Fourth Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl

On Saturday 24 June, The Clamarati sounded the shell and reconvened with twelve courageous crawlers for a gastronomical road rally of epic proportions that was the 4th Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl.

We came. We ate. We clamquored.

ORIGINS STORY

The genesis of our Crawl dates back about three and a half ago years ago when Joe M and I recorded an episode of our pubcast, 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), historical geographical comforts, and family history.

Admittedly, my family historically has been George’s of Galilee people. We eschew Champlin’s, as few members of my family (more specifically, my mom’s side of the family) have never had a good dining experience there. And this goes back over fifty years. Thus, I refuse to step foot on its premises. Even when I worked at the Block Island Ferry in college, I crossed the street before Champlin’s when wandering around the port. Call me a clammist!


4TH ANNUAL CRAWL

After the first Crawl, we have garnered something of a cult following, friends and family following our adventures posted via Facebook and then our blog recaps (as such you are reading). Last year, we were even featured in Rhode Island Monthly! And since our first outing, we have been joined on our epic rally by family and friends, many of whom are enticed out of a natural curiosity, a love of clam cakes, interest in driving around the Ocean State, and/or to witness the gastronomic clam-amity

3rd Annual Crawl

2nd Annual Crawl

Inaugural Crawl

We put out the call for this year’s Crawl in May. Per usual, we warned potential participants that the our very movable feast is nothing to be taken lightly. Throughout the course of the day, one is challenged both mentally and physically, experiencing a full spectrum of emotions (and not always induced by the mass consumption of clam cakes). A few alumni opt to sit out (I believe that they were weaving Navajo rugs or washing their hair all day whatever day we were Crawling). Some people interested had legitimate schedule conflicts (previously booked vacations, medical procedures, historical reenactments). Nevertheless, we had a few veterans and new people step forward and rise to the challenge.


ESTEEMED EXPERTS

Though over the years, The Clamarati have gained a certain reputation as being experts in the field of clam cake arts and sciences. Myself, I am now known as the “Clam Cake Queen” based on my knowledge of the shacks, personal tasting experience, and frank reviews of clam shacks around Lil Rhody  (where’s my sash and tiara?). I now field calls and messages from friends and family for recommendations on where (and where not) to go for a good clam cake and chowdah.

rhode-island-clam-shacks-bookOver the years, we have cultivated admirers, aficionados, and allies of our adventures in clam cakery. And to our own fancy and honor, the mastermind behind Quahog.org, Christopher Scott Martin, and his Rhode Island Clam Shacks book co-author David Stone joined us in this year’s Crawl.

Quahog.org celebrates the people, places, and things that make Lil Rhody its own special universe. David also authored Clam Cake Summer, which chronicles his adventures in eating every clamcake in Rhode Island in one summer (or die frying)

Essential reading for any dedicated Clam Cake Crawler, the Rhode Island Clam Shacks book shares the history of fried bivalve consumption in Lil Rhody, from the origin of clam bakes and shore dining halls to clam shacks, and the impact and influence that quahogs, clam cakes, chowdah, stuffies, and more have had our culture and culinary history. Throughout our journey, Christopher and David provided historical context and anecdotes about some of the shacks we visited.


SHACK SELECTION

Over the past three years of Crawling, we have visited 26 clam shacks within the confines of Lil Rhody. Some have been part of all Crawls, some are one and done, others alternated by year or location (eg. Blount’s and Iggy’s). As The Clamarati deliberated the shacks and routes, we knew that we needed to revisit a few that we hadn’t been to in awhile and toss in a few new entries.

The Clamarati vetted an extensive list of clam shacks, deliberating over the the itinerary and routes for awhile. We ruled out a few areas that yielded poor results (Misquamicut), that would present travel issues (Aquidneck Island via the construction zone that is the Newport Bridge in June), and/or were too far out of the way (North Scituate). We also heartily debated where to go in the Point Judith / Galilee corridor, which is essentially ground zero for clam cakes. Decisions! Decisions!

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Joe, Carol, Sabina the chihuahua. and The Notorious RSB consult the Rhode Island Clam Shacks book for the Crawl itinerary.

