The Best Seafood in Rhode Island

From restaurants to markets to chefs' recipes, here are our favorite ways to get our seafood fix in the Ocean State.


The saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But tell him (or her) which restaurant to visit for fish and they’ll go home happy and with a full belly. This month, our sustainable seafood guide features the freshest fillets, clams, oysters, lobster and more from our local waters. Go ahead, and put up a sign that says, “Gone fishing!” — even if the only heavy lifting you’ll do is with a fork.

Amaral’s Fish and Chips
Don’t wait until Lent to make fish and chips a Friday ritual. Amaral’s is a family business, open since 1984, and fish frying is in its owners’ blood. Eat in, or take out, the haddock is fried in a light flour batter until hot and crisp and served with housemade tartar sauce, a pile of fries and coleslaw. Go straight to the counter or give Amaral’s a call to place your order; just be ready for the piping hot handoff five minutes later. Stuffies, baked scrod (on Fridays) and clam cakes and chowder are all popular options, whether you go with natural Rhode Island-style, white cream or Manhattan red clam, or take a Portuguese spin and order kale soup for dunking instead. 4 Redmond St., Warren, 247-0675, amaralsfishandchips.com

amaral's

Donald Amaral and his brother Tony, of Amaral’s Fish and Chips are ready to take orders. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Birch
Since birch executive chef and owner, Ben Sukle, began gardening on a tiny plot in the greenhouse at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Garden, local herbs, leaves and flowers join the Narragansett Bay seafood dishes on his restaurant’s four-course menu. Clam lovers should explore the littleneck clam on the first course: tenderly poached Rhode Island littlenecks accordion with garden-fresh Thai basil and tender baby lettuce leaves between thin discs of crisp kohlrabi. Each bite delivers oceanic salinity and vegetable crunch. A drizzle of fermented kohlrabi juice provides a suitably bracing tartness. All of it nestles in a graphite-hued ceramic vessel, making the dish a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. 200 Washington St., Providence, 272-3105, birchrestaurant.com

Bywater
Sure, you could peruse the menu on social media before you go, but you might fare better by choosing your fish dish at the table. Bywater changes its dishes on the daily, cooking with the seasons and using what’s available from farms and fishermen. There’s always local oysters (hit up Mondays for $1 deals), smoked trout pate and local steamed littlenecks on the lineup (save some of the excellent housemade brown bread for extra dipping). For entrees, the steady summer star is striped bass prepared in myriad ways (as long as they can get it). A small patio has a distant view of Warren’s waterfront, where there’s a park fit for a sunset stroll. 54 State St., Warren, 694-0727, bywaterrestaurant.com

Champlin’s Seafood Deck
The quintessential spot for seafood that’s baked, broiled and fried, Champlin’s overlooks Narragansett Bay where commercial fishing vessels land fresh seafood daily at its loading docks. Not only can you have the bounty of the sea prepared for you upstairs at the restaurant — the fried seafood dinners, served with red potatoes and coleslaw, are a must — but you can also peruse the market to take home your own specialties for cooking. If your friends are jealous of your seafood-boasting Facebook post, surprise them with overnight lobster and clams delivered to their door. Who could say no to an authentic Rhode Island clambake? 256 Great Island Rd., Narragansett, 783-3152, champlins.com

Fluke Newport
With a name like Fluke, it best have local seafood species available, and you bet it does. The restaurant has one of the most comprehensive sustainable seafood menus in the state, giving prime real estate to tautog, fluke, skate, monkfish, striped sea bass, yellowfin tuna, swordfish and more. Whether fish is roasted, pan seared or fried, chef Eddie Montalvo shows there are many more options than salmon and cod. Popular summer dishes include seared sea scallops with baby bok choy, Rhode Island mushrooms and chili soy glaze and roasted lobster with handmade pasta. Anti-fish eaters dine well here, too, with choices such as roasted Baffoni Farm chicken, New York strip sirloin and more. Sip artisanal cocktails made with fresh juices and syrups in the upstairs dining room overlooking Bannister’s and Bowen’s wharfs. Bannister’s Wharf, Newport, 849-7778, flukenewport.com

fluke, Newport, ri

Fluke Newport’s roasted lobster over handmade spinach angel hair pasta with morel mushrooms and ramp butter. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Jamestown Fish
Located a stone’s throw from East Ferry Beach, Jamestown Fish comes by its name naturally: Half of its inventive menu is devoted to the sea.
In his refined take on a classic New England lobster salad, executive chef, Matthew MacCartney, marries warm Newport Lobster Company lobster, purple artichokes, fennel, tarragon and delicate mache. Blueberries provide a delightful acidic contrast to the sweet lobster. Fish also boasts an impressive wine list and each Thursday, the restaurant focuses on a specific region or grape varietal, pouring wines that are generally only available by the bottle and offering a
two-course meal for $25. On Vintage Thursdays, guests are welcome to bring their own bottle based on the theme of the night. 14 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown, 423-3474, jamestownfish.com

