Savor the local flavor

Hungry? You've come to the right place
By MARION DAVIS  |  August 31, 2010

Deb Collingwood at Stanley’s

In some college towns, you're lucky if you can find two or three good eateries. In Providence, you could get through med school and still not be done exploring — especially if you're willing to venture deep into the city and out across Rhode Island.

It helps to have a great culinary-arts school at Johnson & Wales University, which fills the city with talented young chefs just as Rhode Island School of Design fills it with artists. But that's only a small part of the story: The Ocean State, you'll discover, is a foodie's heaven, with a wildly diverse array of options, from the traditional, to the exotic, to the sublime — with a healthy dose of weird in-between.


Schools may be back in session, but summer is not quite over. And for those hitting the beach in the southern part of the state — that's "South County" to the locals — there's plenty of great fare.

It's not just frozen lemonade. It's DEL'S LEMONADE, a Rhody classic: light, sweet, specked with pieces of lemon rind, and soft and swishy so you can squeeze it right out of the cup — the way to have it. ("You MUST not eat Del's with a spoon or straw or ever be seen doing so," warned one native.)

Also down south, you may discover the Ocean State's luscious and super-fresh seafood, available (relatively) cheap at countless little family eateries and clam shacks (our favorites include FLO'S CLAM SHACK in Middletown, next to First Beach in Newport, GEORGE'S OF GALILEE in Narragansett, and a little closer to the city, QUITO'S RESTAURANT in Bristol).

You'll need to know some basics, starting with the three kinds of chowder: Manhattan is red and has no place north of Long Island; ignore it. New England is white and creamy; the best kinds will be lightly creamy rather than goopy. Rhode Island has a clear, flavorful broth.

Next, the clams: In the Ocean State, you'll find three main kinds. Littlenecks (and the larger cherrystones) are sweet, compact, and eaten raw on the half-shell, steamed in broth, or baked.

Steamers are long and flat, with dark shells and long necks; they're served steamed, with a bowl of broth to rinse them, or fried — as "whole clams" complete with bellies, or as "clam strips" (just the necks). Clam necks are chewy, a bit like squid; the bellies are more like cooked oysters.

The king of Rhody clams is the quahog (pronounced KO-hog), shaped like a littleneck but the size of the palm of your hand. Quahogs aren't served whole, but they're the basis of clam chowder and of two local favorites: stuffies and clam cakes. The latter are dough fritters loaded with clam pieces; dip them in malt vinegar. Stuffies are gigantic stuffed clams; the best are not too doughy and crispy on top.

Also worth trying: fresh lobster rolls, baked scallops (or any baked seafood here — buttery, topped with crispy crumbs). And if you can't head out to the coast, try HORTON'S SEAFOOD in East Providence, which has all the good stuff without the seagulls.

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