Held by a nubbin

August 2014: The Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl

Twenty-four hours after completing an epic journey of stubborn will and intestinal fortitude, I look back at the Clam Cake Crawl with utter pride. Proud of the time spent on the road with my compadres Joe and Carol in a highly convivial atmosphere (well, except when we engaged in a very verbose discourse on our routing on Aquidneck Island), proud of the motivation to do something of this nature (it takes a bit of the wackadoo to eat 12+ clam cakes aka sand donuts with clams in a compressed period of time), and proud of the *biggest little*, the one and only State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (of our gorgeous landscapes and jabrony drivers).

The genesis of our Crawl dates back about a year and a half ago when Joe Mecca and I recorded a pubcast called Joe Mecca’s Big Mouth. In one of our ‘casts, we talked specifically about clam cakes being a uniquely Rhode Island food and that everyone has a very passionate response to the question “Who has the best clam cake?” It’s a very intimate preference, based on personal taste (some like it crunchy, some like it soft, some like big nubbins, some like tiny bits of clams versus large chunks) and, for me, family history (Bessette Nation is a clearly an Aunt Carrie’s and George’s people; if you ask me to go to Champlin’s in Galilee, I will most likely tell you to go pound sand and judge you silently a bit more intensely). What if we did a tour of these clam shacks and judged for ourselves? Hmmmm . . .

So, after many moons of talking about the Crawl, Joe and I decided it had to happen and it had to happen this summer. We convened at our Clubhouse (the Wild Colonial) in mid-July and went through lists of clam shacks throughout the state. Criteria specified that: shacks had to have a to-go window, should be along the shores of Narragansett Bay, could be an established entity or a local-only joint, and that it was within reasonable driving distance on a summer Sunday. Originally 18 shacks, we narrowed it down to 13, then 12 (Horton’s in East Providence is oddly closed on Sundays). We originally planned a Sunday in early August, though the weather around the Lil Rhody Clam Cake Belt was pretty crappy so bagged it to a later date. An event page on FB went up and invites were sent out. Mentioned to friends in passing and not, the response was mixed. A lot of people were curious, though hesitant to participate. Eight hours driving around is a big commitment (especially with Joe and me). Clam cakes are not always a popular snack. People are vegan. Family obligations. A lot of people washing their hair and weaving Navajo rugs that day (not knowing the specific date, oddly enough).

Irregardless! Joe, Carol, and I embarked on the quest for the best on Sunday morning, results announced in the evening as we returned to The Clubhouse. Those of you who followed our journey on FB have a visual idea of what happened. There’s more of a story to tell, though that’s for a later time over a few pints.

At each stop, we ordered just three clam cakes, one for each of us. Most places obliged after explaining our mission (two did not budge and made us order a half-dozen). We kept scorecards and rated each shack’s clam cakes on a five point scale on the following criteria: Crispy Exterior, Soft Interior, Dry/Moist, Nubbins, Clam-to-Cake Ratio, and Overall Impression. We tallied our scores for each location and determined the winner (Aunt Carrie’s in Point Judith).

The highlight reel, as culled from my Facebook timeline and my points /notes added:

Stop #1 – Blount’s Clam Shack / Riverside (20)

The CCC trio start their adventure at the Blount Clam Shack in Riverside by the carousel

The CCC trio start their adventure at the Blount’s Clam Shack in Riverside by the carousel

Joe collects our first round of clam cakes

Joe collects our first round of clam cakes

The first clam cakes of the day

The first clam cakes of the day

first fry of the day, fresh oil. 2” diameter, one nubbin looks like a raisin.


Stop #2 – Quito’s / Bristol  (23)

RSB and Carol pose by the entrance

RSB and Carol pose by the entrance
A little gritty!

A little gritty!

a little grit! approx 3” diameter.


Stop #3 – Evelyn’s Drive-In / Tiverton (19)

Joe orders at Evelyn's

Joe orders at Evelyn’s

Our mission!

Our mission!

three clam cakes at the third stop

three clam cakes at the third stop

delicate crispy crust (reminds me of panko), not as many clams compared to Joe & Carol), a lot of outta state plates in the parking lot (it’s been on Food TV).


Stop #4 – Atlantic Beach Club / Middletown (9)

Sad little clam cakes from the Atlantic Beach Club snack shack

Sad little clam cakes from the Atlantic Beach Club snack shack

where’s the clam? too much pepper. also, not a shack. douchebag central.


Stop #5 – Flo’s Clam Shack / Middletown (18)

Carol makes like FloJo

Carol makes like FloJo

nubbin-tastic. dough is too bready. disappointing.


