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May 14, 2007 11:55 AM

Rhode Island

I should be going to Rhode Island some time this year. Is there any speciality I can look forward to?

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  1. Coffee milk, Johnny cakes, Doughboys, Fish and chips, Clam Cakes, Cabinetts, Chowda- White New England, Red Manhattan, and Clear Rhode Island, stuffed quahaugs and steamed steamers / little necks, Dels Lemonade, Spinach Pie, New York System weiners, grinders, Clam and lobster bakes...

    4 Replies
    1. re: JMF

      Wow! Sounds wonderful but what are stuffed quahaugs?

      1. re: coombe

        Basically quahogs (alt spelling) are hard shell clams, as opposed to softshell ones (also called piss clams or steamers), so they are tasty ole fat stuffed clams, sometimes called stuffies.

        Then the other 'stuff' on the list are: Dels Lemonade is kind of like a soft lemon Italian Ice; Johnny cakes are tiny, silver dollar pancakes; doughboys are fresh fried donuts/fried dough; cabinetts are milkshakes; coffee milk is like chocolate milk but made with coffee syrup; of course you can have a coffee cabinett; spinach pie is kind of like a spinach calzone; new york system weiners are not like NY hotdots but are smaller and with diffferent toppings, no New Yorker would call them a hot dog... that's why they are weiners; clear chowda is a clear broth clam chowder; grinders are the same as subs, wedges, hoagies, heroes, etc. but usually with toasted bread.

        1. re: JMF

          Hmm. When I lived in that part of the world, johnnycakes were corncakes.

        2. re: coombe

          "Wow! Sounds wonderful but what are stuffed quahaugs?"

          A little more detail:
          The stuffing in a stuffed quahog is typically a sage-based Thanksgiving turkey stuffing with ground hardshell clam in it. It's served in a hardshell clam shell. A typical recipe is Bell's poultry seasoning, cubes of stale bread, mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot), bits of clam, moistened with clam broth and butter. Sometimes, you'll get some heat from red pepper flakes. It's typically served hot with a side of butter that you melt over the top. Stuffed quahogs are very common bar food since they freeze well and heat easily in a microwave.

          Quahog is the local indian name for a hardshell clam. The small sizes that are usually eaten raw are locally called littlenecks and cherrystones. The western side of Rhode Island uses the Narragansett indian pronunciation "KWA-hog". The eastern side of Rhode Island and Massachusetts uses the Wampanoag indian pronunciation "KO-hog".

          Clam cakes are my personal favorite bad-for-you food. They're golfball-sized fried dough with bits of clam in them.

          Rhode Island and Southeastern Mass have a large Portuguese and Azores Islands population. If you're given the option of sweet bread toast at breakfast, do it. Kale soup is pretty common. It's pork stock with onion, a few beans, potato, kale, bits of pork shoulder, and linguica or chorico. Those are pork sausage seasoned with garlic, paprika, and oregano. Chorico also adds some heat from red pepper. Linguica is a common pizza topping.

      2. johnny cakes are fried corn cakes, pretty heavy but good with lots of butter. the traditional RI way to serve them is w/ "finn n'haddy" which is a creamy sauce of smoked haddock fish. that I wouldn't recommend, but it is certainly unique to RI.
        RI is a completely unique state IMO. I lived there for 8 years and my mom's family all lives there. Even though the state is only 1 hr x 1.5 hr wide, I will divide it up by region - yes there are regions and 40 distinct different accents.

        Charlestown/Westerly/Galilee - if you are there in the summer, go to moonstone beach. all year long you can eat at Champlin's seafood in Galilee. Get the fried whole belly clams.

        North Kingstown/Narragansett/Newport - there are no good restaurants in "NK." I grew up there, people seem to have an aversion to opening restaurants there, perhaps because only 5min away in Jamestown and Newport (both islands) almost every restaurant is great.
        In Jamestown, go to the Jamestown oyster bar, order fried oysters if you're in the mood, or other fish.
        In Newport, there are lots of good places there, I guess that's not describing one certain specialty, but ask around. A very locally owned place, is tucker's bistro on broadway.
        this is a really good representation of RI cooking - great food in an elegant setting, not too expensive. can compete with anywhere in NYC certainly.
        there are also lots of stuffy places you should try - RI is very old New England, old England in mentality. or at least a lot of people are. country clubs, class-wise society, etc. White Horse tavern and the like are a must.
        ok, back to your original question of actual specialties - please avoid the quahogs - it a really big clam, which is not good to eat whole. it's more of a joke food. get "steamers" from a reputable place, like champlin's in wickford. and make them yourself,(only eat if not during the summer), lobsters as well.
        avoid the food in the little italy section of providence, not very good. but there are some great restaurants in providence, do a search. al forno's was big when i lived there. stick to fried fish, newport, and providence, and you'll be fine.

