The Cheap New England Traveler Blog is a blog of VisitingNewEngland, a web site that features real New England travel stories told by a lifelong local.

Subscribe to The Cheap New England Traveler Blog

New England Cheap Eats Restaurant Hall of Fame

Share this New England story on

Photo of Markey's in Seabrook NH
Markey's Lobster Pool, Seabrook, N.H. (photo by Eric H.)

Every week, we’ll be featuring affordable restaurants in New England that consistently offer great value for the money.

Not all restaurants that have good value will make it to our list, however. That given restaurant has to offer a nice atmosphere for its genre (diner, upscale, mom and pop, ethnic, family-friendly, etc.), items in the menu for under $10, and display cleanliness and great service. Pride of ownership is essential in us determining whether a restaurant qualifies for the Cheap Eats Hall of Fame.

We would also love to hear from you — please feel free to share your favorite Cheap Eats dining spots in New England. You can also post a comment in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of this post.

Check back in to this page, as we will be updating frequently!

Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret Owners Barry and Brian Jessurun have made it easy for us to place the Vanilla Bean Cafe in our New England Cheap Eats Hall of Fame. This cozy, restored 1840s farmhouse has a one-of-a-kind look, the food is made fresh, there’s often folk entertainment at night, and the service from a good mix of young and older staff always come through. The Jessuruns have made it clear here that they never wanted to open a boxy, generic, “anytown” USA restaurant. You can order a full sandwich at the counter for $10, and a half at $6.50 with the latter certainly being filling. You can also make your own sandwich by request. My favorites include the roast beef and cheddar, turkey and bacon, the slow-cooked chili and the ham and apple melt with apple wood smoked ham with native apples, caramelized onions, baby spinach, dijon mustard and smoked swiss on grilled pumpernickel bread. You’ll also find many blackboard dinner specials, my favorite being the smoked mozzarella and basil ravioli topped with a tomato cream sauce with a side of asparagus and asiago cheese bread.  At the Vanilla Bean, we’ve found you can order anything from the basics to the upscale without breaking the bank! Vanilla Bean Cafe, Corners of Route 44, 169 and 97, Pomfret CT. Tel. (860) 928-1562


The Maine Diner, Wells The Maine Diner is a true success story. This unassuming roadside gem got its lucky break when in 1983 when its first customer mistook the diner for a bar and drove his car into a pole near the restaurant. He stayed, as did 41 other guest that day, resulting in $41.00 of receipts. Since then, the Maine Diner has brought in several million guests, averaging up to 1,500 on a summer day! True to diner form, you’ll find the usual suspects here like pancakes, French toast, Belgians waffles, tuna melts, burgers, meatloaf, fried clams, shakes and pies. The Maine Diner, however, goes well beyond its genre by serving seafood better than most of the higher end coastal restaurants in the area. We recommend the amazing lobster pie, seafood chowder, yellow fin tuna, crab cakes, and baked stuffed haddock. The Maine Diner also has a garden in the back of the restaurant where fresh vegetables are grown!  Don’t forget to finish off your great meal with some Maine blueberry chip ice cream, Maine blueberry pie, homemade apple crisp or huge ice cream sundae. When we visit the southern Maine area, the Maine Diner is always on our “A” list. Here’s a place where you can dine on great seafood at lower prices than many of its area competitors, while enjoying the innate good value of classic diner food. Maine Diner, 2265 Post Rd., Route One Wells, Maine. Tel. 207-646-4441


Grumpy’s, East Dennis This light and breezy, moderately-sized breakfast and lunch place has many items coming in at under $10. Some specialties include huge pancakes, johnnycakes, blueberry muffins loaded with blueberries, kale soup, chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts, and a fabulous clam chowder. We’ve found that the service is personable, attentive and quick. Many of the waitresses are older, so they know what they’re doing and how to make the customer feel at home. Management has a close eye on its staff, so you’ll see no delays in clearing tables, or checking customers out at the cash register.  To us, Grumpy’s is the ultimate informal Cape Cod roadside restaurant! Grumpy’s, Route 6A, East Dennis MA. Tel. (508) 385-2911


Markey’s Lobster Pool, Seabrook This beach casual, no frills order-at-the-window restaurant serves up some amazing lobster dishes at very low prices. In the summer of 2011, we ordered a one pound lobster and a jam packed lobster roll for a little over $10 each. Both were delicious! Markey’s also specializes in reasonably priced fried seafood platters, lobster bisque, and some very good New England clam chowder. In the summer, it’s always nice to eat on the outdoor deck with some pleasant  marsh/water views.  Although the summer crowds can be hectic, Markey’s never has slipped up when we’ve ordered food, and staff has always remained composed even during the most crazy times. Unlike many seasonal lobster and clam shacks, Markey’s is open year-round! Markey’s Lobster Poll, Route 286, Seabrook NH. Tel. 603-474-2851.


The Beef Barn, North Smithfield Slow cooked roast beef with a fantastic smoky barbecue sauce, prices from last decade and a quite unique atmosphere make the Beef Barn a nice, cheap dining choice in the northern Rhode Island region. Totally unpretentious, the silverware is plastic forks and knives, counter and booths for seating, and familiar favorites like the aforementioned roast beef as well as  burgers, grilled cheese, chicken cutlet sandwich, B.L.Ts, milkshakes, apple pie and carrot cake. The service is fine and the atmosphere and decor are, well, very different from the vanilla pack of restaurants we’re used to: a silo (once part of a real farm), a huge, authentic indoor stone wall covered with antiques, wood carvings, an open kitchen, and “nooks and crannies” side rooms that feature mock chicken cages in the walls and other rural farm accents. Beef Barn, 1 Greenville Rd., North Smithfield, RI , Tel. 401-762-9880


Lyndon Freighthouse, Lyndonville The Miss Lydonville Diner gets most of the press for casual dining in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but we think that the Lyndon Freighthouse is also a worthy contender. This former 1878 freight house has historical charm and a dedication to serving breakfast and lunch sourced locally, organically and naturally. The good news is that none of it taste like cardboard — sometimes a drawback of the natural food scene. We tried a blueberry/raspberry muffins and rye and maple swirl bread, an organic omelet with organic cheddar cheese and everything was really tasty, fresh filling and cheap. Service was quite homey and personable and the atmosphere simply prototypical “Vermont” with its long farmer’s porch, rustic interior, and Vermont photos and memorabilia all over the walls. But wait, that’s not all: the Lyndon Freighthouse is not just a restaurant — it’s also a gift shop, railroad museum, coffee shop, ice cream parlor and information center. Very cool place, indeed!  The Lyndon Freighthouse, 1000 Broad St. , Lyndonville VT. Tel. (802) 626-1400

Continue here for more New England Cheap Eats Restaurant Hall of Fame Dining Reviews

Follow us on social media
Share this New England story on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *