1240 Ocean Road, Narragansett
(401) 783-7930
www.auntcarriesri.com

Of course, some rave pro and some rave con. The pros revel in the fresh seafood; the large, crispy clam cakes; the delicious "tomato," "milk," and "plain" clam chowders; the superior fried clams; the stuffed quahogs; the Rhode Island Shore Dinner. The cons argue that "it used to be better," or complain about the long lines. Well, as much as we also hate long lines, they mean to us that someone's doing something right, and whether or not it "used to be better," it must still be pretty damn good.

Carrie's is one of the oldest clam shacks in Rhode Island, and there really was an Aunt Carrie. Carrie and Ulysses Cooper opened the place in 1920 on the spot where their family used to camp in the summer, and it's remained in the family ever since. The current owner, Elsie Foy, met her future husband (and Aunt Carrie's grandson) William, when she began working there at sixteen. They both became managers in 1984, and when William passed away in 1994, Elsie became the sole proprietor. The couple's daughters, Laura and Amy, work there now, and one day may end up being the fourth generation to own the venerable eatery.

Many of the recipes have been faithfully handed down along with the business, and family legend has it that Aunt Carrie actually invented the clam cake. That might be pretty difficult to prove as so many restaurants make that claim about their progenitors, but what is sure is that clam cakes are Aunt Carrie's number one seller. "They're not perfect round balls made by machine or scoop that you'll find in other places," Elsie Foy explained in a June 2007 Rhode Island Monthly interview. "Ours come in all different funny shapes that are roundish with little tails where they've been dropped into the oil by hand."

Another notable item on the menu is Indian pudding, made from a recipe that can be traced back at least as far as William's mother, Gertrude. Made with cornmeal, milk, and molasses, the dish is probably one of America's earliest comfort foods. Aunt Carrie's also offers several varieties of homemade pie, made, like the Indian pudding, fresh each morning.

In 2010 Aunt Carrie's opened an ice cream shop across the street from the clam shack. Aunt Carrie's Ice Cream Shoppe features almost forty flavors of ice cream and sorbet from The Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland. Besides cones, sundaes, and Del's Lemonade, the Shoppe boasts "pie frappes." Delicious, but difficult to slurp up through a straw, the ice cream drinks are made with chunks of leftover pie from the clam shack.

A perfect place to stop for a cheap bite to eat after swimming at one of the nearby beaches, visiting the Point Judith Lighthouse, or disembarking from the Block Island Ferry, Carrie's has both a take-out window and a fairly good-sized dining area. Go at off-peak hours and you won't have to worry so much about the crowds.

Aunt Carrie's was featured on the October 29, 2012, episode of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (S15E11, "Food Done Right"). Aunt Carrie's clamcakes and scratch-made strawberry shortcake are the real stars of the show. Excitable host, Guy Fieri, practically creams his jean-shorts when he learns from owner Elsie Foy that the special clamcake flour is mixed in a cement mixer, and that the clamcakes are fried in beef shortening. "Whoh-ho!" he hoots. "That's why you rock this!"

What kind of a raver will you be?

Carrie's is open 12 to 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in April and May, then every day except Tuesday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Awards

James Beard Foundation: American Classic (2007).
Rhode Island Monthly: one of the ten best clam shacks in Rhode Island (1997).
Rhode Island Monthly's Best of Rhode Island: Best Rhode Island Clam Chowder (1992).
Rhode Island Monthly's Readers' Poll: Best Fried Clams (1991), Best Seafood in South County (1994, 1995), Best Fried Clams in South County (1994, 2009), Best Clam Cakes in South County (1999, 2009), Best Clam Shack in South County (2001-2004, 2006-2007), Best Fish and Chips in South County (2002), Best Chowder in South County (2009), Best Lobster Roll in South County (2009).

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Posted by Tony on October 4, 2014
Member since October 2014

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