All college students can agree on one thing: food is a priority, whether you have a meal plan, a kitchen of your own, or you’re sticking to a ramen noodle diet.
When I got to Johnson & Wales University, I started living on a meal plan option and quickly realized that I was not a big fan of the food choices it left me with. After spending a year hunting for alternatives (harder than people look for Pokémon), I was able to compile this list so that you don’t have to. Use this guide as a base for your daily food struggles when in Prov, and you’ll never end a day unsatisfied.
1. When you need to grab lunch for under $10 in between classes: UMelt
Yes, there’s a place solely dedicated to the holy grail of lunches, grilled cheese sandwiches. Seating is limited, but UMelt is perfect for an on-the-go, quick lunch that doesn’t come from a dining hall.
What to Order: The White Trash (mac n’ cheese, cheddar cheese, BBQ pulled pork and sourdough bread) with a tomato bisque on the side.
Location: 129 Weybosset St. Providence, RI 02903 (directly across from Gaebe Commons)
2. When you’re craving a burger: Harry’s Bar & Burger
Whether you’re looking for a protein-packed lunch or you have midnight munchies, Harry’s has got your back. They’re open everyday from 11:30 am until 1 am on weeknights, and 2 am on weekends. And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, you can even order a spiked shake or root beer float.
What to Order: The M.O.A.B (Mother of All Burgers) and a chocolate brownie spiked shake.
Location: 121 North Main St. Providence, RI 02903 and 301 Atwells Ave. Providence, RI 02903
3. When you’re sick of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts: Dave’s Coffee
Rhode Island’s official state drink is coffee milk, and you can find some of the best at Dave’s. Not only can you buy a classic cup of joe, you can purchase coffee grounds, coffee syrup, and coffee milk (if you’re a DIY person). The providence location is open from 7 am to 7 pm, which makes it the perfect place for any quick before-class caffeine snag you may find yourself in.
What to Order: A Frozen Mocha Java (two shots of cold brewed espresso and pure dark chocolate syrup blended with milk) or a Milky Way Latte (two shots of Dave’s espresso blend, caramel syrup, pure dark chocolate syrup, and steamed milk).
Location: 341 S Main St Providence, RI 02903
4. When you’re going on a Tinder date: Ken’s Ramen
If you want to take your college diet to a whole new level Ken’s Ramen is the place to do it. The Supreme sticker-covered walls, loud music, and young crowd are worth a swipe right for sure. Since Ken’s simmers some broths for over 30 hours, some ramen options are only available for dinner which makes this a much better option for dinner rather than lunch dates. Expect a wait (because the place is small), but don’t let that deter you from my all-time favorite spot in Providence.
#SpoonTip: They only take cash so be sure to hit up an ATM ahead of time.
What to Order: Ken’s Paitan Ramen with chicken (feel free to mix n’ match the other toppings) and a side of shishito peppers.
Location: 69 Washington St. Providence, RI 02903 (About a five minute walk from the Downcity Campus)
5. When you’re trying to impress bae: Cafe Nuovo
Ideal date: watch the WaterFire Ceremony on the outdoor patio of Cafe Nuovo while indulging in their delectable dishes and beautiful desserts. Cafe Nuovo can get a lil pricey, but they participate in Providence Restaurant Week during which you can get a three course meal for about $35.
#SpoonTip: If you order a coffee with dessert, they’ll bring a jar of colorful rock candy as your sugar.
What to Order: Creamy tomato soup with grilled corn and goat cheese crostini, the boneless beef short rib entree, and the Pot of Mousse dessert (pictured above).
Location: 1 Citizens Plaza, Providence, RI 02903
6. When you’re craving a slice: Providence Coal Fired Pizza
Admit it, finding good pizza outside of New York City can be very difficult. Personally, I vowed to never eat pizza in Rhode Island when I got to school because the stuff simply doesn’t compare…Until I found Providence Coal Fired Pizza (months after arriving in Providence).
What to Order: Coal fired wings and a meatball pizza (if you’re looking for a #foodgasm).
Location: 385 Westminster St Providence, RI 02903 (walking distance from Gaebe Commons)
7. When you’re craving something sweet: Allie’s Donuts
Allie’s has the best doughnuts I’ve ever had, and believe me, I’ve had more than my fair share of doughnuts. It took me months to finally make the drive to Allie’s small doughnut heaven, and I’m still kicking myself for not getting to it sooner. Their doughnuts are absolutely to die for. Seriously, go.
What to Order: Everything. Just kidding (not really), but anything from the basic powdered sugar or frosted with sprinkles will do the trick.
Location: 3661 Quaker Lane, Route 2, North Kingstown, RI
8. When your parents are visiting, and they’re footing the bill: Gracie’s
Providence’s best fine dining experience can be found just five minutes from the Downcity campus at Gracie’s, but like all great things, it comes at a price (aka make sure this is on your parents’ weekend bucket list).
What to Order: Russet potato gnocchi for a first course, Georges Bank sea scallops for a second course, and the honey chocolate mousse for dessert.
Location: 194 Washington Street Providence, Rhode Island 02903
9. When you want to watch the game: Hanley’s Ale House
#SpoonTip: Don’t miss Karaoke Mondays nor 18+ College Night Thursdays.
What to Order: Fried pickles (soooo good) and a buffalo chicken Hanley’s wrap.
Location: 52 Pine Street Providence, Rhode Island 02903
10. When you or your friends don’t eat meat: Veggie Fun
Never did I ever think that I would say the words “veggie” and “fun” in the same sentence, at least not until I found this place. Their pan-asian menu is vegan, kosher, and very affordable.
What to Order: Scallion pancakes and stir-fried udon noodles.
Location: 123 Dorrance St, Providence, RI 02903 (directly behind McNulty Hall)
11. When you’re hungover, and in desperate need of brunch: Julian’s
If you can manage to make it there, Julian’s will please your eyes as much as it does your stomach. The walls are covered in artwork including the bathroom’s display of Pez candy dispensers, and the plates are absolutely gorgeous.
What to Order: Shakshuka (two eggs poached in spicy tomato stew, with lemon tahini and fresh parsley) with home fries and garlic bread (pictured above) and a bloody mary.
Location: 318 Broadway Providence (Fed Hill) 02909
12. When it’s 1am and you’re craving something greasy: Saki’s
What to Order: Whatever your little heart desires, mozzarella sticks, calzones, french fries, etc.
Location: 199 Weybosset Street, Providence 02903