Where to Find Global Cheap Eats in RI

From Colombian to Vietnamese to Indian, these international restaurants will keep your wallet in check.

cheap eats

Luke’s Inn
Cuisine: Chinese, American
What appears to be your usual Chinese restaurant is a fusion of so many different cuisines. Of course, you can get the standard chicken wings and lo mein, but Luke’s Inn also blurs the lines between cultures. For example, you can get fried rice spiked with Portuguese chourico. Then there’s Luke’s Delight, which combines chicken, beef and shrimp with Polish kielbasa on noodles. Want a burger with fries, or even linguine with fresh littlenecks? Luke’s has that too. Order the giant lunch specials before 3 p.m. to save a few bucks. And don’t miss the friendly dine-in atmosphere, complete with karaoke and scorpion bowls for the win. 650 Metacom Ave., Warren, 247-0665, lukesinn.com

India
Cuisine: Indian
The chicken tikka masala is the house specialty, but biryani is more adventurous with your choice of meat and vegetables mixed with raisins, almonds, cashews, fresh cilantro and spices on a bed of basmati rice, with cool cucumber and yogurt raita sauce on the side. Save a lot of cash by dining at India on certain nights of the week. The restaurant has a bargain bar menu, featuring 20 percent savings on food at the bar (except on Fridays and Saturdays after 6 p.m.). It also offers a three-course dinner for two with a bottle of wine for $49.99 on Sunday through Thursday evenings. The $10.95 weekday lunch and $15.95 weekend brunch buffets are good ways to try a dozen dishes at once, as tables are stocked with soups, salads, both vegetarian and meat options, plenty of naan and dessert. 1060 Hope St., Providence, 421-2600, indiarestaurant.com

Flames
Cuisine: Jamaican
Meals at Flames come small, medium and large, but no matter the size, you can expect a heaping takeout tray filled with meat, rice and vegetables to last more than one portion. Choose from the cafeteria-style spread, which starts with a pile of plain white or yellow rice with pigeon peas, followed by choices like the terrific spicy blackened jerk chicken, oxtail with savory gravy, curried goat, shrimp or snapper and more, served with a scoop of coleslaw. Pair it with a Jamaican pineapple soda and a famous meat patty, and you might just have dinner for days. 734 Eddy St., Providence, 331-2225

Wara Wara
Cuisine: Japanese
Japanese cuisine is more than just sushi, and Wara Wara expands tastebuds’ temptation with both tapas and ramen. The restaurant accents dishes with flavors like soy, honey, miso, fish sauce and hoisin. Start the meal off with some appetizer-sized dishes to share such as the pork belly bun, yakitori (grilled meats) and crispy cauliflower with sweet Thai chili, mint, cilantro and fried garlic. The bento box for lunch is the way to go if you’re seeking more sustenance: The meals come with white rice, vegetables, fruit and an entree of your choice like gyu don, thinly sliced beef with vegetables in a teriyaki sauce. 776 Hope St., Providence, 831-9272, warawarari.com

cheap eats

La Arepa specializes in arepas, which are Venezuelan corn cakes. Photograph by Angel Tucker.

La Arepa
Cuisine: Venezuelan
La Arepa started as a dream in 2000 and evolved into a food truck in 2005, followed by the brick and mortar establishment in 2006. This year, it expanded into the space next door to offer a sit-down restaurant with entertainment as well as a bakery that offers takeout along with Venezuelan breads and desserts. The growth speaks to the popularity of the restaurant’s namesake Venezuelan corn cakes. For a traditional arepa experience, try the pabellon, stuffed with stewed beef or chicken, black beans and avocado, served with either a mild pink or a spicy green sauce and fried ripe plantains. Cachapas, crumpet-like cakes also made from corn, are griddled and folded over cheese or meat. Satisfy a sweet tooth with quesillo, a traditional Venezuelan flan in vanilla or coconut flavors. The restaurant has a full bar for dine-in patrons, but to-go diners should quench their thirst with a bebida Venezolana, which combines sugar cane juice and lime. 582 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket, 335-3711, laarepari.com

