Where to Find Global Cheap Eats in Rhode Island
From Colombian to Vietnamese to Indian, these international restaurants will keep your wallet in check.
Ramen is so much more than a vending machine’s just-add-hot-water, instant lunch. By Grace Lentini
More than a microwavable meal in a cup (not that there’s anything wrong with that in a pinch!), ramen involves a Japanese broth that’s savory, time-intensive and robust, accompanied by chewy noodles that can be wavy or straight. The dish is topped with a variety of savory, sweet or umami accoutrements like sliced pork belly, bean sprouts, corn and bamboo shoots. It’s comfort food, no matter the time of year.
In an unassuming and cozy home-turned-restaurant is this pan-Asian gem. Choose from a variety of noodle dishes and just add wavy ramen to it as your noodle option. You can still enjoy the fun texture of ramen while exploring how it blends with a Thai tom yum soup or a Vietnamese pho. Better yet, this place is BYOB, so you can drink exactly what you like during this foodie adventure. 87 Oak St., Westerly, 596-9559, facebook.com/noodlerevolution
Diners here have the option of topping their twenty-four-hour simmered ramen with thinly sliced chashu pork, a pork belly that is braised to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The traditional ingredient is an absolute must for the full ramen experience. However, there are seafood and vegetarian ramen dishes that are just as satisfying, like the vegetable shoyu ramen with fried tofu, a soft-boiled egg, wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots, all nestled in a vegetable broth and soy sauce base. 531 Wood St., Bristol, 396-5036, sakuratani-ramen.com
Boru Noodle Bar
Less is more when it comes to the ramen menu (and other delicious options like the pork buns). The best bet for first-timers is the house ramen. Pork belly, napa cabbage and a soft-boiled egg top the classic crimped noodles. For the more adventurous ramen enthusiast, there are seasonal specials that showcase the chef’s skills and incorporate local favorites, like lobster, in tasty ways. 36 Broadway, Newport, 846-4200, borunoodlebar.com
Upholding ramen culture in the heart of downcity Providence, this cash-only, no-reservations restaurant has very limited seating. While eating here, you’ll notice extreme attention to detail in every ramen bowl. There’s an undeniable amount of pride in both taste and presentation, so much so that there’s a limited takeout menu. But trust us, after one slurp of the ramen broth, you’ll understand why. For example, Ken’s paitan ramen base has been simmered for thirty hours using a whole chicken. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or rather, the broth. 69 Washington St., Providence, kens-ramen.com
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza gives us the details on some of his favorite multicultural restaurants in the city. By Jamie Coelho
What do you think about Providence’s multicultural dining scene? What cultures are best represented here in local restaurants?
Providence has a world-class multicultural dining scene that mirrors the city’s diversity and inclusivity. Our vibrant and eclectic neighborhoods are home to restaurants that draw inspiration, techniques and flavors from virtually every continent. The many award-winning dining options the Capital City offers are a big part of our growing reputation as one of the best cities to visit, work and live.
What are some of your favorite international restaurants in Providence and why do you love them?
El Rancho Grande is a family-owned and operated restaurant located in my neighborhood that offers some of the best authentic Mexican cuisine in the entire state. Los Andes is also known for its outstanding service, warm atmosphere, an incredible outdoor section and delicious Peruvian and Bolivian dishes.
Do you have a number one favorite international dish to get at a local spot?
Pho soup at Pho Horn’s for Vietnamese; spicy shrimp tempura at Sakura for Chinese/Japanese; tacos de playa at El Rancho Grande; chimpum callao at Los Andes; curry goat at Flames; Greek food at Yoleni’s; tripe at the Old Canteen; and a chicken wrap at East Side Pockets.
Where should we try Guatemalan food, and what should we order when we’re there?
Mi Guatemala Restaurant, Mi Ranchito and El Chapin offer great Guatemalan cuisine. While there are several dishes that I could suggest, the traditional carne asada is something that you must try.
Did you visit any local restaurants as a kid that still exist today?
John’s New York Systems on Cranston Street.
What’s Providence’s best kept secret in the international food scene?
La Lupita tacos. It’s healthy, cheap and fast!
Where to go for Vietnamese pho in the Ocean State.
Pho — pronounced “fuh,” not “foe” — is a Vietnamese soup made with rice noodles, herbs, meat and broth (often made with beef bones, onion, ginger, star anise and fish sauce that’s simmered slow and low for six to ten hours). It’s usually served with piles of fresh basil and raw bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos and fresh cut lime slices that you squeeze and stir into the broth. Here are some local spots to try it.
