On Saturday 30 June, The Clamarati sounded the shell and reconvened with twelve courageous crawlers for a gastronomical road rally of epic proportions that was the 5th Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl.
We came. We ate. We clamquored.
As our lore goes:
The genesis of our Crawl dates back about three and a half ago years ago when Joe 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!
THEY LIKE US! THEY REALLY, REALLY LIKE US!
Since the Crawl’s inception, The Clamarati have been both humbled and amused by the attention we have received from family and friends about our Ocean State adventure. What initially was a “You’re doing what?” reaction upon mention of our bivalvian quest five years ago has transformed into a cull-t like following, extending beyond our own Venn diagrams of friends and networks thanks to the Facebook page we set up last year (shameless plug: please Like us and share the page with your own friends and family).
A few years ago, I solicited a few local publications about covering our endeavor. Most emails were unanswered, though our friends at Eat Drink RI included a link to our blog post in its enewsletter and the food writer at Rhode Island Monthly featured us in its online food blog for our third and fourth Crawls. And last year, after umpteen solicitations, we made it into the Sunday Rhode Island Living section of the ProJo and in the Narragansett Times!
Woot! We’re Rhode Island famous!
Much to our surprise (and maybe it’s because of our local print cred), our friends, family, and fans, now share enthusiastic curiosity as to who won or when we are going on the next Crawl (that being said, few friends offer to join us on our following excursion; apparently all-day hair washing is still a thing).
Throughout the year, our friends and co-workers ask us for recommendations on where to go for “the best” clam cakes; we proffer our own opinions based on where they are. It’s as if we’re the Yelp for clam cakes and chowdah. The Clamarati have been on the receiving end of more than one text message asking “I’m in such-n-such town. Where should I go?” to which we are happy as a clam to answer!
In planning this year’s Crawl, we took inventory of every clam shack we have visited (including those who did not finish). In the previous four years, we had visited 30 clam shacks in Lil Rhody!
As the year progresses, we keep a list of new shacks, ones that have just opened or others that have been referred to us by friends and followers.
Our qualifications are simple: we need to be able to order through a window or just inside the entry way. While some clam shacks do have indoor sit-down restaurants, clam cakes and chowdah are best enjoyed at a picnic table, on the rocks by a breachway, or on a bench by a pier with a hint of ocean salt in the air. Also, to hit up nearly a dozen clam shacks in one day, we’re constantly on the move with nearly as many people. Formally seating us at a table to eat one clam cake is not a good use of anyone’s time (or patience).
In mid-April, The Clamarati convened at The Clubhouse to discuss our fifth Crawl. There’s always a core group of clam shacks we visit, though felt it right to bring back a few that we had not visited in years and see what new ones were up to snuff. We ended that meeting with a list of 21 shacks throughout the state. Time to cull the list.
Two weeks before the Crawl, we regrouped and reviewed the list. For three hours, we plotted out all of the proposed shacks on the Google Map, mapping permutations and configurations of every possible route along the bay and inland. Heck, for shits and giggles, we peeked over the East Bay border into Bristol County, MA. We peacefully debated the shacks, finally rationalizing that we had to make our route and regions more logical — and continue to rally around the shoreline and along Narragansett Bay. Whereas we hit a few places in the West Bay, this year we opted to take the Aquidneck Island route around the state. We left this meeting with 14 shacks and a rudimentary route for Joe to finesse.
FYI: We know that there are a few clam shacks that are inland that our Facebook fans have raved about, though we also have to be reasonable with our route — we’re spending upwards of 10 hours Crawling. Jutting inland is not always an option.
As protocol, we kept the Crawl route under wraps until the day of, and this time until we finished a shack — keeping it a mystery for all Crawlers each step of the way. For those who planned to join us at mid-way, we told them which direction to drive and checked in an hour before we knew where we were going. Though we had a list of 14 shacks, we also have to be realistic. Wait times can vary from shack to shack (average wait time is 15 minutes from ordering to pick up), as does traffic on roads that lead to beaches or on Aquidneck Island, thus we sometimes have to pivot from our original itinerary and skip a shack or two. There is always a Plan B (or Plan C or Plan D).