Ebisu
Cuisine: Japanese
Shabu shabu sounds like a doo-wop song, but it’s a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and seafood that you cook right at the table in boiling aromatic broth. At Ebisu, you choose the protein — beef, chicken, lamb, pork or a seafood platter — and broth options — pork, vegetable, chicken, dashi or kimchee — then, simply swish-swish the meat in the steaming cauldron until it’s cooked, then add various vegetables and herbs until everything’s steamed and delicious. Finish it off with a side of rice, bean thread or udon noodles and a ponzu or sesame seed sauce. It’s DIY soup customized any way you like it. 8 Pontiac Ave., Providence, 270-7500, ebisuri.com

Big King
Cuisine: Japanese-influenced
Peruse a handwritten, daily-changing menu of Japanese tasting-sized dishes at this self-proclaimed “weird” restaurant serving locally landed seafood that’s grilled, raw and fried, alongside sake pairings. Go for a la carte dishes or sign up for the Set A four-course tasting ($40) or Set B six-course tasting ($55). We know it sounds expensive but for this type of quality meal, it’s a steal. There’s usually a tempura-fried seasonal farm vegetable of some sort, whether it’s green beans, fall squash or shishito peppers, and you can mostly count on chirashi, a local variety of raw fish — from fluke to seabream — on a bed of rice. The desserts are also playfully creative using seasonal fruits and flavors, like summer’s sweet corn ice cream paired with blueberry jam (preserved from local picking). 3 Luongo Sq., Providence, bigkingpvd.com

cheap eats

Asian Bakery’s banh mi sandwich is a crusty baguette filled with meat, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and jalapenos. Photograph by Angel Tucker.

Asian Bakery
Cuisine: Southeast Asian
Hustle over to Broad Street for traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. Banh means bread in Vietnamese, and French colonists reportedly introduced Vietnam to the baguette. Asian Bakery’s hefty sammy is made with the crustiest of French baguettes, stuffed with your choice of meat — we recommend the traditional pork slice, though you can get mainstream barbecue pork or chicken terriyaki — along with shoestring-style raw carrot, cucumber and radish slices. The finishing touch is sweet mayo that offers a flavor contrast to the pork’s umami along with fresh cilantro, and jalapenos if you want ’em. Eat this crunchy creation outside with your elbows perched on your knees to avoid leaving a blanket of crumbs all over your lap. We repeat: It’s not for the desk jockeys. 310 Broad St., Providence, 497-6145

El Rancho Grande
Cuisine: Mexican
For the truest form of Mexican cuisine, head to El Rancho Grande, which has been in business for more than a decade. Must-try items include tacos and enchiladas with corn tortillas, and the sweet and spicy mole poblano that blends twenty ingredients for the signature, time-intensive sauce made with various chiles, ground nuts, sesame seeds and chocolate. The tequila and mezcal collection is the best in the state, featuring bottles by the most respected makers. Owner Maria Meza and family specialize in heartfelt hospitality that makes guests feel right at home, so don’t be surprised if the chef herself comes out to raise a toast. 311 Plainfield St., Providence, 275-0808, elranchogranderestaurant.com

La Gran Parada
Cuisine: Dominican
The English translation is “the great stop,” and the spread at this cash-only Dominican restaurant is worth the wait in the winding line. Take a tour around the cafeteria counter to choose the dishes that look most appealing to you, as there’s no printed menu. Start with a mound of beans and rice or the spicier pigeon peas with yellow rice, then pile it high with crisp fried pork belly (chicharron de cerdo), pork, beef and oxtail stews (guisada), fried plantain tostones, whole fried red snapper, roast chicken, blood sausage and more. Go with a group and share a family-style feast at the table or take heaping trays home to feed the family. Don’t forget to try the housemade pique hot sauce and ask for the mayo-ketchup, or salsa rosada, a special sauce that’s made with just the right mix of mayo and ketchup with Adobo and garlic in a squeeze bottle. It’s good on everything. Trust us. 937 Broad St., Providence, 941-4610

cheap eats

The rice-wrapped shrimp dumplings are traditionally steamed in a bamboo basket. Photograph by Angel Tucker.

