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Rhode Island Clam Chowder?

We are planning our first trip to Rhode Island next week and I am interested in trying Rhode Island clam chowder for the first time. Do most restaurants in RI which serve chowder, offer the RI style, or are there certain places where that style of chowder is served? We welcome any advice you can offer.

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  1. Are you asking about clear chowder, or clear chowder with cream added, or red (manhattan) chowder?

    I would love to know where to find some red chowder if anyone makes it.

    Had some tasty clear chowder (before cream addition) at Evelyn's in Tiverton on Saturday with a couple of clamcakes as the sun was setting. Even though it was quite warm on Saturday, the chowder really hit the spot and the clamcakes did a good job of soaking up all the beer I drank at Buzzards Bay's Summerfest.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LStaff

      "Rhode Island style" usually means a clear broth-based chowder. (Although there is a local aberration of "RI style" with tomato and chorico added, which I have only found in and around Providence.)

      Evelyn's does, indeed, make an outstanding RI style chowder. I'm not a big fan of RI style, but if all of it tasted like the ambrosia Evelyn's puts out, I think I could change my mind. <grin>

      South County seems to be a mecca for RI style chowder - most places will offer a choice of that or NE style (with milk or cream added). Also, over in the East Bay you'll find it a lot. I haven't had as much luck in the Providence area, although some more knowledgeable 'hounds could clarify.

      1. re: LStaff

        At the corner of Charlestown Beach Rd and rt 1A, or Shore Rd,... there is a clam shack that used to be at the right side of the "wall " in Narragansett. They have a choice of all 3 chowders, clear, cream and red. I had the red last week and thought it was pretty good! I like a little more zip myself (I carry a cute little bottle of hot sauce at all times) but the place was really cute, the menu had something for everyone and the prices were OK. BYOB. Enjoy!!

      2. For Red chowder go to Quito's in Bristol.

        Gesualdi's on Hartford Ave in Providence, lunch only, makes chowder fridays. If you want to have the red (I always do) it takes luck or planning: I think they alternate New England and red, week to week.

        For years I would get clear chowder at Flo's Island Park. Never the best, but what a cute spot. After my last visit I am sad to say don't bother with the chowder. I do not know if it is also bad at Flo's in Middletown.

        I guess to avoid ambiguity about "Rhode Island" chowder, stick to saying white, red or clear. One thing for sure, RI chowder is never the milky, or creamy New England style.

        3 Replies
        1. re: atheorist

          When I started to cook, my first real job at 100 Acres Restaurant in Old Lyme CT was to make the chowder (1970)...the clear broth...actually grey in color of made right...with potates and onions,,,chopped clams...parsley and a pinch of oregano, was how I thought chowder was made. We never called it Rhode Island style...always Shoreline..but that name may have been invented. At the time we used to add about a cup of MSG insted of salt...thank goodness times have changed.

          New england style is more than just adding cream to the Rhode Island style chowder...it requires some thickener...

          but in almost every case it is much too stiff...it is suposed to be a chowder...the stuff I had at a 99 a few weeks ago could have doubled as a spread for the bread...

          but in the old days the need for crackers was to give it some body...hense the need for a very dry cracker... (Good Oyster stew is really just milk poached oysters...crumble the crackers...this connects all the way back to the pre middle ages before they figured out what roux was...)

          Manhattan...can be OK...but most make it taste like Cambells vegetarian soup...

          Clams are tough to handle, require alot of work wich is why a real chowder is hard to find..just like pizza with fresh clams...but let's not get into that debate today.

          Note...I like the Westminster Crackers best...all organic...no preservatives either

          1. re: sodagirl

            I too grew up in Rhode island having a homemade foggy colored broth chowder heavy in parsley with FRESH clam juice and littlenecks that where still buried in the bay that morning. That soup is gone, along with our bay ... please don't forget for a minute that everything thuat’s great about this location is that bay! I would love to have fresh littlenecks from the efforts of a afternoon waist deep in salty water... without wondering if the seafood has been spoiled from the boats or raw sewage we've loaded it up with.

            1. re: sodagirl

              agrees with all the above. Cringes at the MSG, but one of my first restaurant jobs included a stint at a place that added non-dairy creamer to the chowder. {{shudder}}

              Puts in a plug for Crown Pilot cracker.