Stop #6 – Aunt Carrie’s / Point Judith (25)

Aunt Carrie's in Point Judy

Aunt Carrie’s in Point Judy

More clam fritter than ball-like cake

More clam fritter than ball-like cake

Queen of the Nubbin.


Stop #7 – Iggy’s / Point Judith (15)

Iggy's, famous for their doughboys (which these are not)

Iggy’s, famous for their doughboys (which these are not)

meh.


Stop #8 – George’s / Galilee (17)

Waving to the folks sailing away on the Block Island Ferry

Waving to the folks sailing away on the Block Island Ferry

Surprise! More clam cakes!

Surprise! More clam cakes!

chewier, more toothiness.


Stop #9 – Monahan’s / Narragansett Pier (16)

A long wait at Monahan's

A long wait at Monahan’s

Enormous, very pillow-like

Enormous, very pillow-like

really big, like clam pillows. lotta pepper.


Stop #10 – Twin Willows (20)

For 20+ years, I always drove by. Finally stopped in.

For 20+ years, I always drove by. Finally stopped in.

First clam cakes not served via disposable paperware

First clam cakes not served via disposable paperware

very chewy. large fried dead nubbin.


Stop #11 – Seven Seas / Warwick Neck (19)

Now, that's a shack!

Now, that’s a shack!

Second to last . . . we can do it!

Second to last . . . we can do it!

hot out of the fryolator. had to blot.


Stop #12 – Rocky Point Clam Shack / Warwick (15)

In the parking lot of the former Ann & Hope, on Post Road by the airport

In the parking lot of the former Ann & Hope, on Post Road by the airport

Joe considers his final clam cake(s) of the day

Joe considers his final clam cake(s) of the day 

Carol, not sure if she is sad or happy about this (last) one

Carol, not sure if she is sad or happy about this (last) one

RSB is sanguine

RSB is sanguine

The final batch

The final batch

very small, hush puppy-sized. finely chopped clams. where’s the clam?


12 shacks in 8 hours, approximately 100 miles driven around Lil Rhody, 50 clam cakes consumed by the CCC Trio.

And now the results of the first ever Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl, scorecards have been tallied (and verified by the number crunchers at Dewey, Cheatem & Howe):

#4 – (tie) Blount’s Clam Shack / Riverside & Rocky Point Clam Shack / Warwick
#3 – Evelyn’s Drive-In / Tiverton
#2 – Quito’s / Bristol
#1 – Aunt Carrie’s / Point Judith


Here’s how it shook out for RSB in chronological order with point totals:

#3 – (tie) Blount’s Clam Shack / Riverside & Twin Willows / Narragansett
#2 – Quito’s / Bristol
#1 – Aunt Carrie’s / Point Judith


I’d like to thank my partners in clam, Joe and Carol, on partaking in this endeavor, and to our fans for the encouragement at every stop! We did it so you don’t have to! (You’re welcome.)

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10 comments

  1. Etta Blazar · August 31, 2014

    Well done “clammers” but u forgot to test/ taste the narra pier boardwalk clam cakes ….actually none of them are winners in the clam to cake ratio ……and I swear George’s window service premakes them & then deep fries for quick service…. Poo!! Next summer I will join u for a follow up taste testing …… Bravo well done for 2014!!!!

    Like

    • rsbinpvd · August 31, 2014

      We avoided clam shacks on beaches that require paid admission. We had limited time at each location in order to keep on schedule.

      Like

      • Etta blazar · September 1, 2014

        Want to reiterate …. We. ( extended f amily. & friends) loved your clamcake investigation & numerous writing!!! Well done but perhaps the shacks need to hear the report also ???? Maybe it will improve the product ….. Would prov journal publish it??? Good luck!!!

        Like

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  5. Paul · July 13, 2016

    Who had great ones.
    Topside,Bristol
    Now gone.

    Like

    • Etta Rae blazar · June 30, 2017

      As a former Rhode Island gal who grew up in Narragansett for all my summers, I am delighted to know the Clamerati exist and love to pursue the present day BEST clamcakes in RI ….. in August I will take my teen grandchildren & only do the Narragansett area & try to add to your current list …..perhaps including Jerusalem/Pt Judith/ and road side cooks if any !! Just kidding ,as WE don’t need a reason to eat dailey Clam cakes !
      Enjoy Summertime in L’il Rhody💋💋

      Like

      • rsbinpvd · July 6, 2017

        Definitely try Jim’s Dock. Great clam cakes and fantastic view of Galilee!

        Like

  6. Pingback: Fourth Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl | Only in Lil Rhody

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