Chengdu Taste
Cuisine: Chinese, Sichuan
Sure, there’s a printed takeout menu, but to get the best experience at Chengdu, show up in person and check out the specials written on a pink posterboard on the wall. You might bypass the jellyfish and griddled frog, but the translucent rice-wrapped shrimp dumplings and beef and enoki mushroom dish should not be dismissed. If you are a fan of spicy food, Szechuan heat is the key; order the chili-pepper-packed Chong Qing diced fried chicken and your mouth will be appropriately on fire. The Chengdu dan dan noodles are made with toothsome noodles, bok choy, scallions, minced pork and sesame, and the shape of the noodle might make you realize how it’s possible that spaghetti was derived from Chinese cuisine.
701 Main St., Pawtucket, 729-5699, chengdutastepawtucket.com

Vatsana Thai and Sushi
Cuisine: Thai and Japanese
Pawtuxet Village’s best kept secret is the new BYOB Thai place, located down the street from the other BYOB Thai place. Vatsana gears its dishes to Thai food lovers who aren’t afraid of spice. Noodle meals veer away from the failsafe pad Thai (though Vatsana has that too) into unfamiliar, but delicious, territory. But always start with the nime chow, fresh rolls with steamed shrimp, crisp noodles, and crunchy lettuce, carrots, cucumber, basil and bean sprouts tucked up in rice wrappers. Lad na includes flat rice noodles paired with your choice of meat and Chinese broccoli, carrots and mushrooms in a savory soy sauce gravy. For the heat-seekers, prik king’s string beans and kaffir lime leaves intensify the palate with potent curry paste. 2168 Broad St., Cranston, 781-1888, vatsanari.com

Hidalgo Mexican Restaurant
Cuisine: Mexican
Menudo: Not just the boy band that launched Ricky Martin’s career, it’s also a traditional Mexican chile-laden stew of tripe and hominy. At Hidalgo, tucked away in a strip mall on Pawtucket’s Barton Street, the menudo packs enough of a spicy slap to earn its reputation as excellent hangover food (not that we would know anything about that), and the tripe is fall-apart tender. Hidalgo also constructs famous tacos, piled high with savory meats and cheeses, waiting to be adorned with red and green salsas in squeeze bottles perched on every table. It serves an impressive range of Mexican bottled sodas, but don’t leave without sampling the homemade horchata, a cinnamon-infused rice-based drink, and jamaica, a tea made from hibiscus flower. Hidalgo does not shy away from ample portions, so come with an appetite. 308 Barton St., Pawtucket, 722-7622, facebook.com/hidalgorestaurantri

Diego’s Bodega/Barrio Cantina
Cuisine: Mexican
The downtown Newport Diego’s location is always humming, but if you want to beat the crowds, head to the Bodega and Barrio Cantina near Easton’s Beach for a Mexican meal with waterfront reservoir views. The Bodega’s seared ahi tuna burrito is like sushi snuggled up in a tortilla with Thai yuzu slaw, pineapple salsa, crispy rice noodles and toasted peanuts, while street tacos are served with ground beef, chicken tinga or pulled pork, and filled with salsa verde, pickled veggies and queso fresco. There’s even a kids’ menu with milder choices to keep the whole family happy. Barrio Cantina also offers a more upscale menu with more extensive options. 116 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown, 619-1717, diegosmiddletown.com

La Herradura Taqueria Mexicana
Cuisine: Mexican
La herradura means horseshoe in Spanish, and it is a true good luck charm for eaters at this small taqueria in Central Falls. Tacos, burritos, tortas and tamales are stuffed with shredded beef, chicken, pork or more exotic choices like tripe or tongue. Hungry on a Meatless Monday (or any day)? Try the rajas tamales: fluffy masa dough wrapped around spicy raja chiles and Oaxacan cheese and steamed to tender in a corn husk. To tame the heat, wash it down with a tamarind Jarritos soda from the fridge. Nachos are also a treat here: Freshly fried tortillas are piled high with your choice of meat plus traditional accompaniments. The daily special often includes rib-sticking and soul-warming posole, a Mexican stew of chiles, pork and hominy perfect for cold weather. Don’t forget to gild it all with La Herradura’s house-made red and green salsa. 716 Dexter St., Central Falls, 753-1671, laherraduratqueriamexicana.negocio.site

