Weeknights at sports bars tend to be pretty mellow when there’s no local teams playing, but on a Red Sox off-night, Providence’s Ladder 133 Sports Bar & Grill was slamming. A private party helped to fill some seats, but there were plenty of other groups at the bar and high-tops of this Douglas Avenue landmark, located in a former Smith Hill fire station.
The historic space is far from an afterthought: this is one of the more attractive sports bars you’ll find, with its red-brick exterior, blonde wood floors, and plenty of firefighting-themed decor. TVs are everywhere, from the big HDTVs over the bar to smaller flat-screens installed in individual booths. If you miss any game action here, you’re really not trying hard.
On the night we dropped in with a Groupon (Ladder 133 is a long-time participant, and we got a 3-for-1 deal on a two-day sale), a live acoustic duo added to the din and occasionally rose above it, with spirited covers of the Eagles, Bob Marley, TLC, and Elle King. Our waitress appeared quickly, copping to being a bit overwhelmed by the crowd, so we placed food and drink orders at once.
Beer and grub arrived quickly: I’m a drafts guy, so I wasn’t terribly impressed by the selection (mostly domestic standards like Bud and Sam Adams), but opted for a Shock Top because, hey, it’s almost summer, right? I went for standard bar fare, which turned out to be a simple but tasty cheesesteak ($12) — basically chopped steak and melted cheddar on a nicely toasted bun (I declined the offer of hot peppers). Kettle chips were served on the side, which I tried to ignore.
For about the same price ($14), my dining companion got the better deal: Pork 2 Ways, which consisted of a half-rack of St. Louis ribs with a sweet, sticky BBQ sauce (just right, in my book) and a generous portion of pulled pork, which we dutifully doused in Frank’s Hot Sauce (thoughtfully provided with the other table condiments). Corn bread and cole slaw were added as sides — easily enough to guarantee leftovers for home.
Did I mention that it was busy? We were looking for a quick in-and-out on this night, and while things started promisingly, our waitress ended up going AWOL on us for about 25 minutes, which was a little frustrating. Not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind if you walk in the door at Ladder 133 to find most tables filled: you might be here for a few more songs than you intended. Still, that was the only negative we had on a visit for a post-softball meal that — Groupon thanks! — got us food, drinks, leftovers, and a little entertainment for just over $20.
133 Douglas Ave.
Smith Hill, RI 02908