Crawl Postscript: A Bit of a Clammotion
Locals, especially PVD peeps, may notice that there is one new hip, hot new shack that we did not include on this year’s Crawl and it may cause a bit of a clammotion. Read on . . .
- The Clamarati: Joe, Carol, and Renee (aka RSB aka The Notorious RSB)
- 3rd Timers: Joey, Kathy
- 2nd Timers: Betty, Christopher, David
- Newbies: JoAnne, Jamie, Kim, Audrey, Vermont Deb
- Mascot: Clambina the chihuahua
As we did last year, we procured a multi-passenger vehicle to transport most of the all-day Crawlers. Helmed by Joe, The Clamousine was a well-apportion white Chevy Traverse that had enough cup holders and charging ports. It’s New York plates helped disguise our identity, too!
The forecast for the day was hot, hazy, and humid with inland temperatures around 95F, slightly cooler along the coast. We packed our coolers with extra water, ginger ale, and a few Gansetts tallboys (Light and Shandy varieties). Though we would be outside intermittently (and seeking shade), a few knew that they would
Most of the Crawlers convened around 10am at Clamarati PVD HQ and, after a little snafu at the car rental agency (read: the original vehicle we ordered did not exist), we were off on our all-day adventure around the Ocean State around 10.45am. Joe, Carol, Joey, JoAnne, Jamie, Clambina, and I sailed away in the Clamousine, Christopher and Kim helming their own ship, as well as The David Stone in his own cruiser.
This year, we revised the categories on which we rate clam cakes based on a few key learnings and discussions over the past year. While there are several important qualities of a clam cake and its experience we had captured, there were a few that we needed to address or in a more succinct manner.
- Crispiness: Is it crispy or limp? Do you hear the bite into the clam cake as you eat?
- Tenderocity (new): Is it soft or firm inside? Can you easily bit into it? Is it fully cooked or still doughy? How was it to chew?
- Flavor (new): What does it taste like? Does have any flavor? Are there other elements that balance well or overpower? Has it been assalted?
- 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 philanges-like 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?
- Dining Experience (new): Was there a wait at the window? How long did it take you to get your order? What types of amenities were available (eg. napkins, cutlery)? How was the staff? What was the parking situation?
Each category is rated on a zero to 10 point scale, whole numbers only. The best possible score is 70 points.
Stop #1: Shore Dinner Hall / Westerly, RI (NEW!)
After our hour journey on 95 south, through the lush two-lane country roads of Ashaway and Bradford (home of the Bradford Soapworks), we made it to the Shore Dinner Hall on Route 1 by Dunn’s Corner Road in Westerly (sort of diagonal from where Benny’s used to be). Upon disembarking from our fleet, we were greeted by a cast of casted statues of pirates, a late 19th century diver, and even a rooftop octopus!
Inspired by the cuisine of the Shore Dinner Hall at Rocky Point from back in the day, this clam shack / restaurant honors its legacy with time-honored recipes for clam cakes, chowder, fresh local seafood, steamers, and lobster.
As Joe, RSB, and JoAnne ordered the initial Crawl batch (along with a Rhode Island chowdah), the Crawlers explored the grounds. Plenty of picnic tables in the front and back, a 15-foot tall lighthouse, a children’s playground with mermaid-bowed pirate ship, and other coin-operated rides. We noted plenty of parking surrounding the shack and adjacent.
After a short wait, we received our order and gathered at a picnic table in the front.
Smaller than a typical clam cake (for what it’s worth), Shore’s clam cakes were very crispy with an almost fried wonton-like exterior. Though hot, they were slightly more [dense] to bite into, though once in, it was easy to chew.
