28 Best Seafood Restaurants in Rhode Island
What to Order: Who says the business lunch is dead? Go with a group and share the Shellfish Tower (serves four to six) bedecked with local oysters plucked from New England shores, littleneck clams, cold baby lobster, jumbo shrimp cocktail and the kicker, Alaskan King Crab legs. Just two of you? The shellfish platter will do.
What’s Special: We often send out-of-town visitors (read: Midwesterners) here for a real lobsters-and-clams experience. The restaurant is also working with the Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Shell Fishermen’s Association to promote and serve sustainable top neck clams.
Fun Perks: Half-price raw bar on Mondays with the purchase of an entree in the dining room, or a beverage at the bar. Or do a power lunch, Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and enjoy an appetizer, entree, French pressed coffee and a cookie (coffee can be taken to-go) for $22.
121 South Main St., Providence, 401-351-8570, hemenwaysrestaurant.com
DeWolf Tavern and Hemenway’s
What to Order: While lobster alone can stand on its own two feet (err, ten legs?), it is elevated to new heights inside the warm, light and airy pastry that is the lobster popover.
What’s Special: The 1818 renovated warehouse sits harborside, and the outdoor patio is a prime location for watching sailboats bob along the water.
Fun Perks: Weekly specials abound, including the Super Sunday three-course meal with a glass of wine or draft beer for $28 per person. Monday is $1 oyster day at the bar, noon to close.
259 Thames St., Bristol, 401-254-2005, dewolftavern.com
Mijos Tacos food truck
What to Order: The L.A.-style food truck is famous for grilled local fluke, bluefish, mackerel or squid (whatever’s available from the local guys, really) in soft tortillas trimmed with onions, fresh cilantro, housemade salsas and topped with lime wedges and fresh radishes.
What’s Special: Local fishermen from Brown Family Seafood hand deliver whole fish (fluke, cod, mackerel), caught in Rhode Island waters to chef Peter Gobin, who fillets and grills it.
Fun Perks: Mijos Tacos can be found around town for lunch or dinner, he caters private parties and weddings, and he makes appearances at many summer festivals in Providence. Follow him on Twitter at @mijostacos to become a bona fide taco stalker.
Matunuck Oyster Bar
What to Order: The lobster roll is the best around: chunks of claw and tail meat accented by nothing more than a little light mayo, the snap of lettuce, and stuffed in a buttered, toasted hot dog roll.
What’s Special: There’s not a bad seat in (or outside) the house. Views of Potter Pond frame the interior windows; the outdoor patio captures the beauty of the waterfront where those very same oysters were plucked.
Fun Perk: A mountain of Matunucks greets guests from the raw bar (where there’s usually a burly man showing off shucking skills and building his forearms in the process). Take advantage of buck-a-shuck all summer long — $1 oysters — from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
629 Succotash Rd., South Kingstown, 401-783-4202, rhodyoysters.com
Amaral’s Fish and Chips
What to Order: The sign says fish and chips, so for the love of all that is holy, get the fish and chips — and not just during Lent, if you’re Catholic. Crisp light-battered pieces of New Bedford-caught haddock (supplied by Tony’s Seafood in Warren and Seekonk) that never get soggy are the name of the game.
What’s Special: The decor’s nothing fancy and we like it that way: a couple of nautical ship wheels and unpadded orange booths are plenty good enough for us. The family-run spot has been in business for thirty years, so they’re doing it right.
Fun Perk: Orders are usually ready in five minutes, but it can get busy, so call ahead for pick-up to avoid waiting.
4 Redmond St., Warren, 401-247-0675, amaralsfishandchips.com
What to Order: The waterfront spot takes an Italian spin on seafood with your choice of shrimp, mussels, littlenecks or calamari served zuppa (marinara with olive oil and garlic) or scampi-style (white wine and garlic butter) over pasta. Seafood comes from local markets like Foley Fish in New Bedford and Tony’s Seafood in Seekonk. Littlenecks are delivered by Andrade’s Catch and chopped clams come from Galilean Seafood, both in Bristol.
What’s Special: Quito’s started out as a fish market and evolved into the dining room and dockside patio it is today. Those looking for a more casual approach can order basic seafood items (and gelato!) at the takeout area out front.
Fun Perks: The restaurant’s location boasts sunset views, and it sits next to Independence Park and the East Bay Bike Path, perfect for pre- or post-dinner strolls (may we suggest you bring a blanket and have a takeout picnic?).
411 Thames St., Bristol, 401-253-4500, quitosrestaurant.com
What to Order: You have to trust the seafood’s as fresh as you can get when the restaurant’s selling the good stuff straight from the sea at its onsite retail market. To get a sampling of everything (cooked, that is), the combo platter is piled high with fried flounder, scallops, shrimp, whole belly clams and clam strips, plus French fries or steamed red bliss potatoes.
