Elsie Foy
Owner, Aunt Carrie’s; Home: Charlestown

I’ve always been so proud of this special place, and when we got word [in March] that we had won the James Beard Foundation’s American Classic Award it was just thrilling, especially because we’re the only restaurant in Rhode Island to win that distinction.

The restaurant has been in my husband’s family since 1920, when his grandmother Carrie opened the spot. After my husband, William, passed away in 1994, I became the first non-direct descendant to run it, and my daughters work here too, making them the fourth generation. Over the years, we have added a few things and tweaked a few recipes, but keeping things the same runs deep here.

I don’t know for certain if Aunt Carrie invented the clam cake, but family legend has it that she did. She grew up on a farm and learned to cook with whatever was on hand — and clams were plentiful. Today we sell more clam cakes than anything else. They’re not the perfect round balls made by a machine or scoop that you’ll find in other places. Ours come in all different funny shapes that are roundish with little tails where they’ve been dropped into the oil by hand. Some folks like to dip them in tartar sauce or eat them with a little bit of salt, but most people dunk them in their clam chowder. We can always tell when we’ve got a tourist at the counter because they ask for honey or maple syrup with theirs. Even today, Aunt Carrie’s recipe is still a closely guarded secret. —Clare Leschin-Hoar