In Rhode Island, you are never far from the ocean. Many of the state’s most beloved foods come from the sea and are tied to the history of marine industries like fishing. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, indigenous peoples like the Narragansett and the Wampanoag ate from the ocean, bay, and numerous inlets and rivers. Today, when the weather turns warm, Rhode Islanders head to the nearest “clam shack” for some seaside dining.
Flo’s Drive-In was established at Island Beach Park in Portsmouth in 1936, originally operating out of a repurposed chicken coop. After the hurricane of 1938, the owners built a new structure on the site and continued rebuilding after each subsequent hurricane, emerging each time as strong and as popular as before. In 1991, Flo’s opened a second location at a beach cottage in Middletown outside Newport.
Flo’s offers the seafood dishes that set Rhode Island apart from its neighboring states. All New Englanders enjoy lobster rolls and a variety of deep-fried bivalves, shrimp, and fish. But in Rhode Island, you should start by ordering the state’s official appetizer -- calamari. Then, try a cup of homemade clam “chowda.” Flo’s offers the creamy white and the red versions, as well as the local clear option. Next, order some clam cakes, doughy fritters flecked with pieces of clam. Finally, enjoy a “stuffie,” a baked quahog clam stuffed with breadcrumbs, chopped clam, and a few other secret ingredients.
These filling, portable, and relatively inexpensive treats have come to represent Rhode Island’s identity as self-sufficient, resourceful, and down to earth.