Though we are always asked where we are going in advance, we do not reveal our itinerary to anyone outside of the Crawl, and it is only on the day of that we share the list of shacks with our participants. We prefer to maintain an air of suspense and mystery as to where we are going, especially exciting for those following us on Facebook. This allows us to keep our Crawling crew together (the planning and logistics are not to be taken for granted) and visit shacks anonymously (lest a shack finds out we are coming and prepares an extra special batch of clam cakes).


THE CLAM BARGE

After last year’s record of 14 Crawlers spread among five vehicles, we reckoned that it would make better logistical sense to consolidate participants in as few cars as possible (and minimize our carbon footprint to boot). Thus, the introduction of the Clam Barge, our seven-passenger rental minivan that ferried all-day Crawlers around the Ocean State. Helmed by Joe, the Clam Barge racked in 168 miles over the course of 10 hours – without any massive delays or misdirections (just a few overshot streets and one U-ey).

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We convened at The Clubhouse and at 10.30am amid the downpours and minor road flooding. On 95 South, we waved at a freshly painted Nibbles Woodaway, the recently graffitied rooftop mascot of Big Blue Bug Solutions (nee New England Pest Control) and Rhode Island’s unofficial mascot / highway greeter. It was a slow go as we plodded through Providence, Cranston, and Warwick, rains upwards of one inch per hour cascading from the sky. Yet, as we made our way through East and West Greenwiches, the rain subsided and this bright orange blur emerged from above. A quick consult with the Weather Channel app map confirmed that the storm had passed and we were set for a bright sunshine day. The summer’s sun IS calling my name!

To boot, the weather deterred RI-ers from going to the beach, leaving the roads relatively unencumbered with traffic as we made our way to South County in the late morning. We thanked our lucky stars later in the day. As we headed north from Rt. 4 to 95, the cars headed south were backed up to the exit for Rt. 117 and then some.


THE CRAWLERS

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first row / seated: Carol, Joey, Joe RSB. back row: Jason, Elaine, Betty, Kathy, Christopher, Brian, Dee.

  • The Clamarati: Joe, Carol, and Renee (aka RSB aka The Notorious RSB)
  • 3rd Timers: Elaine
  • 2nd Timers: Joey, Dee, Kathy
  • Newbies: Christopher, David, Jason, Brian, Betty, Beth, Roland

THE SCORING

We rate each clam cake on a variety of characteristics on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • Crispy Exterior: Is it crispy or limp? Do you hear the bite into the clam cake as you eat?
  • Soft Interior: Is it soft or firm inside? Can you easily bit into it?
  • Dry / Moist: Are there parts inside that are uncooked and gummy? Is it cake-like?
  • Nubbins: Does it have any of those protrusions on the clam cake that can also be used as a handle as you eat and/or look like bodily appendages?
  • Clam-to-Cake Ratio: Does it have a lot of clams? Are they chunks or shavings? Do you taste clams in every bite?
  • Clambiance: As an overall experience, would you go here again? Did the decor / environment meet your own description of clam shack? Would you recommend this shack to others?

Stop #1: The Hitching Post / Charlestown

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Our third time to The Hitching Post, a few of us have a special place in our heart for this clam shack. And it’s history is quite fascinating.

From the Rhode Island Clam Shacks book:

“Edward Duhamel was an East Providence chauffeur who began buying land in Charlestown. He eventually opened the Willows, a seasonal restaurant. Patrons continually lined up at the kitchen door of the Willows for Harriet Barnes Duhamel’s clam fritters, so in 1950, Edward Duhamel decided to open a little shack with two deep fryers, a grill, and a gas stove to cook chowder.”

After being closed during the Korean War, the owner’s son, Jerry “reopened the business in 1954 and named it the Hitching Post, a suggestion from his mother because he and his brother liked to hitch their horses to a post there and feed them ice cream cones.”

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Joe orders the first round of the Crawl.