          2. Results of my summer chowder ramblings are in.
            It's Evelyn's!

            1. Our favorite place is Champlain's in Galilee...they offer all three chowders, red, white, and clear - and their clear chowder is my personal fav!!

              1. Aunt Carries does white and also clear. They may do red also. I know some of us aren't partial to Carries but the shore dinner or whatever meal I had there was OK.

                1 Reply
                1. re: honey_west

                  A group of us Boston-area folks stopped by Aunt Carrie's for dinner on the way home from Block Island last night. They serve red, white, and "original" (clear) clam chowder. Two of us tried it and felt it was quite tasty.

                  Overall, Aunt Carrie's is what it is, and sometimes it is exactly the sort of experience one wants.. It may not be the best at any one thing, it is not creative or fancy, but it definitely is an example of an iconic regional mid-New England seafood-at-the-shore kind of place. A fair amount of what was on the menu was not trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Plus it's kind of nice to eat somewhere where the pies are baked right there and at least echo the traditional flavors of the area.

                2. For the best chowder and clamcakes you definitely have to head down to Narragansette ,specifically Galliee. Iggy's is very good ,across the street is Aunt Carries so you could try both. Another favorite is Captain Jack's in Matunuck (off route 1 south
                  Succatash Rd.) They also have the best fried clams ( outside of Ipswich).One of the owners is also a pastry chef so they also have incredible desserts.
                  Another good place is Flo's clam shack in Newport. Don't be put off by the location.It's a beach bum joint,not fancy like most of Newport.
                  If you have the time take the ferry out of Galliee and go to Block Island for the best "chowda" there is. I can't remember the name of the place but its just take out and is a white building with picnic tables facing the harbor right in back of the tourist info. building. Can anyone remember the name for me.? I have been there several times.They have won awards for best "chowda" several years in a row and when you taste it you will know why.Hope you enjoy little Rhody. I would be interested in hearing where you end up going.
                  I like the white chowder the best. My husband swears by the red,but I also grew up having the clear only.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: sandylee

                    The Block Island place you are referring to must be Finn's, based on your description of it's location.

                    1. re: Scargoe

                      We had a really good chowder last weekend at Trio's in Narragansett.

                    2. re: sandylee

                      If it's "just take out" it must be the Water Street Cafe. One of my faves for "chowda" on Block Island also.

                      1. re: clamscasino

                        Trio and Turtle soup have better versions of chowda in that area, Aunt Carrie's is just dull and Iggie's (white) is grotesquely thick and tasteless

                        1. re: clamscasino

                          Agree that it is Water Street. Good lobster roll too.

                          And definitely not Finn's; had the white chowder there, was pretty bad.

                          1. re: sandman00000

                            Could not have been Finn's. The chowder there has been terrible for decades, little more than Snows. Could've been Water Street, or Rebecca's.

                            Rebecca's Seafood Takeout
                            435 Water St, Block Island, RI

                      2. I'm at a loss where to suggest getting excellent RI style chowder (which I prefer over NE and do not like Manhatten), but do avoid Iggy's, Aunt Carries & Chaplins chowders. Iggies white is a step up from library paste & Champlin's RI style tastes like dish water. Across the water, Captain Jack's has a fairly decent clear chowder, but don't expect to see more than a few chips of a clam in the broth. Best white IMO is at the Crows Nest in Warwick.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Clams047

                          R.I. Style doesnt measure up to a good NE Chowder RI looks like a dirty dish water with a salt pork fat slick on top Chowders IMO only need the slightest thickening with a small addition of minded dillI usually use a quahog base stock something like a court boullion. reduced then used in its making its the Stock or foundation which makes any soup taste great the clams only are a garnish to enhance the flavor.

                        2. Spent last week vacationing in RI. Sampled the chowda at Iggy's and Aunt Carrie's. I thought that Iggy's was alright, but a little too flour-y. It's thick- much more New England style (which is how I usually like it). The milk chowder at Aunt Carrie's was much thinner, more like clear w/ cream added. The flavor was outstanding- it tasted of salt pork and clams. Perfect foil for clamcakes. I wasn't brave enough to go for the clear/plain chowder, but I will next time.