        5 Replies
        1. re: fara

          Well, a quahog IS a really big clam, but in Rhody it's served as a stuffie -- they grind up the clam and add bread crumbs and veggies, and seasonings, then bake them in the shell. I love 'em.

          Rhode Island also has a good version of calamari. Fried with big red and yellow chilli peppers added at the end. Kind of a vinegar-based taste. It's good.

          Quahog (stuffie):

          Rhode Island calamari:

          1. re: Bostonbob3

            Yes, you're right. stuffies are ground up. but why eat ground up clams when you can eat small delicate ones? i guess i'm not a big fan.

            but I didn't realize the calamari was a RI thing. I love that version of calamari!

          2. re: fara

            I don't know...I'd strongly recommend some of the places and foods you say to avoid.

            Like "little italy," which is typically just called "the hill" in Providence. Most of the restaurants are on or close to Atwells Avenue. My favorite is Mediterraneo (and they make their own limoncello), but I've never had a bad meal in the neighborhood. Caserta's pizza is legendary, as is Venda Ravioli (gourmet shop, deli, and fresh pasta market), and I also love the Old Canteen (old style), Casa Christine, and Aquaviva. It's a great place to visit during the day--wander around and check out the stores, stop for some limoncello, and settle down for dinner when you're through.

            North Kingston, Wickford, Galilee, Narragansett, and Westerly (all part of what we call "south county" even though there is no south county in rhode island) have terrific restaurants now. It used to be pretty clam-shacky with all the fried foods you can eat, but there are excellent places to eat now (and they're usually more affordable than restaurants on Jamestown or Newport). Of course, there's still the clam shack. If you're into a grand tour of the clam cake & chowder shacks, Gallilee is a great place to work your way through the offerings.

            For more formal dining, though, Turtle Soup in Narrgansett is my favorite. Duffy's Tavern in Wickford can be great too. The service is super-slow, but if you don't mind waiting, it's a great place to feast on lobster, mussles, steamers, shrimp, clam cakes (my favorite come from Duffy's), and chowder in a casual setting.

            And sure, there are snooty places and old money in Rhode Island, but that's not all. Overall, there's lots of working class folks--lots of Irish and Italian heritage along with Portuguese, Dominican, and Southeast Asian. Newport and of the East Side of Providence...I don't like to visit them much (okay, Newport in the winter when it's not so tourist crazy), but the rest of the state is different and, as a foodie, I don't think I'll ever run out of new restaurants, neighborhoods, specialty markets, etc. to explore.

            1. re: fara

              DO NOT go to Tucker's Bistro!
              I was just there a week ago. The food was mediocre at best but the crazy part was the service. When my salad arrived - after both entrees were almost finished - I told the waiter I didn't care for the very sweet dressing. Instead of asking me if I wanted something else he got very defense and said -- "Everyone has loved it for over nine years!" To be honest, I didn't care. Fine. It's not a big deal. I even say to him, "I guess, I mis-read the description."

              He leaves, then returns, irritated -"Can I get you another dressing?" I decide on a white balsamic - that can't be as sweet as the soy-sesame mess. The waiter delivers the new salad by saying pointedly -- "Here's ANOTHER good dressing."

              I'm on vacation - I'm starting to think this is kinda funny. I taste the new salad. It tastes EXACTLY like the old one. I decline to eat it. I don't make a fuss. I didn't ask for it to be taken off the bill. No problem.

              The woman who clears our table asks about the untouched salad. I say - it's very sweet as well -- she says balsamic is very sweet. I say, "It can be but it shouldn't be syrup sweet." "But it is syrup sweet," she says. I say, "Yes, there is such a thing as a 'balsamic syrup' but that's not a salad dressing." I start to laugh.

              What's with this place and the salad dressing? We pay our check and head out the door. The original waiter rushes up and yells " I didn't give you the same dressing!" Dude! It's okay. It's salad dressing. You already ruined our dinner.
              I hope you and your dressing find some peace.

              P.S. The johnny cakes with "fresh" crab were terrible. We didn't dare complain or the guy might have followed us back to our hotel.

              1. re: fara

                Quahog a joke food? Certainly you would never eat them raw (as you would cherrystones or little necks, which BTW are just young quahogs) but they are indispensable in a good chowder. And I love stuffies (though I prefer the ones I make myself to those you usually find in a restaurant -- I load them up with pieces of quahog and use quahog broth as the liquid). I like them with Tobasco and lemon. And I usually use chopped quahogs when I make my spaghetti and clam sauce. They have tremendous flavor.