What’s Special: Dining room renovations include an enlarged bar, immense glass windows showcasing the view and new tables with benches big enough for the whole family. They’ve also increased outdoor seating with two water-view decks and an outdoor raw bar.
Fun Perks: You can pick a large live lobster in the market downstairs to be cooked upstairs for dinner. You can even ship the market’s fresh seafood overnight to loved ones across the country who need a Rhode Island fish fix.
256 Great Island Rd., Narragansett, 401-783-3152, champlins.com
The Lobster Pot
What to Order: The salmon specials are where the chefs’ creativity shines. The flaky pink fish might be pistachio-crusted or seared with vanilla and curry.
What’s Special: It’s been in business since 1929 and the dining room’s sprawling maps and photographs illustrate Bristol’s sailing past, while vast windows and an outdoor patio showcase Narragansett Bay’s prime sunset panoramas.
Fun Perk: They’ve teamed up with 2nd Story Theatre in Warren to offer guests a 10 percent discount on a pre-theater meal if they present their tickets for that night’s show.
119 Hope St., Bristol, 401-253-9100, lobsterpotri.com
What to Order: When you can’t decide what type of seafood you want, the cookpot gives you a taste of everything: lobster, littlenecks, mussels, scallops and scrod in a tomato and garlic saffron broth with fingerling potatoes and chourico — the perfect combination of salt, fat and acid — served with crisp toast in an elegant red crock.
What’s Special: Food and Wine magazine readers recently voted executive chef Matthew MacCartney as the People’s Best New Chef 2014 for New England.
Fun Perks: Dining options abound. For those nights requiring air-conditioning, seaside chic reigns in the dining room while the upstairs Bridge Bar and Deck offers small plates and cocktails over views of Narragansett Bay and the Newport Pell Bridge. For al fresco afternoons and evenings, the outdoor bar and patio features more casual fare created in the woodstone pizza oven.
14 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown, 401-423-3474, jamestownfishri.com
What to Order: Sweet Georges Bank scallops pan-seared until a caramelized crust forms, often served with bacon lardons because bacon is great on everything. The scallops are acquired through Foley Fish in New Bedford, a family seafood business since 1906.
What’s Special: Dining options abound with an outdoor patio, heated covered porch and indoor dining room with windows displaying the Sakonnet River and painted sunsets.
Fun Perk: The restaurant serves Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with choices like the omelet of the day, eggs Benedict (Newport style with crab cakes) and Portuguese French toast.
227 Schooner Dr., Tiverton, 401-624-6300, boathousetiverton.com
The Lobster Pot and Jamestown FIsH
What to Order: Chef Matthew Varga’s bracingly fresh Nantucket Bay scallops crudo. Sweet, firm scallops share the plate with a stunning cast of supporting players: grapefruit and radish bring bite and acidity; herbs and capsicums convey vegetal notes; and olive oil delivers peppery richness.
What’s Special: As Providence’s only AAA Four Diamond-awarded restaurant, Gracie’s seamlessly combines fine dining with casual sophistication.
Fun Perk: Chef Varga grows a rooftop herb and vegetable garden adjacent to the restaurant, so many of the edibles on your beautifully presented plate hail from less than a block away. –Jamie Samons
194 Washington St., Providence, 401-272-7811, graciesprovidence.com
What to Order: The John Dory with glazed sunchokes, pearl onions and Hakurei turnips. Glazed mussels, a crispy potato galette and shellfish butter sauce complement the subtly flavored, finely textured flesh of the fish.
What’s Special: Persimmon is consistently rated among the top restaurants in the country for outstanding service and cuisine (hello, James Beard Award semifinalist nods). Prepare to be thoroughly taken care of in an unassuming and elegant manner.
Fun Perk: Chef Champe Speidel’s seafood offerings rely heavily on bycatch, so diners often have access to delicious, environmentally friendly fish that might not be widely available. –Jamie Samons
99 Hope St., Providence, 401-432-7422, persimmonri.com
Midtown Oyster Bar
What to Order: If you think whole belly clams are fabulous fried, wait until you try plump oysters prepared much the same way. The fried oyster roll combines the best specimens with the crunch of slaw and housemade remoulade in a crusty buttered roll.
What’s Special: Located in the former Salas space, it has two al fresco decks and the largest raw bar in Newport where you can slurp local beauties like Rome Points, East Beach Blondes and Moonstones. Sometimes you might even get to meet the farmer behind the shellfish on special nights when they shuck and talk about their bivalves.
Fun Perk: Champagne and Shells is every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to close. Buy a glass of Champagne and get three free oysters, or buy a whole bottle and get a dozen gratis.