Small chunks of clam dotted this batch, though a few Crawlers pointed out a tiny bit of red coloring to some clam bits. Typically, clam chunks have a tan/ecru coloration. These clam chunks did, though some also a red tinge that reminded me of the red coloring of the exterior of a BBQ spare rib one would consume at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
- RSB: Large chunks of clam, hint of red pepper. Incredibly crispy. Jagged nubbins.
- Carol: Salty, very crispy, red flakes, bacony, buttery, lots of stuff!
- Joe: Great sea theme outside. Almost too crispy. Buttery, low sea taste.
- The David Stone: Generous piles of utensils and condiments. Music evoked Rocky Point in the 80s. Odd presentation – in foil in a box. Gorgeous and huge fritters!
- Christopher: V crunchy. Salty finish. Red and yellow bits of something.
- Jamie: A paper carton. Bacon on outside chunks with a few clams. I liked the bacon but did not get the clam flavor. Bacon overpowered it.
Stop #2: The Hitching Post / Charlestown, RI (2017 Winner)
Last year’s winner, The Hitching Post is an unsuspecting shack along Route 1 north with a 70-plus year history. From the highway, it looks like any other roadside food stand: large parking lot in the front, moveable type menu boards, screened windows for ordering and pickup. Yet, walk a few yards to the left of the building and one enters a literal garden of delight! After walking through a small tree-lined grove with picnic tables, one passes through an arched trellis into a full flower and shrub garden. One might see a few butterflies flitting from a branch to a flower petal.
As the Crawlers explored the garden, enjoying the well-maintained landscaping, perhaps photographing the environs and each other, I patiently waited for my name to be called to the pick-up window. I paced around a bit, trying to remove the fryolator grease from the display of my phone (the technological bane of all Crawl social media documentation). After a 15 minute wait, I received our order.
As I walked through the trellis, the Crawlers looked upon me and I beckoned everyone to a large picnic table in the shade. As I unveiled this batch, Joe shared his annual pronouncement of these to be “clam beignets” due to their soft exterior and pillow-like tenderocity.
We had quite a few clam cakes left over. As much as we ordered one dozen clam cakes, there were quite a few more than we had people. RSB not wanting to waste food, we stowed the extras in our Clam Bin, a cardboard takeout box that continued to collect extraneous clam cakes from the Crawl. Someone would want to have a clam cake or two the next day.
Clamarati Pro-Tip: Clam cakes ARE ok to eat the next day! Place one on a paper towel and nuke for 20 seconds at regular heat. Eat it immediately (well, not the paper towel). Or eat cold out of the fridge. Or ask RSB about her use of clam cake chunks in lieu of croutons in salads.
- RSB: Not a lot of flavor. Exterior separated from the interior easily.
- Joe: Not crispy. Tender, pleasant, fresh. Beignet-like.
- Christopher: V hot. Not particularly flavorful. Outside pulls away from the inside.
- JoAnne: Ginormous fritter! Fluffy but not a lot of flavor. Bit greasy. The garden was lovely and the shade was awesome.
- Kim: Nice garden seating area – shady! Big ass clam cakes. Not a lot of clams.
- Jamie: Garden ambience, picnic tables, umbrellas, dog bowl. Very fluffy fritters, lots of clam.
Stop #3: Jim’s Dock / Jerusalem, RI
Around the corner from a sold out East Matunuck State Beach (did we mention it was upwards of 90F on Crawl day?) on Succotash Road in the hamlet of Jerusalem is Jim’s Dock. This was our second visit to Jim’s, which performed in the top five of last year’s contest. We arrived around 12.30pm and anticipated scarce parking (there are a limited number of spots, causing patrons to either park a block away at the state fishing pier or illegally on the very minimal road berm). Surprisingly, our entire fleet was able to secure legal and adequate parking in Jim’s lot.
