A Tank Away

Try a little working class

City with industrial-strength history is baseball capital of Ocean State

Now a museum where visitors can tour the grounds, Slater Mill is the site of the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in America. Now a museum where visitors can tour the grounds, Slater Mill is the site of the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in America.
By Steve Greenlee
Globe Staff / March 30, 2011

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The city of Pawtucket lives in the shadow of Providence. Pawtucket will never have the arts, dining, or night life scenes that Rhode Island’s capital city has, but this smaller, proudly working-class city boasts its own attributes — among them the country’s first water-powered cotton textile mill, the home stadium of the Boston Red Sox’ Triple A farm team, the headquarters of world-famous toymaker Hasbro, and one of the best beer bars in New England.


One thing Pawtucket does lack is guest lodging. There are precious few choices here — actually, there’s pretty much only one. This is largely because the city borders Providence, so there is a plethora of hotels, inns, and B&Bs just a few minutes to the south. If you want to stay within Pawtucket’s borders, you’re looking at the Comfort Inn (2 George St., 401-723-6700,, $110). Happily, it could not be more conveniently located — it’s right on Interstate 95 and just moments from the city’s downtown.


What it doesn’t have in hotels, Pawtucket makes up for in dining. Virtually any kind of cuisine can be had here — Chinese, African, Thai, Indian, Latin American, nouveau American. You don’t have to travel far to sample the variety, either. In fact, three of Pawtucket’s best restaurants are in the same plaza on East Avenue. LJ’s BBQ (727 East Ave., 401-305-5255,, $6.95-$25.50) serves up big plates of ribs and pulled pork, and a huge selection of sandwiches and burgers. Rasoi (727 East Ave., 401-728-5500,, $6.99-$19.99), a bright and cheerful restaurant that serves upscale Indian cuisine, offers such staples as curry and masala plus a big assortment of vegetarian dishes. The Garden Grille Cafe (727 East Ave., 401-726-2826,, $5-$16) is full-on vegetarian, with an eclectic menu that includes grilled pear and asparagus salad, raw beet ravioli, and a tofu-and-tempeh dish called the Buddha Bowl. Across town, La Arepa (574 Smithfield Ave., 401-335-3711,, $2.50-$13.60) cooks up a litany of Venezuelan dishes such as filled corn cakes and pabellon criollo.


A visit to Pawtucket must include Slater Mill (67 Roosevelt Ave., 401-725-8638,, the site of the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in America. Often called the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Slater Mill is now a museum, where visitors can tour the grounds, see the old machinery up close, and hear its story from costumed interpreters. Slater Memorial Park (off Newport Avenue and Armistice Boulevard), also named for industrialist Samuel Slater, is nearly 200 acres of green space that houses the Daggett Farm petting zoo, which had formerly been the much bigger Slater Park Zoo. The park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a great place to have a picnic (in warmer weather) or take a quiet walk. Inside the park is the Rhode Island Watercolor Society (Armistice Boulevard, 401-726-1876,, which has a gallery space with regular exhibits, as well as workshops, classes, and “paint-outs.’’ Fans of Nerf guns, Weebles, and Transformers may want to swing by the Hasbro toy company’s head quarters (1027 Newport Ave., 401-725-8697,, where you can have a picture taken with the giant Mr. Potato Head out front.


Above all else, Pawtucket is the baseball capital of Rhode Island, and around here baseball starts April 7, when the Triple A affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox open McCoy Stadium (1 Columbus Ave., 401-724-7300, for the season. In this park, every seat is a good one, and you can see future Boston Red Sox stars for a fraction of the price of bleacher seats at Fenway. It may live in the shadow of Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company, but the Gamm Theatre (172 Exchange St., 401-723-4266, holds its own in the Ocean State’s theater scene; the North American premiere of Howard Brenton’s “Paul’’ is in production now, and Christopher Durang’s “Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them’’ opens May 5. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to tango, Providence Tango (99 South Bend St., 401-728-9393, teaches the fundamentals of the Argentine dance to anyone from beginner to advanced levels. Stone Soup Coffeehouse (50 Park Place, 401-921-5115, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church hosts folk concerts on Saturday nights; upcoming shows feature Jon Pousette-Dart and the Lenny Solomon Band. Rhode Island’s craft beer mecca is Doherty’s East Ave. Irish Pub (342 East Ave., 401-725-9520,, a hangout with a sports-bar feel and an ever-changing lineup of 81 beers on tap — everything from IPAs and double IPAs to imperial stouts and Belgian beers.

Steve Greenlee can be reached at