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Rhode Island Clam Cakes and Chow Mein Sandwiches

It’s the smallest state in the union, by area, yet Rhode Island provides the culinarily curious with a surprisingly extensive selection of local cuisine. Much of it can be sampled at Evelyn’s Drive-In, a summer-only shack on the water in Tiverton. You’ll find The Ocean State’s unique and fabulous clear-broth clam chowder, and those fried balls of clam-spiked dough that go so well with the chowder, clam cakes. Stuffies, lobster rolls, fried belly clams, Grape Nut pudding, and frappes are also on Evelyn’s menu (as well as the notorious chow mein sandwich). Read more about Evelyn’s in this profile in The Boston Globe.


  1. Paul Warrender

    As a native RI’er (now living in NY’s Finger Lakes region) and life-long serious foodie, I’ve never understood the attachment to Evelyn’s. On the flip-side of this, I am a RI’er after all, and personal preferences for local food, especially clam cakes, fried whole clams, and chowder will be forever argued (RI slang for “debated”) about for a small piece of forever.

    The “Nanaquaket Drive-in” as many Tiverton locals know Evelyn’s, does have great seafood, and they have expanded the menu to include other things over the years. However, the NYT’s is not always right. I’ll take Flo’s Clam Shack in Portsmouth, RI any day.

    • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

      Who doesn’t love Flo’s? (Even those of us from NJ with the temerity to weigh in on RI seafood shacks 😉 ) Flo’s clam cakes and chowder, and the stuffed quahogs… that’s summer livin’! Now would someone explain to me why NJ’s 127 mile long shore is relatively thin in top-quality, casual seafood?

      • Paul Warrender

        Good question about NJ…BUT I highly recommend Smitty’s Clam Bar. Definitely ‘Jersey style, but very rustic like Flo’s or Evelyn’s or the Clam Box (Ipswich). It close to Atlantic City on the opposite side of Egg Harbor Bay from Ocean City. Maybe one of the best in NJ, I’d guess. I think you’d be impressed…I’ve been a couple of times. No fried whole-belly clams, but probably the best fried scallops north of the Chesapeake.

        • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

          Thanks for the recommendation! We’ll check out Smitty’s next time we head down the southern shore.

  2. Patrisha OGrady

    I raised all my children in Narragansett, RI. Lived off Point Judith rd (maplehurst next to Joe Laurie). I cannot wait/ and looking forward to eating here!

    • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

      Have you ever had a chow mein sandwich?

      • marie

        yes I have had chow mein sandwich, when I was around 19 years old my husband would go on Wednesdays to a place in Pawtucket and get us a chow mein sandwich for 35 cents each
        my mom would tell me that is too much, I could make a whole batch of chow mein for that much, that was when I was 19.
        so yes we had them in a round bun and they were so good

        • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

          35 cents!

          • Paul Warrender

            Still love to make my own chow mein sandwiches, a necessity as a RI transplant living in central NY! Chow Mein sandwich is still on the menu at some south-eastern New England restaurants, especially in the Fall River, MA area.

            Back in the day (70’s – 90’s), Bing Sum restaurant in Warren, RI (about 10 miles east of Fall River, MA) was THE place in the RI East Bay for chow mein sandwiches! Gam made the best, always. The restaurant closed around 2000, I think; it was a town fixture for 50 years to that point.

            I’m kind of a purist when I make these, so I don’t make them from scratch (yes…now pay attention). I use Hoo Mee Chow Mein Mix, available at just about any Stop & Shop and Shaw’s in south-eastern New England. Whenever I’m back visiting, I end up picking up a few boxes to take back home with me for the quick soul-food fix when I need it (along with a bunch of other local favorites). Restaurants in that area that make chow mein sandwiches also use the Hoo Mee products.

            One other thing; a chow mein sandwich isn’t necessarily something that you order as a traditional sandwich; it is basically a hamburger bun with the bottom half covered in chow mein (enough to cover the plate) and the top half of the bun on top. However, putting chow mein in a bun is also done at some places, but I think the original is the plate-full.

            The chow mein mix is available on-line for purchase also.

            • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

              I’ve had the chow mein sandwich at Evelyn’s. I believe they use Hoo Mee. Definitely an acquired taste, probably best acquired while growing up in the region. The issue isn’t the bun but the chow mein. If one goes in expecting standard issue 1960s Chinese restaurant chow mein a surprise is in store. This stuff is dark and noodly (chow mein, fried noodles, after all) and something else altogether. To be honest, I didn’t love it, but I found it intriguing.

              Nathan’s in NYC used to serve chow mein sandwiches, and may still do so in Coney Island. I loved them as a kid. Very different, though. This was the thick, blonde-sauced bean sprout stew that you know from canned chow mein.

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