Christopher stepped up to the host podium at its entrance and ordered a dozen. The rest of us took in the eastward facing view of Galilee, gazing upon the travelers sailing away on the Block Island Ferry, trawlers and other seafaring ships, and Champlin’s and George’s of Galilee. While we wanted to sit on the Adirondack chairs and enjoy the view of Point Judith Pond, it was too hot. We huddled around a covered bar area. Looking up, there was a rowboat suspended upside-down in its rafters! Talk about clambiance!
Some Crawlers said that their clam cakes were plentiful of clam chunks. Others had scant trace of bivalve. And not just as Jim’s Dock. We experienced such “Goldilocks Clamnumdrum” within the same batch / bag of clam cakes — inconsistency in the distribution of clam chunks within the batter and scooping. The clam to cake ratio fluctuate quite often, causing our group of tasted testers to engage in a rather robust discourse. This was under extreme scrutiny henceforth!
- RSB: Not a lot of clams. Pre-salted. Bland flavor, disappointing.
- Joey: Tasted like a pancake.
- Joe: Cakey taste. Not that crispy. Tender but clams not prominent.
- The David Stone: Water lapping at the pilings! Super hot! Tasted like oil, not sea shore!
- JoAnne: Good crispiness but hardly any flavor. No clam chunks in mine but others did.
- Jamie: Deck view, beach with two labs [dogs running]. Red clams inside. Not very good. Wanted to throw it away.
Stop #4: Benny’s Clam Shack / Wakefield, RI (NEW!)
Benny’s is a new shack on the South County scene, a block up from the Mews Tavern in a small roadside building where Quick Rick’s sandwich shop used to be. We met up with Audrey, Mike, and Vermont Deb at its outdoor picnic table, then Betty and Kathy a few minutes later. A full Clam Cake Crawl dozen!
As JoAnne saddled up to the window and ordered our dozen (finally! No more donations to the Clam Bin for now!), we did what we did best: loiter around the picnic tables, investigating menu and prices, and continue to shoot the shit.
A hallmark of the Clam Cake Crawl is the opportunity to meet new people and share a communal nosh. Betty said it best when she said “It’s nice to make new Clam Cake Crawl friends every year!”
Inland and surrounded by pavement, it was HAWT! A few people tugged at arm sleeves of their shirts, encouraging airflow upward, checking to see if their antiperspirants deodorant had held up (most likely not).
JoAnne emerged with the next dozen. The Clamarati briefed Kathy, Betty, Audrey, and Vermont Deb on scoring and we tucked into round four.
- RSB: Very crispy. More clams than other places so far. Round, not a lot of nubbins.
- Joe: Very good cake. Nice balance.
- The David Stone: Good Price! $7.50 per dozen. Tons of clams. Clam cave affected Tenderocity rating.
- Christopher: Crunchy. Couple pieces of clam. A little doughy.
- JoAnne: Super nice owner! Clam cakes had a really good clam-to-cake ratio and just the right amount of salt. Inexpensive, too! Great value!
- Kim: A bit too moist in center. Nice clammy, saltwater taste.
THE BATTLE OF POINT JUDITH
Stop #5: Aunt Carrie’s / Point Judith, RI (2014 & 2015 Winner)
Stop #6: Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House / Point Judith, RI
Though a two-minute walk from Aunt Carrie’s parking lot, we dropped Jamie off at Iggy’s. This being the first round she was buying, she was mentally prepared to wait in Iggy’s notoriously famous long lines.
From there, we clamovaned over to the parking lot and disembarked from our vehicles for the Battle of Point Judith. Joey, The David Stone, and I went to Aunt Carrie’s window to place orders. David, co-author of the Rhode Island Clam Shacks book, informed us that the restaurant is now run by its fourth generation and pointed out a member of the Foy family in the kitchen.
While we waited for our dozen clam fritters, as they are known at Aunt Carrie’s, a few Crawlers snagged a spot in line at Aunt Carrie’s Ice Cream Parlor window for a much-needed refreshing Del’s Frozen Lemonade.
