With things coming to some minuscule semblance of normalcy and as Providence springs into the gorgeous spring weather, you might find yourself venturing out into the real world (in a safe way ofc!). Among the many things Providence is known for, great food is probably somewhere at the very top of the list. As you venture out onto Thayer––or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, outside the Brown bubble!—you’ll notice that there are so many great options for whatever it is you’re in the mood for. Of course, this then entails making difficult choices. So post- is here with our very own version of Worth It, the Brown edition. Where we (well, my friends and I) are taking a look at three* different options for everyone’s favorite indulgences at three drastically (well, not really, being broke is part of the college experience after all) different price points to see which Providence restaurants are the most Worth It at its price.
*or more, or less, numbers are fake.
For any city to qualify as perky, as Providence clearly is, it needs to have its fair share of quaint cafes. Brown is no exception. Providence is home to plenty of amazing places to grab a good ol’ cup o’ joe for when you need that caffeine hit. Of course, it would be unfair to compare apples to oranges, and each coffee shop has its own specialty, so for our Worth It contenders, we stick to two of my cafe go-tos.
$: Dave’s Coffee (341 South Main Street) $3.00
Dave’s is a RI favorite and the place to go if you’re looking for the famous RI coffee milk. Located down the hill on South Main Street, Dave’s has some fantastic in-store aesthetics and cool seasonal flavors, but the core latte range doesn’t quite hold its own against its Wickenden competitors.
$$: The Coffee Exchange (207 Wickenden Street) $3.50
Located in the heart of Wickenden Street, Coffee Exchange is the coffee lover’s dream. Home to some of the best beans in town, it is your one-stop shop for everything coffee. If you’re looking for a great espresso blend, or beans from pretty much any corner of the globe, Coffee Exchange has it freshly roasted every day! Although beans are definitely their specialty, they have a wide array of drinks for you to enjoy in-house or on the go. Coffee Exchange has hands down the best latte. The espresso is the highest quality, rendering a smooth, well-blended latte at a great price! You’ll also never get tired of the latte as they have a rotating espresso blend if you’re looking to change things up (but you can also stick to the house blend, if you’re looking for a familiar favorite). Coffee Exchange is not only home to great coffee but also a great atmosphere, with outdoor seating, outstanding service, and great decor indoors (there are board games and books too!). Unfortunately, this also means that it can get crowded really fast.
$$$: Blue State Coffee (300 Thayer Street and 244 Thayer Street) $4.00
Located in not just one but two spots on Thayer Street (apparently some kind of theme with shops on Thayer), Blue State is a popular option for those looking for a hipper coffee shop than Starbucks, or dare I say, Dunkin’. It’s also one of the few places where you can use Bear Bucks! Blue State’s lattes are a bit on the expensive side but you can expect some fantastic latte art and the nicest baristas! A Blue State latte is dependable, and decent, though overall lacks a unique character to add that extra buzz.
Worth It Winner: Coffee Exchange hands down.
Shout out to The Shop for similarly great coffee and a very coherent rustic vibe. Great for getting coffee to-go for walks in India Point Park.
$: Bagel Gourmet (250 Brook Street & 288 Thayer Street) $2.80
If you’ve been to Bagel Gourmet, (which, if you haven’t, you really need to, like right now) you probably know that they have so much more than just amazing bagels. Located on Brook Street (it’s still there, but not for long, so go while you still can!), Bagel Gourmet is a campus favorite, especially for folks off meal plan, because it is the perfect place to start off your day. While they’re known for their bagels, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, they’re also home to amazing iced coffee. While the coffee itself isn’t particularly noteworthy and is incomplete without the generous helping of cream and sugar, this is a must-have!
$$: The Coffee Exchange (207 Wickenden Street) $3.75
You know, not surprisingly, they make great coffee, and you need to go! (Blue State and The Shop are great in this price range too!)
$$$: Madrid European Bakery and Patisserie (199 Wayland Avenue) $4.00
Home to amazing authentic European pastries, this new bakery is located in historic Wayland Square. While they specialize in pastries (and if you stop by you won’t be able to resist grabbing one), they have amazing coffee to go with the pastries! The iced coffee is a beautiful dark roast blend that will perfectly balance any sweet treat you buy. Heck, it’s so good, it’s almost like drinking dark chocolate (but with the coffee flavor).
Worth It Winner: Bagel Gourmet, but a special shout-out to Madrid.
Alright, so now that we’re done with coffee, on to some real food.
You’re probably at the point where having another slice of pizza from Andrews seems insufferable. So where do you go to get some good pizza for once?
$: Antonio’s (256 Thayer Street)
Right in the middle of Thayer Street, Antonio’s is a casual pizzeria serving traditional, thin-crust & Sicilian pies, and much more. Definitely a hot spot for a late-night slice. Other than that though, it might be best to stick with Andrews. There are definitely better options out there, even if they’re a bit more expensive. As an aside, for all the people who are critical of pineapples on pizza, Antonios takes it a step further: potatoes DO NOT belong on pizza.
$$: Fellini Pizzeria (166 Wickenden Street) ~$3-4 a slice
Now, if you’re really looking for that perfect slice, step out of the bubble and head to Wickenden. Fellini is a quaint rustic pizza place??shop? reminiscent of a classic NY pizza place. Great place to go grab a quick slice of pizza late at night or for a nice midday meal. You will never be able to go back to Andrew’s pizza, or really any other pizza, after you make your way to Fellini.
$$$: Flatbread Company (161 Cushing Street)
Flatbread is serving up your traditional pizza with a little bit of a twist. Made with great ingredients, this one is more of a departmental event pizza. This is one for when you need to sit down (you know, when that’s allowed again). Definitely great pizza, but unlike other places, this is less of a casual “grab a quick slice at 2 a.m.” pizza place.
