and that truth is a marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” he said in a telephone interview.
As much as I want to say Scott Spear has a point here, he really doesn’t. Yes he can say marriage is between one man and one woman, but love is love folks. For people to deny gay men and women the right to legally marry someone when the divorce rate in this country is at an all time high and people like Britney Spears can get married for 55 hours in Vegas chapel and have it be legal all for a publicity stunt I have to call bullshit on that.
What further surprises me is why of all the New England states Rhode Island was the last one to jump on this bandwagon. When i lived there, there seemed to be more gay bars in downtown Providence than their were straight ones, and Gay Pride is a really huge event as well. To a certain degree though, Rhode Island is a very unique state in that there is a lot of cow country there and then it gets really industrial once you hit the Providence area, so it might just be the old fashioned thinking people who had a large say in this. It is also run by several Democrats so the thought of this taking so long truly has baffled me. Nevertheless, it seems to be going in the right direction.
Iowa, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Their combined populations, based on U.S. Census estimates for 2012, represent 15.8% of the U.S. population. Let’s keep the number of states rising everyone, if these ten states can figure it out the other forty should be able to as well. That’s all.
This is an article that I could write a whole novel on, heck turn in into a series like “Twilight” or something. I could also write from an extremely pessimistic and somewhat “bitchy” point of view, yet I want my point to get across without sounding like that. So I will do my best to stay focused and not go off the narrow end of anger and frustration towards the gay community.
As the title of this article states, bullying really does exist in the gay world. Whether people want to admit it or not, it is there, and it’s rampant. I find this to be more true in big cities like New York and Atlanta and not so much in towns and smaller, lesser known communities. For five years I lived in Providence, Rhode Island for school. There is where I truly was able to be myself and out, and actually found a really great group of guys who weren’t judgemental and had me apart of their circle without judgement or negativity.
I, foolishly, thought the same when I moved back to New York in 2009 and attempted to do the same here in terms of making friends. The result was completely the opposite. I learned that in big cities like this, you have to draw a very fine line in order to get respect and a good group of friends along with that. If you come across as too friendly and nice, you are viewed as a huge slut. If you come across as reserved and quiet, you are seen as a wallflower or a dickhead. Either way, it’s not easy. I learned that the hard way when I started becoming friends with a certain group of guys who within a month turned on me, and I saw first hand just how truly vile people can really be.
I never was bullied in high school or growing up, in fact I was pretty well liked by the majority of my school because I was outgoing and just plain nice to people. This experience made me think of the people, both men and women, who actually were teased and bullied growing up, relate to them after the experience I dealt with. Especially with cyber bullying. I got a glimpse from a friend about a never ending update someone made about me, and I couldn’t even read the whole thing. Words thrown around like “Desperate”, “Fat F**k”, “Slut” and many others were used so freely mainly from people who I don’t know or barely even met. I sat there, thinking “what did I do wrong”?
Then it made me think further. The gay community for the most part, is high school 2.0. Especially the bears. It is designed for many men who were in fact teased growing up, to form a group of men and treat others how they were treated for their own satisfaction. There are ones that do it in a variety of arenas, elitist ones who feel because they go to the gym 5-6 hours a day that they are better than everyone else, and a ton others. Quite frankly, its pathetic. Will it ever end? No. Because the shallow end of the sea is where many men prefer to be. Many need to grow up and realize what they are doing to others is wrong. I am not the only one that has endured this, I know several personally that do it. It is a sick cycle that I wish would just stop.
I think Dan Savage and his whole “It Gets Better” movement really is a fantastic one, and I completely get it. Sadly, these kids who do realize it does get better and come out (which is already a hurdle in itself) have to face a whole other hurdle in coming into the gay community. My advice to everyone is stay strong, be yourself, and fuck what everyone else thinks. I learned that the hard way, but I am glad to have that mentality. If you go through life always knowing who you are and are secure in that aspect, you won’t let these douchebags get you down in the least. Be you.
Thanks for listening to my rant 🙂