After an expected long wait, Jamie strolled up to our picnic tables and we entered into the Battle of Point Judith.
Aunt Carrie’s / Crawler Comments:
- RSB: Better than last year! Large and amorphous shape. Good nubbins. A little underdone on a few.
- Carol: Seafood flavor. Huge nubbins. Soft interior.
- The David Stone: Beautiful clams – clear, not red.
- Christopher: Big, nice nubbins. Chewy inside.
- JoAnne: Ginormous! Good clam to cake ratio. A bit greasy but location perfect! Even got some sand — real deal clams!
- Kim: Large! Big nubbins.
- Jamie: Really unusual shape, irregular, fluffy, crispy and full of clams. Very oily and greasy.
- Betty: Very greasy.
Iggy’s / Crawler Comments:
- RSB: Why are there so many red chunks of clam in the clam cake? Very dry.
- Joey: Overhyped. Doughy. Long lines.
- JoAnne: Lots of red clams. LIttle bit nondescript.
- KIm: Very round. Not super flavorful
- Jamie: Red, not Rhode Island clams. Crispy and round. I am mad about the red clams.
Stop #7: Monahan’s Clam Shack / Narragansett, RI
We cruised up to Monahan’s on Route 1A past Spain, Eastward Look, and Scarborough state beach, winding past the Christian Brothers Ocean Tides School, Point Judith Country Club, and a dozen or so water side “beach cottages” (note to self: become friends with such cottage dwellers). We’ve been on and off with Monahan’s, though in last year’s Crawl, they performed better than in previous years.
We anticipated to encounter a line from the counter to the road; it’s been our experience on previous Crawls and from word-of-mouth. Monahan’s is known for it’s chowdah and my friend Vaughan swears by its lobster roll. It was about 2.30pm and beach goers would be flocking here after an afternoon of sand and sun. Even our travel itinerary added a few extra minutes in for a wait.
However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, though parking required a few loops around the block (all Clamovaners avoided that spot where the boat launch ramp butts up to Ocean Road . . . locals know what we’re talking about . . . the oh-so-tempting spot with the No Parking sign above it), the wait at the take-out window was non-existent (reality: there were two people in front of us when Vermont Deb took her place in queue). Perhaps we hit the sweet spot in the time space continuum?
It didn’t take long for our order to be called, and we got down to business around a long picnic table. Monahan’s clam cakes are known to be large and pillowy, with more than a hint of black pepper. Some shacks incorporate a variety of herbs and spices in their clam cakes; it was not uncommon to find a clam cake with a hint of cornmeal to enhance the dough’s stability. Every shack is different, and every clam cake is different, even within the same batch.
- RSB: Very peppery! Sort of cakey. Good crispiness. Not a lot of clams.
- Joey: Way too much pepper. Great outdoor space.
- Carol: Beautiful location. Peppery, nice texture.
- The David Stone: “Like a pepper biscuit!”
- Kim: Double-bagged. Peppery.
- Jamie: Real RI clams, great nubbin handles. Crispy and fluffy. With a beautiful water view.
- Betty: Too much pepper.
Stop #8: Anthony’s Seafood / Middletown, RI
It’s been awhile since we ventured over to Aquidneck Island, and for this year’s Crawl we had the intention to hit up Flo’s Clam Shack by Easton’s Beach and Anthony’s Seafood in Middletown. Though we had visited Flo’s Drive-In in Island Park the past two Crawls, we thought we were overdue for visit the Clam Shack (we had visited during our inaugural venture). We anticipated Flo’s having a long, time-consuming line, so we approached this in a divide and conquer manner — asking one of our fleet to get clam cakes from Flo’s while the rest could procure a dozen from Anthony’s and meet in a central, easy-to-park location.