Hons House of Noodle Soup
The pho broth is made from scratch with beef bones that boil for eight hours, then beef and chicken broths are added with onion and eight herbs to simmer another ninety minutes. Go traditional by adding rare steak, beef tendon and flank, or choose vegetables and tofu or seafood and pork. Scallions, onion and cilantro are sprinkled on top and it’s served with bean sprouts, lime slices, fresh Thai basil and sliced jalapeno. 90 Reservoir Ave., Cranston, 946-2188, honscranston.com
This unassuming strip mall in Pawtucket is the site of Rhode Island’s hottest pho spot. The Vietnamese restaurant’s sinus-clearing beef broth simmers for a whole day, then diners can choose from rice or yellow noodles, and meat options that cover everything from sliced steak and shredded chicken to tendon and tripe. 50 Ann Mary St., Pawtucket, 365-6278, phohorns.com
Some of the best restaurants can be found in strip malls, and Sunrise is no different with its BYOB policy. Sit in the dining room, where pho is best enjoyed, and slurp up the steamy, cold-kicking soup filled with fresh herbs, rice noodles and the beef cut of your choice. Go for a medium or large bowl with flank, brisket, tendon, tripe, beef meatballs, shredded chicken or a pho combo. 823 West Main Rd., Middletown, 848-2252, sunriseviet.com
This husband and wife team has been in business since 2005, serving noodle soup made with the freshest, healthiest ingredients. You can go as authentic as you like with a soup mixed with eye-round steak, beef brisket, tendon and tripe or dip your toes into Vietnamese cuisine with a broth stocked with shredded white meat chicken or vegetables and tofu. 1096 Park Ave., Cranston, 383-8071, minhhairestaurant.com –J.C.
Make Way for Dumplings
Try these international snacks of dough stuffed with savory fillings. By Jamie Samons
Name: Bao, China
Dough: Yeasted wheat: steamed in a bamboo steamer until fluffy like a pillow
Filling: Spiced meat, vegetables or sweet red bean paste
Try it: Tom’s BaoBao, 326 Westminster St., Providence, 714-0250, tomsbaobao.com
Name: Samosa, India
Dough: Wheat: fried
Filling: Vegetables (peas, potatoes and spice), meat (lamb or ground beef with potato, onion and spice) and chicken with mixed vegetables
Sauce: Spicy green chutney and sweeter brown chutney for a tangy kick
Try it: Not Just Snacks, 833 Hope St., Providence, 831-1150, notjustsnacks.com
Name: Pierogi, Poland
Dough: Wheat: boiled, then pan-fried in butter
Filling: Potato, cheese, sauerkraut, spiced meat
Sauce: Butter and fried onions
Try it: Krakow Deli, 855 Social St., Woonsocket, 765-4600, facebook.com/krakowdelibakerysmokehouse
Name: Pastelito or Empanada, Dominican Republic, Central and South America
Dough: Local artisan dough
Filling: Everything from jamon and queso to braised plantains, fried salami and fried cheese balls with pickled onions
Sauce: Occasionally crema
Try it: Matilda Pastelito/Empanada popups at farmers markets, matildari.com
Name: Knish, Eastern European
Dough: Wheat: baked
Filling: Potato, onion, spinach, cheese
Try it: Mercer’s Delicatessen, 485 Angell St., Providence, 443-5249, mercersdeli.com
Name: Man-doo, Korea
Dough: Wheat: steamed, boiled or fried
Filling: Meat, vegetables, kimchi
Sauce: Rice vinegar, soy sauce with apple vinegar
Try it: Sun and Moon Korean Restaurant, 95 Warren Ave., East Providence, 435-0214, sunandmoonkorean.com
A taste of our favorite Greek and Middle Eastern dishes around the area. By Samantha Labrecque.
What: Hot meze platter
Where: Kleos, 250 Westminster St., Providence, 443-4083, facbook.com/kleospvd
How it’s made: The platter offers an abundant selection: spanakopita (a traditional spinach, cheese and herb pie layered in filo dough), dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and herbs), loucanico (grilled Greek sausage scented with orange), keftedes (crispy spiced meatballs), fresh vegetables (tomato, cucumber, pepperoncini peppers and Kleos’ own family-imported Kalamata olives), tzatziki (Greek yogurt, garlic and cucumber sauce) and hand cut french fries topped with oregano.
Why you should try it: This sized-to-share platter gives you the chance to sample a little bit of everything, so you don’t have to pick and choose.
What: Sonia’s falafel
Where: Sonia’s Near East Market and Deli, 816 Park Ave., Cranston, 941-9300, soniasdeli.com
How it’s made: Falafel, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, tabbouleh, banana peppers and hummus are drizzled with sesame-tahini dressing and wrapped together in pita bread.
Why you should try it: Get a taste of Middle Eastern cuisine with the first bite of Sonia’s signature falafel. Loaded with “the works,” it’s downright delicious and its hefty portion size doubles as two meals in one.
What: Traditional gyro
Where: The Simple Greek, 73 Highland Ave., East Providence, 431-4030; 111 Hillside Rd., Cranston, 443-2344, thesimplegreek.com
How it’s made: Traditional gyro meat — a mix of beef and lamb — is shaved off rotating spits, while tomatoes, red onion and homemade tzatziki sauce are rolled in pita bread with the meat. The sauce is made fresh daily with Greek yogurt, Greek spices and freshly shredded cucumbers.
Why you should try it: The traditional gyro combines tender, juicy gyro meat complemented by the tzatziki sauce.
What: Grape leaves
Where: Yoleni’s, 292 Westminster St., Providence, 500-1127, yolenis.com
How it’s made: Grapes leaves are boiled in water, stuffed with rice and a mixture of sauteed onions, garlic and Mediterranean herbs, and folded to make tiny envelopes of flavor.
Why you should try it: Be transported to Greece by savoring Mediterranean paired along with dill and lemon juice, rolled up in small, but healthy, packages.