We arrived just as it opened at 11.30am and its parking lot was already seven cars deep when the Clam Barge rolled in. As tradition, Joe ordered the first round of clam cakes, the lady at the counter obliging our order of seven clam cakes. The Crawlers wandered the Hitching Post’s gardens, snapping a few photos of its koi pond, flower beds, and picnic areas. After a few minutes, the lady at the window presented Carol with our half-dozenish of clam cakes. Or, as we discovered a 14 clam cakes and nubbin bits that took on a more amoebic, beignet-like shapes. More than we ordered, we shrugged our shoulders why such a bounty. Had the clam cake gods been looking down upon us? Unsure, we carried on, first reviewing the scoring guidelines, and then took our first bites.

As we explored our first clam cake of the day, the overhead speaker beckoned “Joe!” to pick up an order at the window.

Huh?

“Joe, your order is ready.”

We had our order. Eyes darted left to right, looking around our picnic table for another Joe. Shoulder shrugs all around.

Joe returned to the window to see what was up. Unbeknownst to any of us, we were given someone else’s order. The lady at the counter apologized for the mishap and said that we could keep our order. Relief, because returning it would have been . . . challenging.

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The first round of clam cakes looked more amoebic in shape, compounded with unusual nubbins

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Joe verifies his nubbin-tastic clam cake

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That’s a mighy chunk of clam in this cake!

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Christopher considers his clam cake and scores appropriately.

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Joe and Carol discuss.

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Much odder shapes than usual. Soft interior.
  • Carol: Pillowy, crispy, weird shape.
  • Jason: Great outdoor eating area. We got there early, first clam cakes. A little greasy.

Stop #2: Jim’s Dock / Jerusalem (NEW)

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A new stop on the Crawl (though considered in previous years), Jim’s Dock is just around the corner from East Matunuck State Beach in the village of Jerusalem. It’s looks are deceiving as it’s crushed clamshell parking lot is tiny (and often jam-packed during the height of the summer), yet upon arrival and exploration, it hosts a large outdoor patio with tables and chairs, a lounge area with an outdoor bar and Adirondack chairs, and a view of Galilee. Occasional buoys punctuated the main building, though not choking the scenery as other establishments often do (thinking that more buoys and seaworthy ephemera or fake clambiance will compensate for mediocre food).

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Lounge area with Adirondack chairs and view of Galilee

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Large outdoor dining area.

As it had just opened, it took about ten minutes for our order to be available. We did not mind as we took in the view and relaxed at our second stop, spotting the Anna C making its return to the Block Island Ferry dock across the way.

The hostess presented RSB with a double wax bag of clam cakes. Upon unrolling the top, steam escaped from the opening, giving a bit of a facial for anyone who peered inside. Hot out of the fryolator!

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Orbs of deep-fried clam goodness!

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The Notorious RSB flips the clam cake!

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Christopher and Jason taste and ponder.

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Dee takes it all in, especially the view.

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Brian inspects and chews.

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This is what it’s all about.

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Round, excellent consistency. Not too many nubbins.
  • Carol: Large spheres, very crispy. Salty, good clam ratio.
  • Dee: Clambiance high. Beautiful. The crispiness was great. Very fluffy and tasty.
  • Jason: Nice seating deck, lots of space, view of harbor & Gaililee. Bit of cornbread taste.

Stop #3: Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House / Point Judith

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Not so much a new restaurant, Iggy’s opened it’s new building last summer, a typical New England colonial home feel with nestled in front of Durkin Cottages. The space for waiting in front of the order / take out windows was wide enough to accommodate dozens of eager patrons waiting for their orders, and a patio with a few umbrella’d tables behind the building.

We hadn’t been to Iggy’s in a while, last visiting its Oakland Beach outpost on CCC2 to middling at best results (not that we had to fight the seagulls away from our sack of donuts, but fisticuffs were raised by more than one Crawler versus the garbage birds).

Christopher ordered this round. Upon requesting seven clam cakes, we were denied such order. Surely, we were willing to throw in an extra dollar for the odd number. Not a chance. Thus, we were relegated to a quick algebraic equation, ordering a half-dozen clam cakes and a cup of chowdah with three clam cakes. We waited a bit for order #42, checking out Iggy’s menu, pondering the idiosyncratic “Famous Iggy’s Burger.” After 10 minutes, we were handed out order and we headed back to the picnic tables for the periodic “Battle of Point Judith.”

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Iggy’s clam cakes have a very traditional appeal.