After quick travel up Route 1A from Monahan’s to 138 East and over the Jamestown-Verrazano and Pell Newport Bridges, the Clamousine and entourage followed the road up to Anthony’s while Kathy and Betty made the trek to Flo’s in Middletown.
After stealthily snagging two parking spaces in Anthony’s parking lot, we made call over to our intrepid Crawlers to check on Flo’s line length. As reported, it was not just it’s typically long wait, it would take at least 45 minutes to even make it to the window. The line was out down its boardwalk queue, through the parking lot, and hitting the street out back. While the wait at Flow’s take-out window is notorious for being incredibly long, we could not keep on our itinerary. The Clamarati convened (ok, more like we all looked at each other and shook our heads “no”) and asked our delegation to abandon shack. Meet us at Anthony’s, enjoy its adequate parking, and perhaps we would have our clam cakes at the time of their arrival.
Carol and I proceeded into Anthony’s and were confused by the queue signage. Upon entry, it is easy to identify which line is for the seafood market and which line was for the restaurant portion. What was discreet was the signage for take-out orders. There was an eight-person deep line for ordering, unsure if that was for both takeout and the restaurant. We heard someone else in line spot a take-out line sign and we darted behind them. While we waited for our order, the rest of our group sought refuge from the near-90F heat in the shaded patio, seated up repurposed storage containers with patio cushions (great idea for upcycling!!!). After about 10 minutes (and a potty break or two), we emerged with the round and tucked in.
- RSB: No pink/red clam chunks. Bready interior. Good nubbins.
- Carol: Confusing to order. Crispy, moist interior. Tasty.
- Joe: A little dense. Moist, crispy, good flavor.
- Christopher: Nice flavor. Nice clam to cake ratio.
- JoAnne: Kind of non-descript place but the cake was really good and flavorful.
- Jamie: Great example of a RI clam cake. Real RI clams. Nice and crusty and fluffy interior. Pillowy. Long wait. Lots of clambiance.
Stop #9: Evelyn’s Drive-In / Tiverton, RI
Along the shore of Nanaquacket Pond, Evelyn’s has been on the Clam Cake Crawl since day one. Every thing about it screams “clam shack,” from its crushed clam shell driveway, moveable letter menu signs, pavillion with picnic tables along the water, Volkswagen Beetle fueled by biodiesel.
On our Crawls, we traditionally hit up Evelyn’s in the early evening mainly due to our travel itinerary starting the furthest spot out (Westerly) and working our way around the bay (either West Bay or Aquidneck Island routes), though partially because the sunset view on Nanaquacket Pond (I think those in the Clamousine were a bit tired of me chirping “Nanaquacket” as if I was the Geico duck). After several hours in a car together, it’s one spot that we all enjoy a moment or two to ourselves.
Irregardless (which is not a word outside of the confines of Rhode Island vocabulary), we received our order and gathered under the pavilion to taste Evelyn’s clam cakes with a view of Nanaquacket Pond.
- RSB: Doughy interior, crispy exterior. The best view on Nanaquacket Pond! Faster service than last year, even at 6pm.
- Christopher: Heavy.
- JoAnne: A bit disappointing. The dough was just a bit chewy and just tasted like dough. Beautiful location!
- Kim: Salty.
- Jamie: Small clam cakes with great nubbins and tender clams. Vert salty. Perfect ambience!
Stop #10: Quito’s Restaurant / Bristol, RI (2016 Winner)
Venturing an easy-going stop at Evelyn’s, we backtracked to Portsmouth and directed our fleet over the Mount Hope Bridge to Quito’s in Bristol. As we spanned the bridge, we saluted the brand new giant American flag hanging from one of its towers. It’s a few days before Bristol’s Fourth of July parade, the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the United States. In the weeks and days leading up to the parade, a new red, white, and blue stripe is painted in the center of a two-plus mile parade route, patriotic bunting and flags are placed around town, impromptu seating placeholders are installed along the route, and the townspeople and others gather for concerts and other celebrations around town.
