Providence Bagel Remains Popular Despite Inconsistencies, a Love-Hate Review

by Victor Martelle
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Providence Bagel is a bagel shop that often competes for the top bagel spot in Rhode Island. They’ve quickly grown and expanded to locations outside of the Providence, Rhode Island, area and into neighboring towns, even venturing further by recently opening a new location in Massachusetts. Long story short, they’re a well-known chain café in the Rhode Island and Massachusetts areas dedicated to bagels and other breakfast goods. Despite other bagel competitors, they’ve remained popular, so how did this giant come to be?

This popularity has grown due to, alongside spot-on location placement, open later than normal hours, and quick drive-thrus, tasty bagels, pastries, sandwiches, and a variety of drink related items. What’s most exciting is that they have rotating weekend special bagels and also vary their filled tarts and other items often. This not only means that customers are regularly greeted with new items, but it also helps push the bounds of food creativity, something many shops often forget about or don’t have the capacity for. If you want a unique and new breakfast item, you go to Providence Bagel. And if you want something not too out of the ordinary, you go to Providence Bagel.

However, with this popularity have come a lot of critics, so many in fact, that reviews across all of their locations hover around below average ratings and interestingly, all note similar concerns. What’s going on? Well, when it comes to their goods, they all tend to be extremely hit or miss. Bagels often have mistakes, pastries are a gamble, toppings and filling can be too much or nothing at all, it really all depends on the day. Coffee is similar, either being quite tasty or something that’s akin to burnt water. This trend continues in parallel with their service.

The service is equally a dice roll. Often, I find the speed of the service to be fairly quick but on occasion, it can be a tedious wait. However, what is most troublesome are the orders—check your order bag! Through my dozens of visits, I’ve had my order wrong for what feels to be about half the time which results in potentially wasted product and the time of everyone. Maybe the bagel wasn’t cooked, perhaps a large piece of my order was missing, or maybe I was given a full piece of salmon when I ordered lox spread (yes, that’s happened).

These complaints about inconsistency are seemingly universal across all of their locations according to online reviews and have seemingly persisted since the start. And for the price you pay for this stuff, especially since much of it leans slightly towards the higher end, none of these issues should be happening. I don’t know what the answer is but what I do know is not to put blame on the hardworking staff. They can get busy, silly mistakes happen, and more often than not, they’re willing to fix the issue. However, frankly, if I was in a time crunch, I simply wouldn’t risk going here, and seeing how many people stop in here before and after work, the inconsistency needs to be addressed by the management and owners.

Lastly, inconsistency aside for a moment, there’s another consistent issue at their locations. If you want to risk your life for a bagel, Providence Bagel is a place to test that as locations are not friendly to those who don’t drive. The lack of bicycle racks and more importantly, no safe way to enter is concerning. Some locations are pocketed amongst dense residential neighborhoods, all of which have no sidewalk entrances or signage to slow down and alert incoming and exiting drivers. This leaves families visiting on foot trying to juggle their children amongst the impatient and careless caffeine crazed drivers. I’ve seen many close calls, even personally been nearly hit on several occasions!

In summary, Providence Bagel offers unique bagels and other pastries but lacks consistency across their products and service all the while leaning towards higher than average prices. These issues persist across all their locations and have done so for a while, so it’s puzzling why it hasn’t been addressed. Additionally, they also need to work on non-driver accessibility at their locations. Despite these criticisms though, they’re worth a try (as are their bagel competitors) and personally, they’re still a place I continue to have a love-hate relationship with.



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