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Christopher presents the Iggy’s round as part of the Battle of Point Judith

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Crawlers tasting, drinking, chowdah-ing

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: New shack, fancy. Crispy exterior OK.
  • Carol: Good size. Surprising.
  • Dee: Lightly crispy. Dough and clam tasted good / OK.
  • Jason: A little greasy. Good crispy / chewy ratio. My clam cake was a bit light on clams, other folks got a lot.

Stop #4: Aunt Carrie’s / Point Judith

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The two-time Clam Cake Crawl queen, Aunt Carrie’s is the most famous clam shack in Lil Rhody.

From the Rhode Island Clam Shacks book:

“Aunt Carrie’s is the oldest family-operated, continuously run clam shack . . .  [Ulysses Cooper] and Carrie originally opened a small establishment near the lighthouse serving lemonade and clam fritters, but in 1924 purchased the current location. As early as the 1930s, Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes were being called everything from ‘the choicest tidbits from the great Atlantic’s benevolent cupboard’ to ‘internationally famous.’”

Jason ordered this round, along with a clear chowdah to share with the Crawlers.

Not for nothing, but something was off with this batch. The usual crisp exterior was tough to the tooth. The soft interior seemed to be a bit dry. Clam chunks were a bit more haphazard throughout this batch. By contrast, they were quite nubbin-tastic. Yet, we all consumed with the same curiosity and taste buds as we did throughout the Crawl.

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The usual nubbin-tastic Aunt Carrie’s

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Jason present Aunt Carrie’s famous clam fritters

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Say “clam cake!,” Crawlers!

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Unusually crispy and hard.
  • Carol: Doughy interior. Lots of clams.
  • Dee: Fried too much. Very chewy, but taste was not bad.
  • Jason: Super fast service. Good clear chowder.

Stop #5: Monahan’s Clam Shack / Narragansett Pier

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A short journey along Ocean Road, we wound our way up to Monahan’s in Narragansett Pier. The day’s weather had turned itself around, hotter and more humid as we Crawled along. And, rightly so, the people were hitting their favorite clam shacks for lunch. We arrived at Monahan’s around 1:30pm and the shack was packed!

As Dee placed our order (accompanied by a quite lovely clear chowdah), the Crawlers disbursed to explore the environs (boat launch, sea wall, restrooms) and get some fresh sea air.

Monahan’s was included on our inaugural Crawl, and the fourth of five clam cakes The Clamarati consumed within the course of one hour at that time. We remembered the clam cakes as being pillowy with a hint of pepper. And, as muscle memory retained, we detected the same as we tasted this round.

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Carol orders a round while Dee checks in on the chowdah scene

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Monahan’s clam cakes, definitely orbs of fried clam goodness

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Carol presents the clam cakes!

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The Crawlers, enjoying the clam cakes and chowdah on the final stop of the South County leg of the Crawl.

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: A lot of black pepper. Pillowy. Hard exterior.
  • Carol: Peppery. Nice texture. Good clams.
  • Dee: Clambiance is beautiful. Service is quick – chowder was wonderful. Liked the chowder more than the clam cakes.
  • Jason: Peppery. Good amount of clams. View of the ocean and Narragansett gate [towers].

Stop #6: Crow’s Nest / Apponaug (NEW)

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The Crow’s Nest has been around since 1966 and has undergone transformations since its days of being the only clam shack in Apponaug to the full-service restaurant that locals and those from beyond flock to year-round. When my parents, The Ed & Lois Experience, visit in the off season and need to satiate their clam cake and chowdah fix, they hit the Crow’s Nest.

Though not technically a shack today, The Clamarati decided to include the Crow’s Nest on this year’s Crawl due to its history and proximity to other clam shacks in the West Bay. Upon departing Monahan’s, RSB ordered seven clam cakes for pick up in 30 minutes for Renee. Absolutely can be done!

Upon arrival, RSB and Joe disembarked from the Clam Barge to document the pick-up. Once inside, RSB asked the hostess about our order. She looked around and did not see a to-go order. She asked a few other servers about our order and none seemed to be aware of it. She apologized for the oversight and promised to get an order out to us in a minute or two.