Oh wait. Concerts?
For those not familiar with its location, Quito’s is located along Bristol Harbor, adjacent to Independence Park — and the site of that day’s community concert featuring classic rock-style bands.
Joe let out the Crawlers at Quito’s driveway entrance as he circled the Clamousine around the downtown area in search of parking. Nary a parking spot that could accommodate our fleet could be found in a three block radius. Christopher and Kim, after circling for a few minutes, realized that parking was not an option and went forward to our next stop, saving us all a seat.
Historically, we have picked up our take-out from the window and tasted the clam cakes from the benches along the harbor, enjoying an evening sunset view. This year, it was not to be.
As we waited under Quito’s take-out awning, enjoying a brief seabreeze (and airing out the pits), we radioed Joe and asked him to circle a few more times and pick us up upon 15 minutes later. We would need to enjoy Quito’s award-winning clam cakes at the next shack.
Unlike nearly all other clam cake batches, by the time we tasted Quito’s Crawl-winning clam cakes, they were not boiling hot oil-scalding; in fact, with the delay, the clam cakes had some time to leech oil onto the paper bag. No slippery fingers burning, no teeny tiny bites to test the heat. Just easy to handle clam cakes, nubbins and all.
Lesson Learned: Be Aware of Your Surroundings. As we plan each Crawl, we do look at local calendars for events near our proposed clam shacks, especially in Aquidneck Island where traffic is at a crawl at best during Folk and Jazz Fest weekends. In the future, we’ll also make sure we look at town calendars throughout the entire route.
- RSB: These sat for 15+ minutes, still crispy. Good center. Decent clams.
- Carol: Best flavor? Cripsy!?
- JoAnne: At them a bit late so couldn’t get the full experience. I would definitely go back.
- Jamie: Small cakes with great flavor and large tender clam bits. Consideration for transporting offsite.
Stop #11: Blount’s Clam Shack / Riverside, RI
As we waited at Quito’s and Joe circled around downtown Bristol, our fellow Clamovaners Christopher and Kim headed straight to Blount’s Clam Shack at Crescent Park in Riverside. The Clamousine arrived about 15 minutes later, well after they had ordered the final dozen (time check: 7.30pm, just in time for it’s closing at 8.00pm).
This summer seasonal shack is adjacent to the Looff Carousel in the park, which hosts a popular classic car night Saturdays. All of the picnic tables and benches were taken, so we slumped in the gazebo next to the carousel as we waited. Between the heat, the eating, and the long day, most (if not all) of the Crawlers were fried. You would wring one of our arms and I’m sure that fryolator oil would drip from our pores.
We were still waiting to taste Quito’s clam cakes (there is no tasting whilst driving on the Crawl), becoming a bit more impatient with Blount’s wait time. Even at its busiest, we’ve never waited more than 15 minutes for our order at either here or Blount’s location in Warren. We knew it was near closing time, though after 25 minutes, we received a bag of clam cakes. Finally.
We did our ritual unveiling of Quito’s clam cakes — the paper bag had adequately soaked up the grease — and tasted.
Perhaps a palate cleanser of water before Kim unveiled the final round. She tore open the bag and revealed a dozen or so clam boulders. These were the deepest, darkest brown clam cakes I’ve ever seen. Everyone grabbed their sample with a napkin, still hot from the fryolator, and looked at each other with grief. I tapped one with my finger and its crispy exterior seemed more like a protective shell. I hope I don’t break my tooth crown when I bite into this, I thought to myself.
We each took a bite and . . . well, let’s say that we have experienced Blount’s at its finer, more tasty moments. There was a collective look of WTF as we took another bite. We got the wrong end of the fryolator with this batch, probably the last of the batter and end of the cooking oil (thus darker than normal color).
- RSB: Old fryolator oil. Darkest clam cakes of the day. Very hard exterior. Not a lot of clams.
