Rhode Island’s Best Clam Shacks 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Summertime in Rhode Island without a visit to your favorite clam shack would be like the summer Olympics without swimming -- just not complete! Just in time for summer's last, final hurrah, we revisited some favorites and found a few new ones. One thing is for sure, Rhode Island does clam shacks oh, so right!
Flo's Clam Shack, Portsmouth
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If it's summer, this must be Flo's: fried scallops are just one of the delicacies that define the season in Portsmouth (and Middletown). Photo: surlygirl/flickr.
When we did last year's clam shack list we included the second...i.e. non-original, Flo's on our list. Alas, we barely lived it down...A morning meeting became a place for running Flo's jokes from the boss, so we relented and ventured to the original, and boy are we happy we did! The Island Park location provided the perfect backdrop for some clam shack love. The chowder and clam cakes set the stage for the terrific fried scallops and fish and chips that followed. The seafood was all, as you would expect, very fresh and well prepared. The scallops were sweet and just crispy enough. The fish and chips was worth every penny as the nice portion of fish was light and crispy and the fries were crisp also. We prefer "real" fries as opposed to frozen but the volume most clam shacks do prevents them from doing this. You have to figure if this location has been rebuilt or refurbished four times after hurricanes it has to be good. Park Ave, 847-8141
Aunt Carrie's, Narragansett
One thing we've learned from compiling this list of clam shacks, in particular, is that this category is more personal than others. Aunt Carrie's is a favorite not just because their chowder is always creamy and chock-fill of tender clams, or because their clamcakes are always perfectly golden (not too brown) and never have that funky, old-oil flavor you can get when the frying oil has been overused. They are a Rhode Island icon that seemingly everyone has a memory from. Tucked into a corner at the end of the stretch of beach that is Scarborough, they consume the intersection with weathered picnic tables and a take-out line that always spills into the parking lot. The vibe here could not get any more beachy -- patrons covered in sand and wrapped in towels pick up their boxes full of clam cakes and lobster rolls (yum!) and fries and chowder while the t-shirt-clad sunburned teens behind the counter happily take orders and call numbers. You want the full-on Rhode Island beach clam shack experience? It's gotta be Aunt Carrie's! 1240 Ocean Rd, 783-7930. www.auntcarriesri.com
Jim's Dock, Wakefield
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A true South County gem, you've got to follow our directions to get to Jim's... and you'll be glad you did.
This is a true "hidden gem" in several dining categories...clam shacks, dock and dine, best views, and it IS literally hidden. You could drive around Wakefield for days and not find it. Because it's in East Matunuck. Or Jerusalem. See what we mean? Seems like people in the know have made it hard to find for a reason, right? Well trust us, take the East Matunuck State Beach exit off of route 1and follow it all the way down to the end. Yup, past the beach and the cottages and a rotary, you'll find Jim's Dock. Once there you'll find very reasonably-priced clam shack fare served out on the back deck with views of fishing boats and Galilee on the other side. We got to spend a quiet hour sitting there enjoying chowder and clam cakes and fried clam strips that rivaled the best we've ever had, with a 6-pack of Narragansett. It seemed fitting, no? You can have what ever you like at Jim's because it's B.Y.O.B. 1175 Succotash Rd. 783-2050, www.jims-dock.com
Rebecca's, Block Island
As a three-summer island resident, the gentleman of our duo literally can't remember the number of times Rebecca's saved the day with late night eats after closing the kitchen. It wasn't until a group of family members visited that he discovered that Rebecca's was actually open during the day. Turns out it has pretty good clam shack food going on too! A more recent--and lucid--trip over to the Block found the same good clam cakes and chowder along with some good fried scallops. This is take-out window clam shacking, so don't expect 5-star service. Nearby picnic tables make for nice views of the waterfront and all the activity down there. It's really how this food should be enjoyed anyway, right? White linens and stuffy waiters would not enhance this dining experience. 435 Water St. 466-5411.
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Lobster with that? Watch the boats unload, and watch it come to your table, at Champlins.
You've gotta love a seafood wholesaler/retailer that opens its own restaurant. You know the seafood is close by! In the case of Champlins, you can see the boats unloading the fish; you can see the retail fish market selling the fish; and you can see the fresh fish going in the backdoor of the restaurant. It doesn't get any more fresh and local than that. For more than 70 years they have been selling fresh, tasty seafood here and the restaurant is just an extension of that. It's a little more formal than some of our other choices but a large family group found the top deck to be a good place to sample just about all that Champlin's could send at us. The favorite among the group was the chowder...even the blasphemous Manhattan version. We tried them all and were happy with the flavor and the clam to broth ratio. We liked the different texture of the flounder used in the fish and chips but missed the meatiness of cod, if that makes any sense. The service is clam-shacky but the freshness more than made up for any issues we had. 256 Great Island Rd. 783-3152, www.champlins.com
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