August 22, 2017

Destination:Wickenden Street

Katie Levine

I was sifting through an assortment of used records, and as my fingers grazed the dog-eared corners of the record packaging, I could tell I was being watched. I stole a quick glance to identify the culprit and found the large, round eyes of an electric green parrot staring back at me. He was perched on the shoulder of the man shopping next to me, who seemed to think that it was perfectly normal to have a parrot in a record store, even though I thought it was incredibly odd. But surprisingly, I might have actually been the odd one out in this situation because I was shopping on Wickenden Street in Providence, where quirkiness is the norm. Located approximately 10 minutes from Providence College, Wickenden Street is full of funky restaurants and shops-like used record stores-that put Thayer Street to shame. A quick glance at the telephone poles decorated with clever sculptures, the artsy people meandering in and out of shops, and the interesting variety of stores makes it clear that Wickenden Street is something special. To begin with, they have a wonderful array of different types of restaurants and cafes. There are three different coffee shops-Café Zog, Reflections Café, and the Coffee Exchange-each with a unique atmosphere and menu selection. There are also a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, all of which are worthy opponents of always eating out at the Cheesecake Factory in the Providence Place Mall. There are two cozy breakfast/lunch places whose menus would make your mouth water. Brickway on Wickenden is reminiscent of a diner, and serves breakfast all day, as well as lunch. The inside is painted with bright colors and decorated with the paintings of local artists, all of which are for sale. Amy’s Place offers a similar experience and is eclectically decorated with comfy couches and serves breakfast, lunch, smoothies, and coffees. You can check out restaurants like Tokyo Restaurant, Sakura (Japanese), O-Cha (Tai cuisine and sushi bar), Ristorante Romanza (Italian), and Taste of India to sample some food from other countries. Wickenden Pub is another place that seemed like it might be fun as well: the wood-paneled walls inside were a good imitation of an old English pub. I ate at Z Bar and Grille, which serves an amazing lunch, brunch, and dinner, as well as cocktails. The food was delicious, and in the tradition of Wickenden Street, the menu selections were more experimental than your average restaurant. But food isn’t all this street has to offer. There are many antiques stores to browse through, some featuring high-end furniture, and others carrying interesting and fun knickknacks. My favorite one was so crowded you could barely walk. Clutching my purse and fearing that I would knock something valuable off the shelves, I spent a long time rummaging through the amazing selection of jewelry, purses, dishware, records, old books, and other random curios. They even had a decent selection of old clothes and shoes, including a remarkable pair of cowboy boots. The street had a wide variety of galleries that sold art and even one that specialized in blown glass, called Gallery Belleau. Earthen Fire is a store that doesn’t just sell art; it lets you make it yourself. They offer pottery painting, and even give pottery making lessons. One particular gallery that caught my attention was called Refind. It sold all kinds of furniture, giftware, jewelry, and accessories. Owner Jacquelyne Lusardi says that most of her products are from local artists and craftspeople, many of whom use recycled materials for their art, and she even dabbles in jewelry making. “I try to find things that aren’t screaming recycled,” said Lusardi, but she gets a kick out of reusing materials. One recycled piece of jewelry that really caught my attention was a series of watches made out of phone cords, cut-up credit cards, and old records. Indigo Herbals is another store that showcases Wickenden’s unique vibe. An overpowering whiff of incense is your greeting as you walk into this sunny, airy shop. They sell all kinds of natural, herbal remedies in the forms of lotions, herbs, and oils. One wall is completely covered by jars of herbs with names like, “devils claw root” and “dragons blood resin.” A store employee was busy grinding some of these ingredients together as I looked around. Wickenden has too many cute shops and boutiques to even mention all of them in one article, which is why I would suggest that you go and check it out yourself. It can be a day-long trip, or you could just boycott a trip to the cliché Starbucks and check out a different kind of café for a cup of coffee. Either way, Spring is the perfect time take a trip over to Wickenden Street and explore all it has to offer.

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