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!
This Top 5 list includes three South County restaurants!
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
You've gotta love a seafood wholesaler/retailer that opens its own restaurant. You know the seafood is close by! In the case of Champlin's, 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
Jim's Dock, Matunuck