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RSB collects the tardy batch from the Crow’s Nest.

Thus we took a seat in the waiting area. A few Crawlers disembarked as well for a brief respite in the Crow’s Nest’s bathrooms. A few minutes became 15, waiting for our order of seven clam cakes. As the bag was being presented, Joe was telling RSB a joke. They exited the restaurant, and as they made their way back to the Clam Barge, just as Joe was about to reveal the punchline, another restaurant patron making his way up the ramp expelled the most boisterous fart either had heard in awhile.

‘Nuff said.

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From the Crow’s Nest . . .

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RSB is skeptcal of this batch

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Good crispy balance. Hint of pepper.
  • Carol: Dine-in. Slow service. Interesting seasoning.
  • Dee: Did not taste fresh!
  • Jason: OK.
  • Joey: Seasoning oniony. Excellent.

Stop #7: Tommy’s World Famous Clam Shack / Warwick

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Tommy’s purports itself to be “world famous” in its name and tagline. The Clamarati and veteran clam cake consumers have always been wary of such claim, unsure it could be defendable in court as it has been open at this location for a few years and is most likely not the first place that comes to mind when one thinks about clam cakes; it’s usually Aunt Carrie’s or Iggy’s or some place close to water, not one on the side of busy Warwick Avenue.

Irregardless, we met up with Roland, Beth, Betty, and Kathy at Tommy’s. Plenty of picnic tables for fans of seafaring fried goodness. Brian ordered the round. After a reasonable wait, our dozen arrived and we tucked in to our first batch of the second leg.

After consuming Tommy’s clam cakes, we tucked into the batch from the Crow’s Nest. Yes, contraband clam cakes!

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First batch of the West Bay leg

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Brian presents Tommy’s clam cakes

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Brian and Dee, enjoying clam cakes and a lil chowdah

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Roland and Beth consider what they’ve got themselves into

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The always enthusiastic Joe, Betty, Kathy, and Carol

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Salt on the exterior. Tiny clam chunks. A little moist.
  • Carol: Salty. Nice texture.
  • Dee: Nice atmosphere. Clean – tasted fresh.
  • Jason: A bit salty – crystallized salt on the outside. Good pieces of clam. A bit oily.
  • Christopher: Salty.
  • Joey: Very salty.

Stop #8: Rocky Point Clam Shack / Warwick

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Nestled in the parking lot of the former Ann & Hope (on Post Road by the airport), the Rocky Point Clam Shack celebrates the legacy of Rocky Point Park’s fried favorites and other delicacies. Since the early 1900s, Rocky Point’s Shore Dining Hall boasted to be one of the largest of it’s kind in the world, continually growing after renovations and additions post-hurricanes and other disasters. It’s all-you-can-eat clam cakes and chowdah were a must-eat for anyone who went to the park, though it was also known for its shore dinners that also included baked clams, lobster, chicken, potatoes, and Indian pudding.

The clam shack’s incarnation offers a menu of fried goodness – fried clams in a variety of forms (strips, whole bellies, rolls), scallops, calamari, and more. Beth ordered the round and we gathered around a few adjacent picnic tables to taste our calm cakes, which look more like hush puppies than a clam cake (no nubbins!).

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RSB and Jason meet the height requirements

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Beth orders up!

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And then presents Rocky Point’s hush puppy-like clam cakes

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The clam cakes

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And some clear chowdah to share

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Small like hush puppies.
  • Carol: Small but crispy. Nice clams.
  • Jason: Fun feel, Beer and wine coming soon. Too bad it’s on a parking lot by a busy road.
  • Joey: Greasy.
  • Roland: No nubbins! Very great. Great chowder.

Stop #9: Stadium Fish & Chips / Cranston (NEW)

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As the caravan traveled up 95 North to Rt. 10, we received a text message from Joey, who was meeting us for the end of the second and full third leg of the Crawl at Stadium Fish & Chips.

“Stadium is closed . . . “

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Closed on Satudays in the summer!

