A table with wine glasses

Best Inexpensive Dinnerware, Drinkware, Stainless Flatware

Recently, when one of my staff turned 30, I quipped that I have dishes older than he. It’s true.

Sometime during the late ‘80s, my husband took on the huge task of painting the dark walnut kitchen cabinets white—inside and out. Of course, that meant new hardware and lighting, too. What a transformation. To celebrate I went out and bought new dishes—white porcelain, service for 12.

A table with wine glasses, with Plate and Kitchen

Those dishes were perfect because they were classic in style, just the right size and super sturdy. Plus they were dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe.

The white dishes became our everyday, special occasion, holiday, all-purpose dinnerware. They went with everything and looked great through every season.

More than 30 years later, nothing has changed there. These dishes have made two major moves, served thousands of meals (at least), and look just as they did back in the 1980s. I just took a quick inventory and find we’ve lost only 4 salad plates in all these years.

The brand is Cafeware from Crate and Barrel, remarkably still available in a slightly upgraded style as Cafeware II. Sold open stock, this dinnerware is perfect in every way.

If my math is correct, today my set of Cafeware would run more than $300 if I were to replace it with Cafeware II. But honestly, I don’t think I would do that. For that price, I could do so much better.

Instead, I would opt for my pick for Best Inexpensive™ porcelain dinnerware, AmazonBasics 16-Piece Dinnerware Set Service for 6. While not identical to Cafeware II, these dishes are so close in both quality and appeal it is quite amazing.

For glassware, my pick for Best Inexpensive™ is Galaxy Glassware 12-piece Set. This set includes four each of three sizes—7 ounces, 13 ounces, and 17 ounces.

Here is my Best Inexpensive™ pick for stemware to complete a beautiful table setting: Libbey Wine Party 12-piece Stemware Glass Set, which includes a full dozen 12.5-ounce stemware shaped to equally accommodate red and white wines.

When it comes to flatware, I may be pickier than average, but here goes: I can’t tolerate eating utensils that do not feel great in my hand. Flatware needs to be properly weighted and made of quality materials. Flatware needs to come out of the dishwasher sparkling. My pick for Best Inexpensive™ flatware is Dokaworld Flatware Set of 20-pieces. Perfect for everyday and special occasions, too.

As for my venerable Cafeware, in researching for this post, I find that the original dinnerware is fetching inflated prices on the secondary market. And in doing so, I came across four original Cafeware salad plates for a healthy $36—three times what I paid. But given the history and my fondness for these dishes, I went for it. Soon, my set of Cafeware dinnerware will, once again, be complete.


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5 replies
  1. Dana says:

    Hi Mary,
    Your link for “Best Inexpensive™ porcelain dinnerware, AmazonBasics 16-Piece Dinnerware Set Service for 6, about $30 per set, or $60 to serve 12. Is actually a service for 4. So, it would be about $90 to serve 12. 😉
    Love looking at your “Best Inexpensive” picks for everything! I have a Shark- love it and plan to buy some electric mattress pads per your recommendation.
    Mrs. M.
    P.S. I have Corelle and love its durability and how well it stacks.

  2. MaryM says:

    I also have the Cafeware from the ’80’s. The link to Cafeware II looks nothing
    Iike it (or your photo), it seems to be coupe style insread of the nice wide border. Just broke my Cafeware platter last week! Amazingly durable..

  3. Pat Vincent says:

    Does the flatware leave marks on the plates? That is the problem I have. My son and daughter in law have the same dishes and still look new after almost 6 years. Mine at the same age have many marks on the surface so I’m sure it comes from the utensils. Any ideas?

  4. greta says:

    I love your choices and I completely agree with the flatware and its weight/feel in your hand. For glassware, I also look for items with completely FLAT bottoms so they dry better in a dishwasher. You have lovely dinnerware, but I prefer something lighter-weight, so I use Corelle. The newer pottery-like pieces take up SO much cupboard space that I don’t like to sacrifice that. I did purchase similar pieces many years ago from a similar store, but apparently they were a cheaper knock-off. The glazing began to crackle after a few years. 🙁 Your pieces look like a perfect balance with their style, weight and beauty. Thanks for a delightful post today!

  5. Pat Goff says:

    I myself love vintage dishware. I still have the set of dishes (and use them daily, they remind me of correlle) that we bought in Paris on our honeymoon. I still remember being scared they would break on the bus on the way home. We took a tour and shopped while we were there more than we should have. I have my grandmothers silverware and love them. I hate using those light aluminum ones that my daughter has. They feel like you are holding plastic. I also have my other grandmothers German dishes and then there are the dishes I bought in East Germany when the wall was still up. I think I even have dishes in the garage. Way to many but maybe one day I can pass them on to my granddaughter.

    Things were made so much better in the past because people were proud of their work. I have several serving dishes I bought in Poland that we use all the time and then there are the old multi colored purex dishes for casseroles………. Lots of memories every time we use them. The tea kettle that sits on the stove has been in every house I have ever owned since 1982 and we use my grandmothers old aluminum (heavy) tea kettle to put water in the dogs bowl (which is an old stoneware bowl that came from her house. I use an old stoneware sauerkraut pot for a trashcan in the bathroom…. So much history around the house.


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