              2. FWIW, from someone's view who grew up there but left after hs, what I've missed are dels lemonade (until they started showing up at various fairs and food fests), D'Angelo's #9 sub, Allie's donuts, NY system hotdogs. But, I guess that's less chowhoundy and more the reminscing from what a hs'er enjoyed. For the record, quahogs are pronounced kwo hogs.

                11 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  less chowhoundy? all of that stuff is extremely chowhoundy.

                  I left RI after HS as well and on my rare visits back I mix the down-market classics with more "refined" stuff. In fact, on a recent visit I finally tried a Stanleyburger.

                  PS I don't think I've ever gotten anything other than a #9 (pokket, not sub, for me) at D'Angelo's.

                  1. re: Bob W

                    Yes, the #9 pocket! I think I need a trip back to RI just to get some of this. It's hard to explain NY system hot dogs to anyone who hasn't had one. It's not all the stuff they put in it but how it all tastes together.:-) Are there still D'Angelo's there? How about awful, awfuls (drink three, get one free)?

                    1. re: chowser

                      I wrote a radio spot for the Awful Awfuls in the 90s. The one with the annoying kid whistling through the straw (the AA's straw made a kind of horrifying squeal). They were pretty tasty though.

                      Up until about 6 months ago, there was a D'Angelo's a block from where I work. But that one closed, and now it's a Dunkin' Donuts.


                      1. re: chowser

                        D'Angelos are alive and well! Newport Creamery went through some tough times but it's still around, which means Awful Awfuls are too. Who can resist a "cawfee" Awful Awful?

                        Whenever you're in RI, no matter how many NY system weiners or stuffies or pizza strips you eat, make sure you pay a visit to Garrison Confections on Hope St. in Providence. Their chocolate is so good it surely reverses the negative effects of all the other stuff 8>D

                        1. re: Bob W

                          Garrison shop in Hope street has been closed for a long, long time. You can find them selling out of the factory in Pawtucket, I think. Whole Pay-check also carries their chocolates

                          1. re: kidschef

                            More than the two years ago Bob W. suggested it? :)

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              LOL Thanks. I have discussed the Garrison factory shop on other threads. I do try to keep up with the goings-on in RI. 8<D

                      2. re: Bob W

                        why are we recommending d'angelo's here?:)

                        1. re: fara

                          I was wondering that as well, however that #9 Pokket is really good. I think people have a fondness for D'Angelos because they only exist in New England and Florida. The first D'Angelos opened in 1967 in Dedham, MA under the name Ma Riva's Sub Shop. In 1997 Papa Gino's bought the chain. According to their web-site, there are 200 locations.

                          P.S. I too have only ever ordered the #9.

                          1. re: fara

                            I was just reminiscing about things I miss from R.I. I haven't had the #9 pocket in, I guess it would be 25 years. I wonder if I'd be really disappointed now if I had it again. I'm sad to hear Papa Gino's bought it out.

                            1. re: fara

                              D'Angelos (back when it was paired up with Steve's Ice Cream in the 80's) was my first job. I'd say close to fifty percent of the orders were for the #9. On Sundays, my job for the day was to shave close to 100 pounds of steak for the coming days' orders. It was always still slightly frozen, so by the end of the day my hands were numb and red.

                              But I loved the place (still do). And it was great as an employee to be able to make my sandwiches any way I liked them (or to make my friends enormous pokkets with two pounds of meat in them).

                        2. If you find a place serving Dynamites, I'd go for it.
                          A dynamite is a sandwich consisting of fried hamburger, peppers, onions, tomato sauce, and crushed red pepper, served on a torpedo roll. It's mostly a make-at-home kind of thing, like sloppy joes, but they can also be found in some places near Woonsocket like Castle Luncheonette and Main Street 200 Restaurant.

                          Del's Frozen Lemonaide has quit a few locations throughout the state. Granulated ice flavored with lemons and sugar hits the spot on a hot summer day.

                          Coffee milk seems to be served in RI more than any other place in New England.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            MMMMM Coffee Milk! When my sister went to school there, she told me I had to try coffee milk. To this day, I crave it.

                            1. re: Infomaniac

                              I used to go to the Castle when I was a child! I also remember their meatball sandwiches! Woonsocket is also the place for French meat pie!

                            2. To satisfy a few of those sentimental RI expatriot cravings, you can get Del's, NY System seasoning mix, Autocrat coffee syrup and lots of other RI stuff at

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: clamscasino

                                Yes, Rhode Island probably has more food specialities than anywhere else in the US other than New Orleans, NYC, SF, and perhaps Charleston. There's a great cookbook that came out last year on the special cookery of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.