7 Cheap and Spicy Restaurants

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Need a new year’s food resolution that doesn’t involve dieting? Vow to try something you’ve never had before from one of these casual ethnic joints, where most entrees come in at less than $10.


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You know when Vietnamese sandwiches make the appetizer list at the Cheesecake Factory that they’ve entered the cultural Zeitgeist. Still, if you want the authentic thing (and the best version of it) order the bahn mi at Asian Bakery and Fast Food in Providence. A large baguette is piled high with pickled vegetables, ham, tofu or barbecued pork. Super fresh and super cheap - $3-4 makes the trek to this hole in the wall totally worth it. 310 Broad St, Providence, 421-1144.

If you’d rather dine in than take it on the run, Minh Hai restaurant in Cranston is the place to go for super-fresh and spicy Vietnamese. We’re a fan of the clay pot cooking there as it tends to caramelize the flavors, and the com tay cam, with shrimp, chicken, beans and vegetables is our go-to dish. But nothing beats the goi bo – a spicy grilled beef salad with pickled carrots, daikon and a smoky dressing. Addictive! And most everything is under $10. 1096 Park Ave, Cranston, 383-8071.

South of the Border

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Ah, the arepa. We didn’t know what we were missing out on before the Venezuelan sandwich came into our lives. La Arepa in Providence began as a food truck in 2003 and did so well that they moved into a 50-seat restaurant a few years ago. Simple and tasty stewed and shredded beef, pork or chicken is stacked onto a soft corn cake – think corn breads meets a soft dinner roll. This is how we like them best, as it allows for the flavor of the meat to shine. But you can order them a dozen other ways – with cheese, avocado, beans and a host of other ingredients. 574 Smithfield Ave, 335-3711.

The adobo pork and chicken pepita are a couple of the go-to entrees at Mi Guatemala, a popular Central America restaurant on the other side of Federal Hill. The former is stewed in tomatoes, garlic, peppers and spices for a deep, spicy yet savory flavor. The latter, chicken with pumpkin seeds, is a dish you’ll see on neighboring tables. Everything comes with thick, fresh

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tortillas, salad, rice and soup. And all for less than $15. 1049 Atwells Ave, Providence, 621-9147.

If Mexican food is about as ethnic as you are willing to eat, then commit to a meal at Taqueria Lupita in Central Falls. Everything here is as fresh and homemade and authentic as it possibly could be (and keep in mind, authentic for Mexican food means spicy). Tortillas, guacamole, horchata, refried beans, tamales…it is all here and if you’ve never had homemade Mexican, you’re in for a palate-pleasing treat. Fish tacos are as simple as can be – pan-seared white fish, lime, garlic and cilantro in a tortilla. Not to be missed – an unusual version of chiles rellenos topped with a spicy fruit and nut mixture. 765 Dexter St, Central Falls, 724-2650.

West African

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Fans of Elea’s in South Providence panicked when they heard this decade-old African restaurant had closed. Lucky for them it’s not true, though they do close at 8 pm daily, so arrive early. The menu consists of just-cooked stews, soups, rice dishes and fried chicken, as well as kebobs, salads and seafood. If you want spicy and authentic, order the fufu – a hot pepper soup served with okra. 711 Broad St, Providence, 866-367-7120.

The menu at the Village Restaurant in Pawtucket is pretty adventurous if you aren’t familiar with West African cooking. There will be lots of items you won’t recognize – iyan (yam paste), eba (a dough that you eat with your fingers and dip into soup and stew) and gbegiri (bean stew). But the staff is helpful and chef/owner Toyin will adjust the seasonings if your palate can’t handle intense spices. And there are more familiar meat pies and shish kebobs for the fainter-of-heart. 200 Main St, Pawtucket, 575-1180.


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