Though we had checked its hours and clam cake availability (served on Thursdays and Saturdays only), this mainstay of Stadium section of Cranston was indeed closed. Nothing on its Facebook page had said otherwise (it’s last post was on Friday early morning touting that day’s specials). Not cool at all, especially for a NEW stop on the Crawl. It chapped our asses a little that we went out of our way (and as far inland) to include it on our itinerary. C’est la vie.

We did receive a message post-Crawl from Stadium saying that with its summer hours, it is closed on Saturday, though they do serve clam cakes on Thursday. Next time, we’ll call to verify open hours.

We reconnoitered the Crawlers and headed east to Casa Mecca to provide relief for the Joe and Carol’s rescue chihuahua Sabina (and to the rest of the crew).


Stop #10: Blount’s Clam Shack / Warren

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Our first stop on the last leg of Crawl, we hit up Blount’s Clam Shack. Maneuvering the Clam Barge through its clam shell covered parking lot, we followed the lobster claws signs to the entrance to the waterfront establishment. Open seasonally, Blount’s has two fully-equipped trailers to serve its patrons and a tented area with dozens of picnic tables.

In front of one of the trailers was a maze of ropes to collect and manage those in queue to order. Upon our arrival, this line was large and in charge (thinking a 10 minute wait time just to order a dozen clam cakes). Yet, a sign pointed us to the second trailer, exclusively serving just clam cakes, chowdah, and drinks. Boom! Betty saddled up to the counter and she immediately walked away with a sack and an everything chowdah.

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Kathy hits up the express window

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Betty and Kathy are ready!

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Lovely fried exterior, soft interior with a good balance of clams!

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A taste of everything chowdah to share

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Brian, Dee, Christopher, and Roland tasting the chowdah

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Roland, Betty, Kathy, Jason, and Joe enter into a robust discourse about what makes the perfect clam cake

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Small clam chunks. Very crispy.
  • Jason: Very balanced. Hint of spices. Clam juice in recipe. Great chowder!
  • Christopher: Flavorful.
  • Joey: Great seating area.
  • Roland: Favorite, so far!

Stop #11: Quito’s / Bristol

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Down the road, we hit up last year’s Clam Cake Crawl winner Quito’s.

Quito’s offered both table service and take out, which is often consumed on the adjacent park benches overlooking Bristol Harbor. As Elaine ordered this round, we congregated by the waterfront. The parking lot was full, so Joe had to park the Clam Barge a few blocks away; the walk from and to the car was a welcome relief from the hours of sitting we had been doing thus far.

Anticipation of tasting Quito’s clam cakes was at an all time high, partially because of our disappointment with Aunt Carrie’s and part due to it’s reputation as reigning champ. After Elaine presented the dozen to the Crawlers, we tucked into round 11 with curiosity and delight.

Crisp fried shell, soft interior, just the right size and disbursement of clams inside.

Le sigh.

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Joey, Roland, Elaine, Jason, and Christopher take in the view of Bristol Harbor

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Reigning champion, Quito’s clam cakes have a certain je ne sais quoi

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Elaine presents the clam cake

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Delicate, yet robust

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Crawlers relax after the 11th stop on the Crawl

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Delicate crust. Not too large clam chunks.
  • Carol: Crispy and moist. Light, fluffy, puffy. Gorgeous location.
  • Dee: A but small. Did not have many nubbins.
  • Jason: Very good. Could you some more clam bits.
  • Christopher: Bland.
  • Joey: Great view! Lousy parking.
  • Roland: Fabulous! Tender clams!
  • David: Kept crispy even when cool.

Stop #12: Evelyn’s Drive-In / Tiverton

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Onward over the Mount Hope Bridge and round Rt. 24, we met up with David at the packed Evelyn’s Drive-In. A fan favorite for many years, The Clamarati were looking forward to enjoying a clam cake and some chowdah on the picnic tables with a view to Nanaquacket Pond (we also just like saying “Nanaquacket” ad nauseum).

As Kathy ordered this round, we adjourned to a picnic table where we caught up with David, regaling us anecdotes about the history of Evelyn’s. As a sweet treat, Christopher ordered one of his favorites, a pint of grapenut pudding.  

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A few of us had been looking forward to Evelyn’s all day

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Kathy present the clam cake!