Maddie’s Restaurant and Bar
Maddie’s is the relaunched seafood restaurant attached to DiMare fish market. The family-owned and operated restaurant, named after the owners’ young daughter, specializes in fresh-from-the-boat fish cooked on the spot and served at tables, or customers can buy from the market and cook at home. Specialties include fried favorites, baked casseroles and pan-seared salmon, swordfish and scallops. The frutti di mare is a popular choice with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari over pappardelle. There’s also a five-course prix fixe dinner that includes a craft beer or wine pairing for each dish for $45 per person. 2706 South County Trl., East Greenwich, 885-8100, maddiesrestaurantandbar.com

Matunuck Oyster Bar
Owner Perry Raso farms seven acres of shellfish in Potter Pond and is a regional and national expert on aquaculture and merroir. In fact, part of the Matunuck magic might include a tour of the farm and a discussion of the unique characteristics of Rhode Island’s estuarine environment that give Matunuck oysters their buttery, briny, meaty deliciousness. Enjoy a dozen on the half shell or get a little adventurous and order them broiled with a chipotle-bourbon barbecue sauce or fried atop a salad of greens from Matunuck’s own vegetable farm. No matter what preparation you choose, sit on the deck, breathe in the marine air, and enjoy your pond-to-plate experience. 629 Succotash Rd., South Kingstown, 783-4202, rhodyoysters.com

Metacom Kitchen
In Warren, a town laden with a whaling and shipbuilding pedigree, it should come as no surprise that chef Richard Allaire takes advantage of his position in between Narragansett and Mount Hope bays to deliver fresh local seafood to his diners. Amidst the gleaming dark wood and lofty white ceilings of Metacom Kitchen, Allaire gives plump New Bedford-landed scallops a masterful sear and then gilds the sweet flesh with a delicate lettuce broth, crunchy jicama salad and buttery avocado. Habanero-spiked salt adds a subtle heat. To amp up the localism, the dish is plated on pottery from Providence’s the Little Clay Studio. 322 Metacom Ave., Warren, 245-1193, metacomkitchen.com

Midtown Oyster Bar
Midtown is more than just oysters, though the bivalves from farms across the region are the definite draw. Try them naked with a squeeze of lemon or mignonette, or order the torched versions with jalapeño-bourbon butter. There’s also a poke menu with tuna and sesame-lime vinaigrette, and spicy Rhode Island clams are paired with mango, celery, chili paste and citrus. For entrees, local fish options include roasted native cod marinated in salty sweet shiro-miso sake and the sesame-crusted mahi mahi served with a rich and creamy red curry coconut sauce. 345 Thames St., Newport, 619-4100, midtownoyster.com

Newport Restaurant Group
Newport Restaurant Group’s nine outposts together are one of the largest supporters of local food in the state, including working with fishermen who follow sustainable fishing methods. Seafood-focused restaurants include 22 Bowen’s, the Mooring, Boat House, Hemenway’s, Castle Hill Inn, Trio and Waterman Grille — most with stellar waterfront views, too — where you can find fish and shellfish on the menu. Notables include Hemenway’s whole roasted fish of the day, which focuses on local species. Across the menus, the lobster rolls and Point Judith calamari always earn top marks. For all locations, visit newportrestaurantgroup.com

New Rivers
At the base of Steeple Street, in the former Congdon and Carpenter Mill, chef and owner, Beau Vestal, delivers a new rendition of Rhode Island’s signature stuffed clam. Instead of quahogs, Vestal sources littlenecks from Connecticut and Walrus and Carpenter in Charlestown, then roasts them with smoked bacon butter, horseradish and thyme breadcrumbs to create an elevated version of the stuffie: crispy on top, and with a much higher clam-to-bread ratio than the traditional. If oysters, rather than clams, float your boat, check out Tuesday nights, when the bivalves, including buttery Walrus and Carpenter “Dutchies,” are $1 each. 7 Steeple St., Providence, 751-0350, newriversrestaurant.com

Nicks on Broadway
Settle in to experience chef-owner Derek Wagner’s tasting menu — bonus points if you choose the chef’s counter for a front row seat — featuring four or seven courses that will surprise and delight with culinary treasures from local farms and waters. There are always some local bay mainstays on both his brunch and dinner menus, like the eggs Benedict, sometimes served with Point Judith fish for brunch, or a simple citrus roasted fish fillet from a native, seasonal species for dinner. Salt Water Farms oysters are served on the half shell with bright mignonettes or roasted and topped with bacon aioli, kale, herbs and bread crumbs. 500 Broadway, Providence, 421-0286, nicksonbroadway.com

North
North cooks have a way with squid, fluke, flounder and whole scup. While the family-style, shared plates menu changes on the daily at the new larger location inside the Dean Hotel, seafood is usually paired with flavors like fresh ginger, horseradish, citrus and herbs. Chirashi is sushi in a bowl. Raw local species of fish — usually collected from the docks in Point Judith — sit atop a bed of rice that’s flavored with kombu (dried kelp). Point Judith squid might be charred on the grill, cooked in a cast iron pan or served with dan dan noodles and mutton. North uses native ingredients and fermented flavors while playing off its interpretation of global cuisine. 122 Fountain St., Providence, foodbynorth.com