345 Thames St., Newport, 401-619-4100, midtownoyster.com
Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar
What to Order: The stuffies are the quintessential version of the Rhode Island classic: two local quahogs stuffed with breadcrumbs, roasted red peppers and fresh herbs. With so many quahoggers coming in and out of Greenwich Bay every day, this is the spot to savor meaty gems from their hauls.
What’s Special: The cozy restaurant is located right in the hubbub of Main Street, but the bay is just a few blocks away where many of the menu choices were harvested.
Fun Perks: Enjoy buck-a-shuck oysters Sunday through Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m., half-priced bottles of wine on Tuesdays, $5 martinis on Wednesdays and half-priced drinks for ladies on Thursdays.
250 Main St., East Greenwich, 401-398-2462, greenwichbayoysterbar.com
Nicks on Broadway
What to Order: Chef-owner Derek Wagner works with local fishermen like Steve Arnold and Chris Brown to access the freshest sustainable fish. Choose Rhode Island-caught scup, fluke or black bass, prepared in myriad ways: vibrant and clean crudo with fresh and pickled fruits, vegetables and herbs; fillets that are herb- or citrus-roasted; or buttermilk and cornmeal-crusted — yes, even for brunch — blanketed by eggs Benedict.
What’s Special: Wagner serves on the national board for Chefs Collaborative, a network of chefs that is changing the sustainable food landscape through education. He also earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs, a prominent culinary publication and website.
Fun Perk: Voice a love for seafood and a $65 four-course tasting menu can highlight everything from diverse species of fish to squid and native mussels, oysters and clams. “It’s fun for me as a chef, and fun for our diners who might try things they normally wouldn’t try,” Wagner says. “There are things available here that aren’t available anywhere else in the world. In this part of the country, what we eat makes a difference in the environment and the economy. We want to support the things we should be eating, not just the things we’re acclimated to eating.”
500 Broadway, Providence, 401-421-0286, nicksonbroadway.com
Nicks on Broadway and Midtown Oyster Bar
George’s of Galilee
What to Order: The lobster’s so fresh that the lobstermen (from Narragansett Bay Lobsters) walk over from the docks to make deliveries. Order the baked stuffed lobster, because when you don’t feel like getting guts in your hair, nothing beats a crustacean that’s already been cracked open for you (and stuffed with luscious meat and buttery cracker crumbs with a squeeze of lemon).
What’s Special: The ultimate waterfront eatery boasts a wraparound deck overlooking Block Island Sound, plus fire pits out front. Stay for dessert at Nana’s onsite ice cream shop.
Fun Perk: George’s works with Brown Family Seafood, the Local Catch and the Trace and Trust program to source fresh fish from local fishermen. Go to traceandtrust.com to view recent deliveries of fluke, skate, scallops and more.
250 Sand Hill Cove Rd., Galilee, 401-783-2306, georgesofgalilee.com
Oriental calamari at Celestial Cafe.
We know you like it fried Rhode Island-style with banana peppers (hence the push to make it Rhode Island’s official state appetizer), but how many other ways can you have it?
By Camryn Rabideau
Try this exotic variation: fried Point Judith calamari with mushrooms, water chestnuts, peapods, bamboo shoots and scallions, sauteed in a soy-ginger glaze.
567 South County Trl., Exeter, 401-295-5559, celestialcaferi.com
This Greek-inspired recipe will have you stuffed: extra large calamari filled with feta cheese, rice and Greek herbs, then braised to perfection and drizzled with traditional Greek Ladolemono sauce.
268 Thayer St., Providence, 401-331-7879, andreasri.com
Fried Coconut Calamari
It might be the perfect marriage of sweet and tangy: fried calamari rolled in coconut flakes with homemade honey mustard sauce for dipping.
156 County Rd., Barrington, 401-289-2998, tongdrestaurant.com
Kung Pao Calamari
If you like your calamari with a little extra “pow,” this recipe’s got kick: fried squid with hot peppers, plum chili sauce, peanuts and scallions.
963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown, 401-846-9620, anthonysseafood.net
Calamare Al K’allu
These calamari rings are floured, fried and tossed with queso blanco, choclo, mint, tomatoes and garlic butter, topped off with balsamic reduction.
903 Chalkstone Ave., Providence, 401-649-4911, losandesri.com
Lightly fried calamari drizzled with wasabi aioli and a sweet soy-ginger glaze bedecked with green onion and toasted sesame seeds.
5 Memorial Blvd., Newport, 401-847-0416, canfieldhousenewport.com
Seafood seasonality depends on two things: When fish are most plentiful and how much regulations allow to be caught. Rich Cook, owner of the Local Catch in Narragansett (with his wife, Ann), offers expertise on what can be caught when.
By Courtney Coelho
Fact: Tens of thousands are caught in Rhode Island, but most are sold out of state.
Cooking method: Light in flavor, scup are commonly pan-fried.
Availability: Year-round; summer recreationally.
