The scene at Blount Clam Shack in Warren on a Sunday summer afternoon is like a well-orchestrated block party: large white tent for keeping out rain or providing shade; long, family-style picnic tables; outside the tent, more picnic tables and a few beach chairs; a large cooler full of bottles of water; and live music from 3 to 7 pm, often provided by Warren resident Otis Read and friends. One large diner van serves as kitchen and take-out window and a smaller “express” van sits next door for those who just crave chowder and clam cakes.
Blount is all about its Rhody seafood specialties: stuffies, fried clams, lobster rolls, fish and chips, crab cakes, clam cakes, bisques, and chowders. After the Hurricane of ’38 wiped out 80 percent of the oyster beds between Warren and West Barrington, Nelson Blount bought the riverfront property in 1943 and built his business on processing clams. Nowadays, Blount Seafood supply clams to many national soup companies, as well as providing their own soups to restaurants nationwide.
But what the locals care about are the clam cakes and stuffies, which are seldom familiar to anyone past the state borders (at least not by those names). The stuffies ($3.25 each) are large and stuffed into scallop shells. The breading is light, herbed almost like Thanksgiving stuffing, with a few pieces of quahog here and there. The tiny clam cakes ($3.50 a half-dozen) are similarly short on clams, but that seems to be traditional.
The chowders are offered in red and white varieties, but not the Rhode Island “clear.” The red is also Manhattan, not Rhode Island-style, and the white (to me) is mushy, with unevenly-cooked potatoes. Perhaps they’re designed with homogenized country-wide appetites in mind, but I’d prefer real Rhody chowders.
Blount’s lobster bisque is called “extreme lobster bisque,” presumably from the amount of lobster cooked to make the broth, and “Blount lobster stew” is the bisque with plenty of fresh lobster added to it ($12.95 a bowl vs. $4.75 for a bowl of bisque). Bill loved the big chunks of lobster, but I wasn’t fond of the floury bisque around them.
Our group of four grabbed a table out on the dock, “stageside” to the musicians. Our two friends ordered fish and chips and were more than satisfied with the amount of fries and the crispy haddock fillets. The slaw was delicious, with a bit of celery seed in the dressing. We all wondered, with Blount’s emphasis on their food business and the development of new food products, why the tartar sauce was Cain’s.
Bill and I both opted for “seaside sandwiches,” as they’re termed on the menu. Bill’s was a fish Reuben ($7.95), with Swiss cheese; cole slaw replaced the sauerkraut. The fish was also haddock, and he was quite pleased with the combo. He did murmur, however, that his side of cole slaw was a half portion and wondered if they’d used some of it for the sandwich.
My sandwich was a fish taco with cod nuggets, melted cheese, lettuce, and salsa ($7.95), wrapped up like a burrito, with standard-order fries and the aforementioned slaw, tasty but meagerly-portioned.