The number of students staying on campus over Thanksgiving break is up from last year, based on the RSVP list for the Third World Center’s Thanksgiving dinner. The difference is mostly accounted for in students who live in the US and, like the 10 percent of students who hail from abroad, have opted to save the expense of a plane ticket home and stay on campus. Despite the growing number of those who participate in Providence’s giving of thanks, campus during any holiday break is inevitably strange and desolate.
But, Reader, delight! Delight in the culinary elegance of urban New England, in the bounty of Providence, home to a lively “James Beard runner-up” food culture. And delight in tradition, knowing that it was on New England’s hallowed grounds that the great American feast of Thanksgiving was born.
Unfortunately, most restaurants, especially nice ones, will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. The few that will be open have long been booked to the brim. And while the prospect of cooking for yourself is, in theory, a big pile of self-sufficient lovely, in practice it involves drudgery, McGyver-gone-awry improvisation, and—bane of the college student—dishes to wash.
Instead, consider this Thanksgiving a weeklong carnival of eating, not limited to a meal or even a day. Thirty-six hours of feeding! Not the Sunday travel section’s 36 hours, but a survivor’s guide, like Will Smith foraging the deserted streets for ethnic and traditional renditions of all things pumpkin. Fill these hollow hours with the bounty of the Providence harvest—capacious and elastic stomachs waiting for the givings of Thayer. Let Thayer Street be your banquet table.
A 36 Hours Eating Schedule, as follows:
In free verse: Large Juggs, pickles plentiful. Turkey, melted cheese, bacon, cranberry sauce, and Shedd’s spread (mayo and Russian dressing whooshed together)—all this on a fresh Kaiser roll. $7.55. Benefit Street, get there. The description seems rococo, almost nonconsensual. But like the donut or the pork rind, a Juggs sub knows itself and is unapologetic in its composition, and I reckon there’s some merit in that. (Open Wednesday and Friday, 11am-9pm)
Gracie’s, located at 194 Washington St. is larger and slightly more upscale than New Rivers. The prices are comparable, but Gracie’s true virtue is its $30 prix fixe menu: three courses and three offerings within each course. Their plates are consistently thoughtful, balanced, and tastefully rendered from local ingredients. Plus you can order things like Hudson Valley Foie Gras: pumpkin pie custard, cranberry gastrique, pumpkin nougatine, spiced brioche. Way classy. And the service? You know that obstinate right-wing uncle, who every Thanksgiving wants to talk about Obama’s socialist apocalypse and ooh, wasn’t Ronald Reagan just the most perfect ever, and you would never understand because you’re young and brainwashed by Jon Stewart? The service at Gracie’s is the exact opposite of that—warm, knowledgeable and nonpartisan. (Open the Wednesday before)
3) URBAN DOGS
Urban Dogs is a new food cart camped outside the Bookstore. In the afternoons, from 10am to 4:30pm, its owner serves a variety of hot dogs and sandwiches—every item under $5. For Thanksgiving, he’ll be purveying turkey and pumpkin soup. So take that extra pocket change to the cart and then get yourself a six-pack of pumpkin beer (though heads up: Spiritus will be closed on T-givz).
4) THIRD WORLD CENTER—FREE
The Office of Student Life funds a Thanksgiving dinner, and the Third World Center hosts. A traditional American spread it shall be—turkey, ham, vegetables whipped and candied, and pies and more. One hundred and six students attended last year’s event, and based on the RSVPs this year’s head count will be around 120, according to Anjali Sridhar, the Assistant Director at the Third World Center. The meal will be served as a buffet. Games, fellowship, and post-colonial atonement to follow. (68 Brown Street, Open 4pm-7pm)
5) BYBLOS/HOOKAH BAR
Byblos’s attempt at a seasonal offering is a Pumpkin Kibbe ($7.50), which is neither pumpkin nor kibbe, but a thin layer of chickpeas and spinach betwixt two dry dense bulgar wheat cakes, baked. The traditional kibbe is usually fried and contains ground beef. Here the bulgur is mixed with pumpkin, not for the purpose of flavor but for its vegetarian virtue. The dryness is countered with a serving of tzatziki, yogurt that is all tang and garlic. (Open 6pm-11pm/ hookah -1am)
Under $20 for a turkey dinner, which will include all the familiar suspects plus the promise of pumpkin tiramisu. The service stops at 11, but the bar still flows. Behold the pumpkin pie martini: Stoli vanilla vodka, caramel, and pumpkin spice liqueur, poured into a martini glass rimmed with pie crust, and floating inside—a chocolate cup set in flames, and softly powdered in cinnamon. The spectacle costs $9.95. (Open 5pm-1am)
7) NICE SLICE
Nice Slice, the Shephard Fairey shrine/late night pizza parlor, will reportedly offer a Thanksgiving Special, available only on Thursday: their cranberry picnic pizza (with the option to add turkey) and a bottle of Reed’s Spiced Apple Ginger Brew, at a discounted price TBD. The flavor combination of the cranberry picnic pizza achieves a De Stijl level of balance: dried cranberries, almonds, spinach, feta and mozzarella on a thin wheat crust. It is in equal parts nutty and sharp. Texture-wise, the slice is an exercise in delicacy: brittle snaps of toasted almonds and papyrus-thin spinach crisps. The wheat crust is chewy rather than doughy. And the flavors are cohesive and thoughtful: a slice greater than the sum of its parts. (Open 12-2am)
Loui’s is best enjoyed at 5am, and from there the excitement diminishes. But it would be remiss to not include the greasy spoon of College Hill, especially if you’re looking for something sweet and pumpkin colored, a sad stand-in for leftover pumpkin pie. By now you are too full to notice that they are really just pancakes and your tastebuds too overstimulated to be vexed by the tepid bottled syrup. Granted, they serve a superlative omelet. (Open Wednesday and Friday, 5am—3pm)
9) AS220 RESTAURANT
At 115 Empire St, the tacos are gone but the dream lives on. What used to be Tacqueria Pacifica is now a newly opened and super-affordable restaurant boasting a talented vegan/vegetarian chef. The most expensive offerings are $8 with myriad options ranging in the $4-$6 range. The restaurant opened last week, under the banner of its mission-driven nonprofit, AS220, whose aim is to support local artists and entrepreneurs. There will be some delectable turkey sandwich numbers on Friday’s menu. (Open Friday, noon-10pm)
10) LOCAL121 SPEAKEASY
After dinner you have only to go next door and down the stairs to Local121, whose name is credited to its support of local resources and its location at 121 Washington Street, at the historical and revitalized Dreyfus hotel. Every Wednesday and Friday, this space transforms into a speakeasy where you can listen to live jazz and blues (this Friday is Men of Courage) and order old-fashioned drinks that involve sweet bitters. The bar items range from about $7 to $16, and example offerings are the Curried Orange Lentil Dip, with toasted pita and almonds, and the Roasted Beet Flatbread Pizza with chevre cream, mustard greens, and pistachio pieces. Ordering at Local121 might actually be closer to Thanksgiving’s dedication to local bounty and the fall harvest. (Speakeasy open Wednesday from 8:30pm-1am and Fridays 8:30pm-2am)
LAURA TSUNODA B’11 pops off like a mobster boss/ Angel hair with the lobster sauce.