Dining in Rhode Island is a highlight of any visit to this little state. While
you will find the usual fast food, family chains, and similar restaurants in
Rhode Island, many Rhode Island restaurants are known for a number of local
specialties, especially Rhode Island seafood that you sometimes can select in
the state's many ports and harbors as the fishing boats unload their catches.
Rhode Island seafood includes many of the regional favorites that you will
find all over New England. These include traditional New England clam chowder,
quahogs (little neck clams), lobster, mussels, and various fish. You can actually
charter fishing cruises
to catch most of these for yourself. You can set your own lobster traps, or
go diving for them (just be sure you obtain the proper license). At low tide
on the beaches of South County, you can dig for mussels and clams. If you're
staying in coastal vacation
rentals, you can have your own old fashioned New England clambake. Dig a
big hole in the sand, layer lobster, clams, and corn on the cob in between seaweed
and charcoal. Cover it up, have a few hours of fun, and enjoy.
Rhode Island seafood restaurants can be found all over the state, but you probably want to locate those that are situated right on the water around Narragansett Bay, the coastline, and on Block Island. Other great places for this kind of food in Rhode Island are yachts that ply Narragansett Bay and the coastal waters offering luncheon and dinner cruises. These are excellent for special events like weddings.
Many Rhode Island restaurants also serve non-seafood specialties. The state
is known for "Johnnycakes," little pancakes made from stone-ground cornmeal,
pan fried, and served with maple syrup. Natives drink "milk coffee" with their
doughboys, a sort of fried dough donut sprinkled with sugar. Spinach pie, actually
a variation of calzone, is a product of the state's Italian heritage. Sub sandwiches
are called grinders, and New York System wieners (don't call them hot dogs!)
were brought by Greek immigrants who moved north from Coney Island in New York.
You also don't order them singly. Order "three all the way" and you get three
tied-off wieners in buns with a dollop of mustard, a sprinkle of nutmeg and
garlic, and then smothered in a special meat sauce. True New York System wieners
are served by restaurants in Rhode Island from Warwick
and Cranston to Woonsocket.
Some of these establishments, with catchy names like Wein-O-Rama and Weiner
Genie, have been landmarks for more than 80 years. The wieners are so much a
part of the state's culinary heritage that Original New York Systems Restaurant
in Providence recently
made news when it shipped its secret "fixins" to Iraq at the request of a state
military unit stationed there.
Some restaurants in Rhode Island are landmarks that are part of the state's history. The Canfield House in Newport was a gambling casino from 1897 to 1905, and it's said that the Vanderbilt family (former owners of a number of the town's mansions) lost millions at the establishment. The founder, Richard Canfield, invented the game of Solitaire. Today, this venerable establishment with the slightly shady past is one of the finest Rhode Island restaurants in the entire state. Food in Rhode Island is celebrated at numerous culinary festivals. One of the most important, held over three days in September, is the Newport Wine and Food Festival, which also features vintages from the some of the state's wineries.