Little Black Book

Little Black Book: Coastal Rhode Island

by Ali Rickards
Photo courtesy of Matunuck Oyster Bar.

She's been summering in Quonochaontaug (Quonnie!) for as long as she can remember — and wants to keep it that way. In the meantime, Ali Rickards (Tracy Anderson's right-hand-woman) parts with a few tips for visitors to the Rhode Island coastal town.

QUONOCHAONTAUG, Rhode Island – Being the smallest state in our country, Rhode Island never seems to get the attention it deserves. Boardwalks are just literally planks on the sand, its beaches are some of the best in the country, and the coast has managed to stay unspoiled. Seafood is obviously the name of the game, but the state's strong Portuguese influence and Native American roots are evident in many dishes. Anywhere you go you are sure to hear that distinctive Rhode Island accent, which turns a party into a potty. 

Photo courtesy of Matunuck Oyster Bar.

Catch of the Day

Anthony's Seafood
963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown; +1-401-846-9620
A closely guarded local secret. Unpretentious and fantastic, the lobster roll and Portuguese fish chowder are my favorites, but you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Even though it's not near any major landmarks or tourist spots, it's worth the side trip for the fresh fish.

Aunt Carrie's
1240 Ocean Rd., Narragansett; +1-401-783-7930
This Point Judith spot is where you go for clamcakes. Enough said.

Black Pearl Restaurant
Banister's Wharf, Newport; +1-401-846-5264
Unlike Anthony's, this place is smack in the middle of Newport's most tourist-laden area. However, I can vouch that it lives up to its reputation. I dream about the clam chowder — you'd be hard-pressed to find a better chowdah spot in all of New England.

Matunuck Oyster Bar
629 Succotash Rd., South Kingston; +1-401-783-4202
Amazingly fresh and inexpensive, the raw bar is the best in R.I. The best way to make an entrance? Pull your boat up and order dockside.

Photo courtesy of Olympia Tea Room.

Other Staples

Ernie's Old Harbour Restaurant
212 Water St., Block Island; +1-401-466-2473
Block Island is a quick ferry ride from Point Judith (and a worthwhile day trip). My first stop is always Ernie's (above Finn's), even though it can get a little crowded. It's a great breakfast spot, and if you're there early enough, you'll catch the local fishermen before they head out.

Henry's Fruit Stand
5319 Old Post Rd., Quonochontaug
Before organic and local fruit stands became a thing, there was Henry's, and there still is! The corn and strawberries are normally picked same day and put those Hamptons stands to shame.

Olympia Tea Room
74 Bay St., Westerly; 401-348-8211
The Avondale swan, the cafe's signature dessert, is a fantasy of ice cream, whipped cream, and fresh pastry (for the neck and wings) swimming in a pool of chocolate. Yes, this century old establishment has many delicious meals on the menu, but that swan keeps us all coming back.

Pizza Place
43 Broad St., Westerly; +1-401-348-1803
Westerly is an interesting pseudo-city, with an Olmsted-designed park and hardly a chain store in sight. This place hasn't changed much since the 1950s. Don't fall for the nearby Mystic Pizza tourist trap. This is much better. 

Shelter Harbor Inn
10 Wagner Rd., Westerly; +1-401-322-8883
For a real, fun, old New Englandy feel, have Johnny Cakes at the hotel's restaurant. (Fun fact: My parents were married here in 1979!) Johnny Cakes are similar to pancakes, acceptable to eat for dinner, and are a true Rhode Island treasure. 

Photo courtesy of Castle Hill Inn.


Castle Hill
590 Ocean Dr., Newport; +1-800-466-1855
A gorgeous seaside spot for evening cocktails. Relax in Adirondack chairs and watch world-class boats sail by at sunset.

Del's Lemonade & Refreshments
1260 Oaklawn Ave., Cranston; +1-401-463-6190
Fresh-squeezed lemonade is the perfect post-beach refresher.

Paddy's Beach 
159 Atlantic Ave., Westerly; +1-401-596-4350
A young crowd, but you'll end up with a fun novelty glass.

Pier Ice Plant
132 Kingstown Rd., Narragansett; +1-401-789-6090
Although not technically licensed to sell alcohol, they have an amazingly intricate ice luge for $20, which we all know goes well with a cocktail and beach bonfire.

Honorable Mention

Michael's Texaco
Post Rd., Charleston; +1-401-322-1881
Something about the sandwiches from here always hit the spot. It's a Texaco gas station, yes, but the chicken salad is made to order, the rolls are always fresh, and the Route 1 stop has an expansive menu. You can easily grab something before heading to one of the many beaches on that stretch.

Photo courtesy of Castle Hill Inn.

Between Bites

The Fantastic Umbrella Factory 
4820 Old Post Rd., Charlestown; +1-401-364-1060
While I'm not sure if it ever was an umbrella factory, it is now a series of boutiques tucked away in an overgrown forest, with emus and chickens running around all over the place. It may be a little too patchouli for some, but I like it for the jewelry, fabrics, small art studio, and vegetarian cafe.

Flying Horse Carousel
151 Bay St., Westerly
It seems like every carousel in the country claims to be the oldest, but I'm pretty sure this is the original. Even if you're not "10-years or under," watching little kids reaching for the brass ring is really something special.

Map It

See all locations mentioned in this story. (Google Maps)

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