What happens when you combine an unpretentious, welcoming atmosphere with a well thought out beer and bourbon selection paired with an eclectic menu? You get a Providence neighborhood bar known as What Cheer Tavern. Opened in 2012, by husband and wife owner/operator duo Dave Crockenberg and Zoe Brown, the bar prides itself on having a local focus (both on the beers and the food), trying to source as much as they can from around Rhode Island as possible – something Dave said was “missing in the current market.” The couple found that “Neighborhood bars were a thing of the past, we wanted to bring that concept back. Also no bars or places around here were pairing interesting bar food with their beers.” This is something that What Cheer certainly seems to enjoy and has gained quite the reputation for.
When it comes to the beer at What Cheer, Dave made it pretty clear, “I just really enjoy drinking beer,” which carries over into what they like to offer their patrons. “We normally have 10 to 12 draft lines going and we don’t want anything sitting more than a week; we want to keep it fresh.” As part of supporting and focusing on local products, brands like Proclamation, Revival, Grey Sail, and Foolproof (just to name a few) are some of the options you might find on draft or in the cooler when you stop in for a drink. “Our selection is dictated by what our customers like,” Dave explained. Along with the brews, What Cheer Tavern offers up a great food menu, just not what you’ve most likely come to know as typical pub food – something that is done on purpose. Zoe (the brains of the operation as Dave put it) runs the kitchen and said, “I like to be creative with the menu. I didn’t want to serve your traditional mozzarella sticks or any stuff like that.” And when you take a look at the menu it is obvious that they offer some creative and unique options to choose from.
Snacks like Mofo fries (a combination of cheddar, sriracha, cotija, cilantro, crispy garlic, & sambal atop a pile of fries) and bacon chipotle wings (covered in a spicy sauce with crumbled bacon mixed in) find their place on the menu alongside fan favorites such as Hipster 2.0 tacos (slow roasted pork belly, gochujang and kimchi) and Mexicali Ramen (noodles, chicken, avocado, cabbage, jalapeno, onion and cilantro). As you can imagine, this innovative fusion style menu certainly isn’t your standard bar fare and you never know what intriguing, delicious new item might make its way onto the menu next, giving customers something else to look forward to.
What Cheer definitely isn’t the biggest bar in the city, but what it might lack in size it makes up for in personality and a solid combination of food and drink options. “I really enjoy the small size of the bar and recognizing customers and knowing them by name. This is such a small, homey place,“ Zoe said. And from a couple who had never owned a bar before, What Cheer is that neighborhood bar with a funky and fun twist. Where else can you find everything from Paul Simon to AC/DC playing in the background as you savor a local beer and fill your stomach with delicious grub? For added entertainment value, you can follow their action on Twitter (@whatcheertavern) and Facebook page, each displaying the colorful, unforgiving and amusing side of what the bar has become known for as well. When you put it all together, Dave and Zoe have created a place that not only helps support and showcase the local beer scene but also brought back the concept of bringing people together at the local bar for good times, good food and really good brews. I want to thank Dave and Zoe for taking time to provide me with their perspective and information about the bar. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost What Cheer Tavern!