- Joey: Had a weird flavor – almost barbecue tasting. Bit of a wait.
- Christopher: Dense. Small.
- JoAnne: Very dark and un[something] but too much celery flavor and dense. Not great.
- Jamie: Dark, old oil, long time for a wait. Salty but I liked the sauce.
We took to our scorecards and did our final tallies. There was little discussion at this point. Like this final batch, we were done.
Without further ado, the results as verified by our accountants at Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe!
- Aunt Carrie’s
- Shore Dinner Hall
- The Hitching Post
- Benny’s Clam Shack
- Evelyn’s Drive-In
- Anthony’s Seafood
- Jim’s Dock
- Blount’s Clam Shack
- South County Rt 1 Corridor
- East Bay
- Aquidneck Island
BY THE NUMBERS
- 11 Clam Shacks in 9-ish Hours
- 142 Driving Miles Covered in a full loop around Lil Rhody from start and finish at The Clamarati PVD HQ
- 2 New Shacks
- 1 Shack Skipped (too long of a wait)
- 2 Shacks De-Itineraried (due to late start)
- 0 U-Turns made after passing exits or turns (a first in Clam Cake Crawl history!)
- Crawled 4 out of 5 RI Counties (Washington, Newport, Bristol, Providence)
- 5 “Major” Bridges Traversed (Jamestown-Verrazano, Pell Newport, Mt. Hope, Sakonnet River, I-Way)
- 7 Full-Day Crawlers, 5 Partial Crawlers
- 5 New Crawlers
- 1 Canine Crawler
OTHER OBSERVATIONS & RANDOM THOUGHTS
- The Clam Bin — As mentioned earlier, a few Crawlers (ok, me, the RSB) do not like to see food go to waste. Call it Yankee Thrift, when we had leftover clam cakes (the ones that were not offensive or duds), we tossed them into the Clam Bin, a veritable cornucopia of unlabeled clam cakes. We initially joked that we would hand them to people from the Clamousine, as if we were in a parade or running for office. However, they just collected at my feet throughout the course of the day and ended up in my fridge, post-Crawl. Personally, I’m all for next-day leftover clam cakes, which I indulged the following morning. And afternoon. And evening.
- Packaging — Early in the Crawl, Kim highlighted the packaging in which our clam cakes were served. It seemed as though there was too much packaging for such a simple treat. Traditionally, they are served in a white bag with a waxy-ish coating. She hepped us to the variety of packaging, from the foil and paper holders at the Shore Dinner Hall, to the extra tall double-paper bag at Monahan’s, to the white bag that had sopped up Quito’s oil. While we enjoy ripping open the clam cake bag, we also think that purveyors should be more eco-conscious when selecting food packaging. Less is more, and anything recyclable is best.
- HOT! HOT! HOT! — With the exception of Quito’s, every round of clam cakes we received were HOT out of the fryolator and into the bag. More often than not, we hand to handle the clam cakes with a paper napkin (thus partially blotting the oil) and waiting a few minutes before we could take a bite.
- Clam-to-Cake Ratio Variation — As noted by Crawl comments and photos, there was a wide variation on clam-to-cake ratio within the same batch of clam cakes. We are not sure if this is based on mixing and scooping, though during each round, we routinely inspected other Crawler’s nipped-upon clam cakes to view their interiors.
- Average Price per Dozen: $7.50 — The price range was not outrageous, though Shore Dinner Hall charged the most for a dozen ($10.00).
And that, our friends, is the story of the Fifth Annual Lil Rhody Clam Cake Crawl!
On behalf of The Clamarati, I would like to thank our Crawlers — especially those joining us for the first time — for their strong constitutions, thoughtful analyses, and general goodwill! And thank you, our family, friends, and fans for making it through yet another indulgent recap (congratulations to those who made read this far)!
Remember: We did this so you don’t have to. You’re welcome!
In clam cake, we trust.
Til next year,
— The Notorious RSB
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