Worth It Winner: Fellini
Whether you’re toasting to a special occasion or just casually hanging out with your friends, Providence is home to some great bars. (This category is based on pre-COVID-19 visits and is intended for when we finally get out of this nightmare :) )
$: The Grad Center Bar (Grad Center)
Look, I have a special place in my heart for the GCB. So I asked my friend Chris to give an unbiased review. For my thoughts, you can always check out this article. The GCB has an atmosphere like no other. Its laid-back ambiance makes it the perfect place for a casual night out with friends, something other fancier cocktail bars don’t offer. The GCB has an incredible selection of drinks at an amazing price. However, rotating bartenders equal a rotating quality of cocktails. And what are you doing ordering cocktails instead of their amazing range of beers anyway? *I’d like to push back on that a bit: the Nor’easter is amazing and is one of a kind. Not to mention special cocktails you can’t find anywhere like the Brown University.
$$$: The East End (244 Wickenden Street)
Located on Wickenden, the East End stands in the place of a former Victorian-era bar. The East End is definitely on the pricey end but it’s home to award-winning chefs and bartenders and the biggest wine selection outside of New York City. The East End has a wide variety of inventive cocktails that somehow never miss the mark. If you find yourself at the East End, be sure to try our cocktail picks: If You Like Pina Coladas, ’69 El Camino, Overnight Oats.
Worth-It Winner: The East End
$: Jo’s (Vartan Gregorian Quad) 1 meal credit.
You know I can’t advocate for this as well as Gus can, so… “A Jo’s quesadilla is like a nice Saturday morning. There is so much promise there, so much potential, and we are able to turn it into a sinfully delicious and enjoyable experience tailored to our specific desires. Whether you want to live spicily, or live simply, the quesadilla affords you a lot of options and brings a lot of joy, smothered in cheesy goodness and guaranteed to fill you up. Plus, in the past, the BUDS workers at the quesadilla station have traditionally been awesome, and I miss them a lot.”
$$: Baja’s (227 & 273 Thayer Street) ~$8.64
Baja’s is such a fan favorite that it warranted having two shops on the same street. Some folks will tell you that OG Baja’s (Baja’s Tex-Mex) is significantly better than its counterpart, but the menu is essentially the same. Baja’s is the go-to place when you’re in need of some 2 a.m. sinful goodness. While not the most authentic, Baja’s quesadillas are a true gift from cheese heaven and are by far the most bang for its buck.
$$$: Tallulah’s Taqueria (161 Cushing Street) ~$10.00
Further off on Ives Street, Tallulah’s is what Baja’s grows up to become. Tallulah’s offers incredible food and solid al fresco seating. Tallulah’s is definitely more authentic than Baja’s but the food is on the pricey side and it is a bit further if you live close to campus.
Worth-It Winner: Baja’s. You know this one was tough. All of these are incredible options. But something about filing into the comfort of your local Baja’s at 2 a.m. to come out with a warm quesadilla really sets them apart.
Whether you’re looking for a socially acceptable reason for drinking in the morning or are pretending to eat breakfast, Providence has a bunch of great brunch options.
$: Loui’s (286 Brook Street)
Loui’s is one of those places that lives in Brown folklore. This place is famous for a bunch of reasons. While definitely bohemian aesthetically, this place foodwise is very much your run-of-the-mill breakfast diner. Our pick: the oatmeal pancakes. (Or a beer at 5 a.m. after a reckless night at Spring Weekend otherwise known as the Loui’s Challenge?) Or coffee and anything at 5 a.m. because at that point any food is good food. Nothing beats Loui’s prices. An example of choosing quantity over quality, but that’s part of the charm. Like a B movie that you hate to love.
$$: Amy’s Place (214 Wickenden Street)
Located opposite to Coffee Exchange, Amy’s Place is the perfect spot to start your day. Amy’s is a truly unique establishment, moving away from the classic American diner and flirting with the bougie cafe vibe, but with incredibly well-done, inventive takes on classic brunch food.
$$$: The Duck and Bunny (312 Wickenden Street)
For all you young ones out there, you’ve probably never experienced the pure joy that was once walking into Duck and Bunny. Also located on Wickenden, Duck and Bunny is located within a historic Providence house. Duck and Bunny offers classic brunch options with a sophisticated touch.
Worth-It Winner: Amy’s
Gotta end with dessert, ya know?
$: Dunkin’ (133 Gano Street)
It’s a New England Institution and the perfect place to grab a quick donut for a cheap price. That being said, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Dunkin’ Donuts. To quote an unnamed friend: “If the country runs on Dunkin’, I think we’ve found our problem”.
$$: PVDonuts (79 Ives Street)
Located on the intersection of Wickenden and Ives, PVDonuts is serving up truly inventive gourmet donuts made with local ingredients. This place takes food for the ’gram to a whole new level. This place is full of frills, but it can be a bit of a sugar overload.
$$$: Knead (Closest option is inside of Ceremony Tea at 231 Thayer Street)
Sometimes it’s about the simple things in life, and here Knead really takes the donut (cake). Knead offers gourmet doughnuts that are the platonic ideal of a donut, but with the faint sheen of sophistication. While on the pricey end, and definitely sparing the frills when compared to PVD, you will not leave disappointed.
Worth-It Winner: Knead