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If you liked it, then you should have put a clam cake on it . . . Oh, oh, oh

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Panoramic view of Nanaquacket Pond

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Not as many clams as usual. Crispy. Great nubbins.
  • Carol: Not very crispy. Lot of clams in mine. Did not fulfill take out order!
  • Dee: Made an order, had to clear without it. Clam cakes were ok.
  • Jason: Inside was a little too doughy / gluteny. Otherwise great.
  • Christopher: Flavorful.
  • Joey: Awesome spot. Parking sucks.
  • Roland: Very good, no clams!

On a side note, Dee and Brian ordered an extra chowdah or two to enjoy while we were there for our tasting. I noticed that as we were taking our final bites, they were not with the rest of the Crawlers in the pavilion. They had been waiting in line for their order. Of chowdah. Though there was a reasonably sized crowd at the restaurant and by the take out window (full parking lot, too), after waiting 20 minutes, they disappointedly abandoned the order they had paid for as we had to make out way to the final stop of the Crawl. The Clamarati were (and still are) peeved by this poor service experience. As something as simple as chowdah, this should *not* take a long time to serve. You’re a clam shack for gawd’s sake. Ergo, some of the Crawlers frowned upon this poor experience in their scores.


Stop #13: Flo’s Drive-In / Island Park

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We headed over to Aquidneck Island to the Island Park neighborhood of Portsmouth for our final stop. By this point, even those who had joined us part way through the Crawl were feeling more than full and a bit bloated by their consumption. Myself, I felt that if someone squeezed my arm, fryolator oil might exit my pores. Yet, we were on a mission that had to be completed by all and we (and our GI systems) accommodated.

Though it was the original establishment, Flo’s Drive-In is often the insider’s favorite spot for clam cakes and chowdah on Aquidneck Island, leaving sister restaurant Flo’s Clam Shack on the Newport / Middletown border for tourists and fans of Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins. We were hepped to the Drive-In on last year’s Crawl, after a poor experience at a nearby “shack.” With a lovely view to the east, we knew this would be a calm place to end our journey.

David ordered the final round and was served near immediately with our final dozen. We congregated along the wall and chomped away, once more with feeling.

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Our final round . . .

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David salutes our final clam cake of the day

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Golden, like the sunset

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The Clamarati

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Experts in all things clam cakes and clam shacks: Jason, Christopher, David, RSB, Carol, and Joe

Upon completing the final round, David presented each Crawler with a clam cake bag from the original Rock Point Park (a stock of mementos he had earned in an auction of Rocky Point ephemera).

We hugged and said our collective adios, returning to our parking spots and homes for the day.

The 4th Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl was now in the books.

Crawler Notes:

  • RSB: Good nubbins – bigguns. Crispy texture. Quick service.
  • Carol: Crispy, great texture. Little flavor.
  • Dee: Okay overall.
  • Jason: Great texture – great location. A bit bready inside.
  • Christopher: Bland.
  • Joey: I think there was sand in the batter.
  • Roland: Used oil taste, no clams.
  • David: A little undercooked.

THE RESULTS

Without further ado, the results as we know them to be, as tabulated by our accountants at Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, and announced post-pub quiz at the Wild Colonial Tavern:

WATCH: The Clamarati’s announce the winner!

  1. The Hitching Post
  2. Jim’s Dock
  3. Quito’s
  4. Aunt Carrie’s
  5. Iggy’s
  6. Monahan’s Clam Shack
  7. Blount’s Clam Shack
  8. Tommy’s World Famous Clam Shack
  9. Rocky Point Clam Shack
  10. Evelyn’s Drive-In
  11. Crow’s Nest
  12. Flo’s Drive-In
  13. Disqualified – Stadium Fish & Chips

By Region

  1. South County
  2. East Bay
  3. West Bay

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 13 Clam Shacks in 9-ish Hours
  • 168 Driving Miles Covered in a full loop around Lil Rhody from start and finish at the Wild Colonial Tavern
  • 3 New Shacks
  • 1 Shack Disqualified, a Clam Cake Crawl second
  • Crawled 4 out of 5 RI Counties (Washington, Newport, Bristol, Providence)
  • 2 “Major” Bridges Traversed (Mt. Hope, I-Way)
  • 1 U-Turn made after passing exits or turns
  • 7 people for the full day, 7 part-timers
  • 7 new crawlers