La Casona
Cuisine: Colombian
A gleaming bar inside and an ample patio give diners multiple options for enjoying traditional Colombian breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ambitious eaters can start the day off with la bandeja paisa, a hearty breakfast feast of rice, fried eggs, beans, ground beef, sausage, chicharron (fried pork belly), plantains and salad. Later in the day, bring a group and order the parrillada, a mixed platter of beef, pork, chicken sausages, chicharron, french fries, plantains, cassava and cheese. For a lighter option, dig into the Colombian ceviche, a refreshing combination of shrimp, citrus, chiles and avocados. The atmosphere gets especially lively during soccer season when the Colombian national soccer team games are televised. If your schedule doesn’t permit a sit-down meal, head to the adjacent bakery for traditional pastries, like savory meat-filled empanadas or sweet dulce de leche-filled alfajores cookies, sizzling strips of chicharron or links of chorizo, ice creams and fresh juices. 768 Broad St., Central Falls, 727-0002, facebook.com/lacasona
restaurant.ri

Tacos Don Nacho
Cuisine: Mexican
This tiny trailer in Pawtucket and walkup shack in Woonsocket serves tacos that are synonymous with South of the border. No Tex-Mex here, just freshly made tortillas stocked with a range of Mexican meats like asada (beef), pastora (pork), lengua (tongue), chorizo, pollo (chicken), carnitas, barbacoa, cueritos (pig skin) and oreja (pig ear). This hidden gem gains local fans for its tortas, tostadas, tamales and burritos. Do not leave without elotes, if they have it; it’s corn on the cob, served on a stick and slathered with chili mayonnaise and cheese. Google is your friend here if you don’t speak the language and remember: A little gracias goes a long way. 234 Barton St., Pawtucket, 688-2932; 986 Social St., Woonsocket, 766-4264

Maharaja Indian Cuisine
Cuisine: Indian
In a town with a dearth of international eats, Maharaja takes the top spot in Narragansett. The small but tidy restaurant is tucked in the backside of the Village Inn Hotel at Narragansett Pier Marketplace. On our visit, we drove through the plaza with windows down and were greeted by the scent of spicy curry. We’d ordered ahead on the website, an easy function that’s useful after a shopping trip or afternoon at the beach (or, in our case, a visit to Whaler’s Brewing Company in neighboring South Kingstown; the RISE American pale ale pairs well with rich Indian cuisine). Our affordably priced chicken tikka masala and vegetable curry stretched through two tasty meals, but we couldn’t say the same for the plush vegan samosas and warm naan stuffed with ginger and drizzled with honey. Those didn’t last the car ride home. 1 Beach St., Narragansett, 363-9988, maharajari.com

cheap eats

The baked goods at Caprichos Antioquenos Bakery include Pastel De Arequipe, a puff pastry filled with caramel (left), Bunuelos, which are fried cheese balls, and Pandebono cheese bread. Photograph by Angel Tucker.

Caprichos Antioquenos Bakery
Cuisine: Colombian
This little family-run Colombian bakery has been baking fried treats, pastries and cheese-stuffed breads for more than twenty-seven years. While it doesn’t have a menu, get the rundown on the website before ordering, or you can poll fellow customers for their favorites at the counter. Taste a bunch of items, including pastel de pollo filled with shredded chicken, scallions and tomatoes; empanadas bursting with ham, cheese and pineapple; torta de pescado (fish cakes); and sweet corn cakes topped with creamy butter and fresh Colombian cheese. Ask for the housemade hot aji sauce for extra flavor, and don’t forget a side of crispy chicharron. A separate counter stocks all kinds of Colombian sweets and snacks including bunuelos, which are savory fried cheese balls, and pastries filled with caramel, pineapple and guayaba. Have a meal there, then bring home a box to share. 73 Lonsdale Ave., Pawtucket, 728-9495, caprichosantioquenos.com

Leave a reply