Take Place: Partial to Pawtucket

Finding a vibrant creative community, tasty eats, and a beloved farm team (go PawSox!) in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Ask locals about Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and you could hear anything. Old-timers are most likely to complain, either about that one mayor who went to jail or the PawSox. (The owners of Boston’s AAA baseball team have been threatening to skip town for years.) But you’ll also hear praise. Industrious shoppers will tell you about the latest deals they got amid the stationery aisles at Paperworks, or the two stories of material up for grabs at Lorraine Fabrics.

Foodies will recommend the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market, set up each Saturday morning in Hope Artiste Village—a giant mall full of specialty stores . . . sort of. (It’s also a wedding venue, a bowling alley, and lots of other things.)

“I’m here largely because of the building,” says Kent Stetson, a designer of brightly printed handbags and leather goods. Hope Artiste Village has been his showroom and production facility for nearly four years, and it’s representative of the city’s mill studio culture. “If I’m here working at four in the morning, someone else will also be in the building working. There’s a 24-hour entrepreneurial spirit.”

Once home to a thriving textile industry, Pawtucket’s abandoned mills, like those in many other cities across New England, became prime real estate for artists in need of studios. The mills also attracted brewmasters who needed storage space. The Bucket, once a disparaging nickname for Pawtucket, now has a namesake in Bucket Brewery, a popular craft brewery—one of several in the city.

Another Pawtucket perk: low rents and large immigrant populations make it a great destination for culinary adventures on a budget. Within city limits, you can find everything from Venezuelan arepas to Szechuan dan dan noodles. The city’s Cape Verdean population is the country’s second largest, with one in eight residents claiming ancestry from Cape Verde’s ten tropical islands. Try unique culinary gems like cachupa, a slow-cooked, rustic meat stew that’s available for breakfast at Monte Cara. (It’s served with a side of linguica.) On the other side of town, 10 Rocks serves grilled octopus with plantains, plus empanada-like fried pastels (pronounced POSH-tels) with tuna or native cod.

Spend Friday nights in Pawtucket at the Ratskeller in the German American Cultural Society. Located on a side street in the middle of nowhere, the club’s basement beer hall opens to the public once a week for pretzels, schnitzel, and cucumber salad. The food is cheap, the foosball table free, and the beer freely—well, cheaply—flowing. If you’re there on the right night, you may even catch an elderly gentleman playing the accordion.

Illustration by Peter O. Zierlein
Janet ReynoldsTake Place: Partial to Pawtucket

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