Fact: Comes closer to shore in warmer months and is plentiful in Rhode Island’s coastal areas.
Cooking method: A type of flat fish, quick, high-heat cooking like pan-frying or broiling is best.
AKA: Blackback flounder
Fact: Because it makes its home close to land, blackback can be susceptible to overfishing and habitat degradation.
Cooking method: Denser than summer flounder, winter flounder’s mild flavor lends itself to a variety of preparations.
Availability: Spring and fall.
Fact: Using green crabs as bait, fishermen tend to catch tautog in rocky coastal waters, like Newport.
Cooking method: A white, dry, delicate fish, tautog is great grilled, baked or as the main ingredient in fish chowder.
Availability: May to December recreationally; commercial catches are held to stricter regulations.
Fact: Rhode Island’s most popular game fish, stripers have made a comeback in the past ten years.
Cooking method: A versatile, medium-flavored fish, there’s almost no preparation that doesn’t work.
Fact: This bottom-feeder can grow up to seventy-five pounds and is often called the “poor man’s lobster” for its similar taste to the crustacean.
Cooking method: Any way you’d serve lobster.
Availability: April to November.
Fact: Bluefish is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Cooking methods: With a strong flavor that’s an acquired taste for many, bluefish responds well to roasting.
AKA: No other name.
Fact: Cod prefer the cold waters of Block Island Sound and the open Atlantic and are not often found close to shore.
Cooking method: Cod holds up well to deep-frying, but also works well roasted and in soups.
Availability: June to December
Fact: Long, multi-colored creatures, mahi mahi migrate south in the winter, coming as close as Point Judith.
Cooking method: Mahi mahi holds up well to grilling, often served with lemon or fruit like pineapple or mango.
AKA: Skate ray, raja fish
Fact: Once considered a trash fish, winter skate is the variety most commonly sold in local shops.
Cooking methods: Only the thin wings of the fish are consumed. Pan-frying is a common way to cook them, often with little more than brown butter, lemon and capers.
AKA: St. Pierre in France and on some American menus
Fact: A bycatch of commercial fishing, fishmongers can rarely count on having it in stock.
Cooking method: Mild and buttery, pan-frying is a popular preparation.
Clam Cakes and Chowder
Deals at our favorite clam shacks.
Location: Close to Point Judith fishing port, just a few miles from beaches.
Specials: Three clam cakes and a bowl of chowder for $7.90, anytime.
Details: 1240 Ocean Rd., Narragansett, 401-783-7930, auntcarriesri.com
Open: Daily Memorial Day to Labor Day; Fri.− Sun. April, May and September.
Blount Clam Shack (Warren)
Location: Watch sailboats float along the historic Warren waterfront while listening to live acoustic music 4–8 p.m. on weekends.
Specials: A half-dozen clam cakes, bowl of chowder and a Narragansett Tall Boy for $11.99.
Details: 335 Water St., Warren, 401-245-3210; other locations at blountretail.com
Open: Daily May to Labor Day.
Location: Located on Nanaquaket Pond where sunsets are killer, boats pull up to the dock and guests enjoy indoor, patio or covered picnic table seating.
Specials: Mon.–Thurs., $5 chowder and cakes (bowl of chowder and four clam cakes).
Details: 2335 Main Rd., Tiverton, 401-624-3100, evelynsdrivein.com
Open: Daily April to October.
Location: Original location right on the water in Portsmouth; Middletown is directly across the street from Easton’s Beach.
Specials: Chowder combo available anytime: bowl of chowder, three clam cakes and a draught beer or soda for $6.95.
Details: Park Avenue, Island Beach Park, Portsmouth; 4 Wave Ave., Middletown, 401-847-8141, flosclamshacks.com
Open: Portsmouth: Fri.−Sun. April to July 4; Thurs.−Sun. July 4 to Labor Day; Fri. –Sun. until Oct. 31. Middletown: daily in summer; Thurs.−Sun. March to Memorial Day and Labor Day to Thanksgiving.
Location: Warwick location sits on Oakland Beach overlooking Narragansett Bay. Narragansett outpost is in Point Judith, minutes from beaches.
Specials: Coupon deals like two cups of chowder, six clam cakes and two sodas for $11.95, or go for the everyday combo (bowl of chowder and three clam cakes) for $7.49.
Details: 889 Oakland Beach Ave., Warwick, 401-737-9459; 1157 Point Judith Rd., Narragansett, 401-783-5608, iggysdoughboys.com
Open: Warwick: open year-round. Narragansett: Daily March to Columbus Day.
Meet Rhode Island’s oyster farmers (and taste some serious shellfish, too).
Captain Rich Cook sells fresh seafood at farmers markets across the state.
A Rhode Island shellfish adventure, including an oyster farm tour and clamming and cooking on the beach.