Cheap Eats in and Around Providence, Rhode Island

by Victor Martelle
Updated:

Rhode Island and its capitol of Providence especially, is a foodie heaven. From the lowbrow to the exotic, and to local to chain, one can find a meal at any price they so desire. However, if you ask an everyday Rhode Islander for the best food around, they’ll likely point to something on the pricier end, often around Providence’s Federal Hill area or some place in downtown Providence. What most don’t realize is that there’s so many pockets that are often forgotten about that will give you much more bang for your buck.

I’ve been around the Providence block a few times now, so with that, here are some options you may want to look into. These places are a combination of local places and chain restaurants. Of course, you’re welcome to let me know if you know of a place that I may have missed or should consider!

To note, there’s plenty of places that offer certain deals during specific times but I won’t be mentioning them.


East Side Pockets

Inside of a wrap at East Side Pockets.

Perhaps one of the best places to get middle eastern food. Hard Stop. Wait, and they’re cheap too? I genuinely don’t know why. They could hike their prices and East Side Pockets would still be annoyingly busy at all times.

Their famous wraps are extremely large and could almost feed two people, In addition, their baklava is some of the cheapest around without comprising too much on quality. The salads are also to die for.


Matos Bakery

A box of different pastries from Matos.

If you want to go to a bakery that is levels ahead of the fancier places around and at a much cheaper price, Matos is where it’s at. Sitting close in Providence, Matos specializes in Portuguese baked goods but still provides enough variety to suit any of your needs. So whether you want a fancy American based pastry or something a little more out of your realm, Matos is a spot that won’t break your bank.


Heng Pvd

Plates of food on a table at Heng Pvd.

Authentic, non-fast food Thai food? Count me in!

Heng Pvd sits quietly inside a basement on a side street off of Thayer. And at first glance, their prices seem about average, maybe even slightly below. Surely, this dim place can’t be that good. But, then your plate comes out and you wonder how you’ll ever finish that Cheesecake Factory sized portion of a dish. And the food itself? Some of the best Thai around.

My advice is to bring some friends or family to share in the occasion of some of the best Thai food around. Even better, this is definitely a romantic, impressing date spot!


Pho Horn’s

Soup and other dishes and Pho Horn's.

This Vietnamese restaurant has big bowls. Like, massive. If you wanted to ever order a gallons worth of pho or soup at stupidly cheap, Pho Horns is where you go. You’ll love the taste and almost certainly need to use the restroom after… assuming you finished.


Chili’s

Chicken bacon quesadillas on a table at Chili's.

Chili’s is almost certainly the cheapest chain sit-down restaurants around. It’s not high end nor does it pretend to be. The big reason why they’re on this list is because of how different and better they are compared to other American chain restaurants. Gone are the days of unseasoned food, and instead, Chili’s greets you with seasoned well enough food to satisfy both your foodie friend and your pickie little brother.

Not to mention, their bottomless warm chips and salsa is also nothing to scoff of. And, Chili’s often runs gift card and other promotions that can easily bring your already low bill even lower.


Royal and Hong Kong Buffets

Trays of food at Royal Buffet.

Do you prefer decent quality at dirt cheap prices? Royal Buffet. Do you want some of momma’s home cooking alongside it for a few pennies more? Hong Kong Buffet.

I consider myself a buffet addict and these two are by far the best cost effective to quality ratio buffets I’ve discovered here in Rhode Island. Royal Buffet is standard Chinese buffet flair without comprising too much on quality while Hong Kong Buffet throws in some homecooked goodness in their lineup but at a slightly higher price.

You can find a more extensive review of these in a previous post.


Baja’s

Loaded nacho fries on a table at Baja's.

There is a Baja’s everywhere, and for good reason. The amount of quality, nicely seasoned Tex-Mex based food you get at a reasonable price is nearly unmatched. The portion sized alongside all of this may make you wonder why Baja’s hasn’t completely taken over yet.


California Taco

Tacos on a table at California Taco.

Almost a rival to Baja’s, California Taco more so specialized in, well, tacos. Their tacos are economical and of course, tasty as anywhere else you’ll find. And sure, there are a lot of more smaller stores and food trucks that serve tacos but if you don’t want to experiment too much and want to keep your wallet intact, California Taco should be on your radar.


Domino’s

Meaty alfredo piazza on a Table at Domino's

STOP! HEAR ME OUT!

I get it. You love pizza. You know where the best spot is. Maybe Pizza Hut or a mom & pop shop nearby is better. Okay, fine, but can you not deny how cheap Domino’s is, especially for the people who love it? Frankly, their deals make me wonder how they stay in business. And the pizza, in my opinion, is some of the best around; stupidly cheap, can last for days in the fridge without compromise, and it’s made incredibly quick.


Modern Diner

A plate of fruit topped custard French toast at Modern diner.

Modern Diner is famous for their French Toast, but to me, everything they make should be famous.

The menu displays about average for a typical diner in Rhode Island. However, if you dare awkwardly stare at the plates of breakfast being rushed to other tables, you may begin to question whether this is a break or a meal for the entire day. Most of their meals are made for 2 or even 3 people easily.


Not Just Snacks

Food including rice and naan on a table at Not Just Snacks.

There’s a few Indian based restaurants in the immediate area of Not Just Snacks but they don’t come close to the price or the homestyle feel. Not Just Snacks feels like a homecooked meal made by your grandma – the huge portions, friendliness, the quietness, and even the dining sets and tables they use. Basically, it’s a family experience where you are served tasty, high quality Indian foods for cheap.

To note: Recently, Not Just Snacks (along with several other businesses) was embroiled in controversy that has resulted in a loss of some customers, myself included.


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