Oberlin
Start with a platter of raw local fish including fluke, flounder, scallops or black bass, assembled like crudo and drizzled with nothing but good extra virgin olive oil and citrus or soy and fresh parsley and other herbs. Depending on availability, the whole fish of the day could be black bass, scup or even John Dory, and it usually comes with a pile of braised greens or spinach and salty capers in a zesty lemon picatta sauce. Don’t be intimidated by the sight of it; even though it’s whole, they practically debone it for you to make for easier eating. Sit on the patio for a view of Grant’s Block, timed perfectly during a summer festival for prime people-watching. 186 Union St., Providence, 588-8755, oberlinrestaurant.com

Persimmon
Sometimes it’s hard to decide which mollusk to choose. At Persimmon, a diner doesn’t have to make this difficult choice. Exhibiting the bounty of both Narragansett and Mount Hope bays, chef Champe Speidel’s chilled shellfish salad includes everything you could ever want; gently marinated mussels, oysters, clams and scallops, dressed with citrus and joined on the plate by crisp fennel. Tiny finger lime vesicles that burst like tart fruit caviar provide a playful component to the elegance of the composed dish. Indecision has never tasted so delightful. 99 Hope St., Providence, 432-7422, persimmonri.com

Scales and Shells
For more than three decades, Debra and Andrew Ackerman have delivered on the promise inherent in the name of their Thames Street restaurant. At Scales and Shells, a printed menu is too confining, so a blackboard boasts an ever-changing bounty of ocean delicacies, including a large selection from the waters off Aquidneck Island. All manner of fin and shellfish make their way onto the list, but for something a little different, try the white clam pizza: a pie version of linguini with clam sauce. Juicy littlenecks from Tiverton, redolent with garlic and herbs, top a bubbly, blistered crust and local mozzarella provides delicious stretchiness. Thanks to an open kitchen, diners can follow their dinner from pan to plate, although al fresco dining beckons in warmer months. 527 Thames St., Newport, 846-3474, scalesandshells.com

Schultzy’s Snack Shack
Located next door to Rhode Island institution Flo’s, this unassuming stone-faced shack broadcasts its non-seafood snacks like burgers and fries, but locals know the sleeper hit is the clam cakes and chowder. Fritters are scooped uniformly from a batter that contains cornmeal flecked with fresh ground pepper, and stuffed with large chunks of super-tender clams that form gnarly nubbins on the outside. Dip them into creamy chowder chock full of buttery clams, cream and diced potatoes and you’ll go straight to clam cakes and chowder heaven. The outdoor area boasts picnic tables and cornhole, plus an ice cream stand for after-dinner treats. 346 Park Ave., Portsmouth, 683-2663, schultzyssnackshack.com

Two Little Fish
Family-owned for twenty-one years, this little seafood spot on Misquamicut Beach has a clam shack history. Married couple Tim and Jennifer Brennan met years ago while working at a clam shack on the Connecticut shoreline with Jennifer’s brother, Kevin Urbonas. Over the years, they decided to open their own seafood place together along with Kevin’s wife, Nancy. For two decades, they’ve been serving up some of the freshest fish in Westerly. Specialties include the heaping crispy battered and fried fishermen’s platter and the twin lobster rolls for two. Lobster rolls are full of claw and tail meat, served in a toasted buttered roll, and you can choose between warm with butter or cold and mixed with mayo and lettuce, or get one of each. Be sure to arrive early before popular dishes sell out for the day and it closes up shop for the evening. 300 Atlantic Ave., Misquamicut, 348-9941, twolittlefishseafood.com

White Horse Tavern
The White Horse Tavern is the original local food restaurant, using ingredients from nearby farms and waters since 1673. It boasts an upscale atmosphere — collared shirts are necessary for men — and local seafood gets the artistic treatment by executive chef, Richard Silvia, and team. Bluff Hill Cove oysters out of Point Judith are dressed in a charred nori vinaigrette, wasabi tobiko caviar and sesame seeds, while local black bass is pan-seared until crisp and topped with shaved fennel, citrus and smoky tomato jam. Point Judith calamari, tender, unadulterated — read: not fried — is perfect on a bed of carrot top pesto with beans, garlic, tomato and lemon. 26 Marlborough St., Newport, 849-3600, whitehorsenewport.com

Ye Olde English Fish and Chips
When you have a recipe that’s worked for more than ninety-five years, why change it? This family-run fish and chips spot in the heart of Woonsocket has been around since 1922 when a married couple from Yorkshire, England, opened their restaurant across the street from where it’s now located. Now the fourth generation runs the counter-service institution, serving cod dipped in an English-style batter with a crust that maintains its crispness, even after a generous dousing of malt vinegar. 25 South Main St., Woonsocket, 762-3637, yeoldeenglishfishandchips.com

Leave a reply