Dining

Don't Miss These Must-Try Rhode Island Clam Shacks

For endless clam cakes and stuffies, get to the Ocean State, and fast
Rhode Island Clam Shacks
Photo: Aunt Carrie's

Summertime is in full swing, and in New England, that can mean only one thing: seafood.

While Massachusetts stakes claim to clam strips and creamy chowder, and Maine is home to  lobster rolls, Rhode Island's time-honored clam shacks serve all these items and more, including the beloved quahog, the state's favorite clam.

All around Narragansett Bay, seafood lovers can find savory beignet-like clam cakes studded with fresh quahog pieces, stuffies (baked stuffed clams flavored with Portuguese chouriço sausage) and clear-broth Rhode Island-style chowder preferred by locals for its briny flavor. 

Rhode Island is practically synonymous with quahogs, which burrow in the sand along the smallest state's 400-plus miles of coastline. In fact, the giant bivalve was declared Rhode Island's official shellfish back in 1987.

With so much waterfront property, there are countless clam shacks to choose from across Rhode Island (it's called the Ocean State for a reason). Not all, however, are created equal. If you find yourself in Little Rhode this summer, hit up these shacks for optimal clamming.

Aunt Carrie's

Photo: Aunt Carrie's

This Narragansett mainstay might be the clam shack that started it all. Legend has it that Aunt Carrie’s, which anchors the end of Scarborough Beach overlooking the Point Judith Lighthouse, made Rhode Island's very first clam cakes back in the 1920s. Nearly 100 years later, the take-out counter still sells the savory fritters that are perfect for dunking into chowder. It's also one of the few spots still serving the traditional Rhode Island shore dinner, a set meal that begins with a bowl of clam chowder, clam cakes and steamers, followed by fried local flounder served with fries and slaw. If that isn't enough, there's an option to add a pound of fresh lobster, which, at this point, you might as well. Shore dinners are not meant for humble eaters.

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Flo’s Clam Shack Drive-In

Even after weathering five hurricanes since its opening in 1936, Flo's is genuinely keeping the shack in clam shack. The original drive-in location is little more than a shingled shed in Portsmouth’s seaside Island Park neighborhood. What it lacks in the way of seating, it makes up for with location—customers can cross the street with their take-out boxes full of fried clam strips, scallops or calamari; climb over the seawall onto a narrow strip of beach overlooking the waters of the Sakonnet River; and dig in. For an even more impressive waterfront view, drive south across Aquidneck Island where Middletown meets Newport. There, Flo's second, larger location offers two stories of seating, lots of nautical kitsch and a veranda that overlooks Easton’s Beach (or First Beach, as we locals call it).

Iggy's Doughboys & Chowder House

What started as a simple stand situated on Oakland Beach in 1924 has grown into a respected family-owned clam shack with two locations, one in Warwick and the other in Narragansett. Customers line up along the sidewalk for doughboys, another Rhode Island delicacy, this one of deep-fried dough dusted with sugar and served in a brown paper bag. Iggy's stuffies, which are always crusty on the outside while the spicy chouriço-dotted stuffing remains soft in the middle, are another standout dish. As always, everything tastes better by the water, and the patio at the Warwick location, in particular, offers a dazzling view over Narragansett Bay.

Champlin's Seafood Deck

The idyllic seaside village of Galilee is home to Rhode Island's largest fishing fleet, so there's perhaps no better place in the state to get seafood. The fishing vessels continuously pass by Champlin's, which has specialized in lobster and shellfish since it opened in 1944, as they speed through the channel out to Block Island Sound. Now with the addition of a raw bar, diners can gaze out the wraparound windows while savoring platters of cherrystones or littlenecks. And if you're still in need of a mollusk fix after that, just head downstairs to the seafood market. Champlin's sells clams in every size to cook at home, including quahogs, of course.

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