OTHER OBSERVATIONS & RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • As Saturdays are prime time for clam shacks, we did find parking difficult to access or unavailable at a few places in the late afternoon. The Clam Barge found itself tightly squeezed between cars on the side of sometimes busy roads by Quito’s and Evelyn’s Drive-In with cars blazing up the road. The Clamarati recommend that those shacks with limited parking make accommodations for overflow such as signs as to where it is safe to or a person directing drivers to such areas. Safety first!
  • On more than a few stops, Crawlers also picked up Rhode Island chowdah to share as we tasted our clam cakes. Though some shacks had less than awesome clam cakes, their chowdahs more than often impressed us (ahem Monahan’s and Blount’s). We also snagged the packets of oyster crackers for future consumption. When all was said and done, RSB counted nine packets of oyster crackers in her bag, and of the nine, one was *not* from Westminster Bakery (the official unofficial oyster cracker purveyor of New England).
  • The Clamarati are often asked “How the hell can you eat a dozen clam cakes in one day and not hurl?” Well, we do and we haven’t, and rack it up to advance planning. We each prepare slightly differently, though generally try to keep to a light diet the days before and after the Crawl. Some pop Tums or chew mint gum along the way, and down a few waters or Del’s Frozen Lemonades. Others make offerings to various deities in exchange for cooperative GI days. Myself, I ate a lot of salad and watermelon to prep the system, stay hydrated, and to . . . errr . . .  prevent blockage. We try to avoid eating more than three or four in close proximity, learning our lesson on our first Crawl in Narragansett (we ate upwards of seven in an hour and were sweating fryolator oil).

On behalf of The Clamarati, I would like to thank our Clam Cake Crawlers — especially those joining us for the first time — for their strong constitutions, thoughtful analyses, and general goodwill!

And remember, we did this so you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

In clam cake we trust.

Til next year,

— The Notorious RSB


p.s. — Follow us on Facebook! We also encourage you to share this blog post with family and friends, though we request that any member of the print, broadcast, or online media contact Renee Bessette at renee.bessette@gmail.com regarding interviews with The Clamarati. 

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7 comments

  1. linda gale prior · June 29, 2017

    I’m glad you ruled out Howards Clam Shack in North Scituate, the stuff here sucks. They make nasty clamp cakes and put carrots in there Chowder. Changes the taste. They also used frozen stuffies and not the homemade type the Bobby D made when it was Country Chowder Shack. Keep it off your list not worth the trip for anyone.

    Like

    • rsbinpvd · July 6, 2017

      Thanks for your feedback!

      Like

  2. Barbara · July 6, 2017

    Gardner’s Wharf Seafood in Wickford is selling clamcakes and chowder Saturdays and Sundays this summer, 11:00 to 6:00. They have picnic tables set up behind the building, right on the water. Both the clamcakes and chowder were among the best I’ve ever had. I think the clamcakes were the best I’ve ever had! Maybe consider adding them to your list for next year.

    Like

    • rsbinpvd · July 7, 2017

      Thanks for the tip! Will definitely check them out!

      Like

  3. Suzanne · July 6, 2017

    On my way to mystic today I told my husband about the article on best clam cakes in Ri, we just happened to be passing the hitching post and I said there, they have the best clam cakes(later learned they call them fritters). I told my husband that we needed to stop on the way home to try some. Well we did, and after waiting for 25 minutes ( there was a new person on the fryolater, I later learned) and after the person arriving 10 minutes after I ordered was finishing up his fritters) mine finally arrived, with apologies from the new cook herself. I was very disappointed, I tried another one, thinking I must have missed something, no the second was as bland, sandy and lacking any substantial evidence of clams as the first. I am a bit disappointed that they weren’t worth $7 and almost a half an hour wait (there were only three others there). Won’t be going back. Monahans has my vote!!

    Like

    • rsbinpvd · July 7, 2017

      Sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience! Monahan’s has a good clam cake — and great chowdah too!

      Like

  4. Pingback: So…Who Has the Best Clam Cakes, anyway? – Explore South County

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