Eleanor Dove’s recipe for Raccoon Pot Pie was so beloved, so well-known, that it is now preserved in the Congressional Book of Records, according to her great-granddaughter. Eleanor and her husband Ferris Dove, both members of the Narragansett tribe, opened the Dovecrest Restaurant on this site in 1963 as a steakhouse. They soon began serving more traditional Narragansett foods based on recipes from Eleanor’s father.
People came from all over the country to try the Dovecrest’s buffalo steak, rabbit stew, succotash, venison, and especially johnnycakes--the best in the world, as a 1981 New York Times article concluded.
After several decades of culinary success, the Dovecrest Restaurant closed and the Tomaquag Museum took over its space. Today, museum visitors learn about Indigenous ways of fishing, hunting, and agricultural practices on the same spot where they used to eat johnnycakes.
Many of the foods Rhode Islanders consider unique to the Ocean State’s heritage date from before the arrival of Roger Williams and other European colonists. Indigenous peoples, like the Narragansett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc, had complex foodways that continue to influence Rhode Island cuisine.
Although the Dovecrest Restaurant no longer exists, curious cooks can recreate Eleanor’s Quahog Chowder from the recipe below. Clam chowder can be a contentious topic around these parts. While the so-called New England version is creamy and thick, the Manhattan version is tomato-based. Rhode Island clam chowder, on the other hand, more closely resembles the Dovecrest’s--a clear broth, rich with salt pork, potatoes, and local quahog clams. Since dairy and tomatoes did not exist in New England prior to contact with European settlers, one might say that the Dovecrest Quahog Chowder is indeed the most Rhode Island of them all.