On a short trip to Rhode Island, my boyfriend and I decided we were going to consume as much seafood as we possibly could, being that we were in New England. So with that goal in mind, we set out on our (sea)food adventures.
Flo’s Clam Shack—Middletown, R.I.
The night of our arrival, after a long long, traffic-ridden journey up to the small state, my boyfriend and I were famished and ready to start our seafood quest. Quickly flipping through the little “Rhode Island” book set in the hotel, we found Flo’s Clam Shack, under “Best Clam Shack.”
Upon arrival, the charm of the place is apparent. It’s quirky, lively, fun… and cash only. There is ocean memorabilia hung all over the walls and the ceiling, and the menu has cartoon fishies. There were families and couples alike in the spot, some regulars and other visitors (the way to really tell who was from the area, was by how they ate their clam chowder—if they dipped the fried clam cakes, they were a native), but still a fun group and place.
Armed with hunger and ambition, we ordered the fisherman’s platter, which included what felt like everything under the sea. Notably: clams, clam strips, calamari, shrimps, scallops, fish, clam cakes—all fried. All fried and delicious. It was greasy and comfort food, but I could not stop. This was the moment I fell in love with fried clams. I have had clam strips and fried seafood before, but something about this was so fresh, so new and so exciting. The whole fried clams ended up being my favorite, meaty and chewy. The runner up was the fish, which was buttery underneath the batter. The batter used on most of the items was crunchy and salty, but the food wasn’t completely drained of the frying fat. It was hard to determine what was what underneath the fried goodness so every bite was a surprise on the tongue.
We also got white clam chowder and clam cakes. The chowder was hot and fresh, and it was deffo not as thick as I thought it would be. It was pretty loose but still creamy and hearty. Dipping the clam cakes was fun, but not necessary in my opinion.
Evelyn’s Drive- In—Tiverton, R.I.
This little seafood shack was featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which we love, so when we saw it was just mere miles from Newport, we were down for the adventure. The menu is not long and prices are esoteric, as most of it is marked MKT (market price) and varies like the weather. Looking at what Evelyn’s Drive-In had to offer online beforehand, did not help us much in deciding when we got there. After moments of study and regulars getting mildly impatient, we ordered. We landed on a pint of fried clams (with the bellies!) and the intriguing lobster chow mein.
The little spot is located on a large road that felt in between towns, residential and wooded, but also set on water. There is a string of covered picnic tables right on the water, where, while we were waiting for our fried delights, we were able to look at boats.
When my boyfriend came back from picking up our food from the window, my hunger mounted and I was excited. We opened the lobster chow mein first, and I could feel my smile fall. It looked so weird. There was a thick gloppy sauce dumped heavy on top of fried noodles, drowning some sautéed vegetables and the beautiful lobster. It tasted almost as bizarre as it looked, but at the same time felt addicting. The crunch of the noodles made you come back for more even while questioning that decision. Unfortunately, the taste of the lobster was lost, but we could still tell the high quality of the ingredient.
The clams were fresh and fat, served up fried in a white Styrofoam container. This batter was less salty and greasy as at Flo’s. The clams did not go limp and have the same chewy texture I was expecting in comparison. Evelyn’s clams were more stiff and the crunchy exterior batter clung to the clams much better.
Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House—Narragansett, R.I.
Iggy’s was a suggestion given to me by a friend who has been living in Rhode Island since our time in college, so we thought it was worth a try. When we pulled up there was already a small crowd and a list of items that we were becoming familiar with by now (third time is the charm).
We decided on getting a kind of combo dinner, which includes french fries and a cup of clam chowder. We chose the combo with scallops and fried clams (just one last time). I love scallops, and I was hoping for the fat scallops that we had at Flo’s or beautiful ones I had for dinner (more to come on this later), but instead before us in our Styrofoam container, were marshmallow sized scallops. They were tiny baby ones, still fresh, but not enough scallop to even taste scallop.
The fried clams were decent, flimsy and greasy, but still had great clam taste. The batter here felt more sheer and less substantial, so all the details of the clam were moderately visible. I did not find myself addicted to these little clams as I was on our previous shack stops.
With our combo came our choice of clam chowder (white or red). Of course we chose white, who wants vegetable soup with clams in it (our interpretation of red/ Mahattan style clam chowder). This chowder was much much thicker than our bowl at Flo’s. It felt much heavier and creamier, almost like a clam gravy. All the ingredients were masked by the “broth,” but flecks of seasoning were visible and the clams, light pink brown, would surface occasionally. This chowder was too rich for more than a few bites, let alone a whole bowl, but all and all delicious.
So, one would think fried clams are fried clams, and my adventures in Rhode Island told me that that can not be the case. My favorite experience overall was deffo Flo’s, not only was the atmosphere and food fun, but there we got the most bang for our buck (in cash). We got a heaping plate with a seafood garden and crispy fries, for the same market price that we got the 9oz of fried clams for at Evelyn’s. Iggy’s too, was well worth the dollar and was a deal, but the food was not my favorite. If you are visiting, around the Newport area in Rhode Island and have a strong yen for some fried up seafood, I would highly recommend Flo’s Clam Shack, for its food, atmosphere and memories.