Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Restaurant Review: Evelyn's Nanaquaket Drive-In

 On this last day of summer I'm trying to hang onto the amazing summer I just had.  From the weather that made up for last year, to my amazing wedding and subsequent honeymoon, I'm just not ready to let go.  I can't think of something that exemplifies summer, and specifically this summer,  more than eating scrumptious whole belly fried clams along the water.  So I decided on this last day of summer I would celebrate the food of summer by sharing a review of one of my favorite meals of the season.

Growing up in New England I have a serious appreciation for seafood.  Super fresh and local seafood is so delicious and accessible that summer is filled with clam bakes, lobstah rolls and fried clams.  Since I moved from New England 5 years ago I've desperately missed this classic summer fare.  Getting married and spending 5 days in Newport, RI gave me the chance to gorge myself on all of it.  From a lobstah roll at the Barking Crab to our rehearsal dinner clambake at the Hyatt Regency I was on a roll.  I just need to fill my fried clam craving.  Lucky for me the week before we headed south for the wedding, the boy's favorite show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives aired an episode that featured a clam shack in Tiverton, RI a mere hop skip and a jump from Newport.  It was a no brainer, hitting up a one of Guy Fieri's faves is always on the boy's agenda and me getting my fried clam fill, everyone was happy.

We headed out to Evelyn's Drive-In late on a Monday afternoon.  It was a gorgeous day, perfect for sitting on the patio by Nannaquaket Pond.  We got a table close to the water, so we could drink our beers and enjoy the view while we waited for our food.  Rather than order a meal we decided to just get a bunch of little things to get the full experience.  Of course I was insistent on the whole belly clams, the boy was interested in trying some clam cakes which we obviously had to pair with some Rhode Island style chowdah and we finished it off with a stuffed Quahog otherwise known as a stuffie as our nod to the Family Guy.

First off was the chowdah.  For as much time as I spent in Providence and Newport you would have thought I knew what Rhode Island style chowder was, and yet I didn't  This was my first time trying it and as I learned on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives this chowdah is a clear chowder that is mixed with a splash of milk just as it's served.  It makes for a very loose chowdah, but it's so flavorful.  The delicious clam broth with just a touch of creaminess, the tender clams and perfectly cooked potatoes.   It was warming and yet still perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

Then came the clam cakes, I have had these before from Flo's Clam Shack and they're good but I was never nuts for them.  That being said I knew I had to try them here and tr dunking them in the amazing chowder.  For the uninitiated a clam cake is essentially a clam fritter.  It's fried and not even remotely good for you, but that might be what makes them taste so good.  Upon biting into the clam cake you first get the fluffy, doughy goodness that reminds me of fresh carnival doughnuts.  You then realize it's not sweet like a doughnut but savory and you then get a piece of slightly chewy clam.   They are so simple but satisfying.  It is when dunked into the chowdah that they really sing.  The dough sops up the flavorful clam broth turning the clam cake into am amazing salty, savory ball of clam goodness.

My personal piece de resistance came next, whole belly fried clams.  Growing up fried clams, included whole bellies, anything less was a clam strip.   Personally I don't understand clam strips.  The meat, the whole reason for easting fried clams, is the belly.  Evelyn's did not disappoint, the clams were served in a paper-lined basket and were hot and fresh from the fryer.  The batter was perfectly crispy and not too heavy, filled with tender clam meat.  These fried clams tasted like the ocean had been battered and fried and honestly there are few things better than that in my opinion.  Add in some fresh and tangy tartar sauce and I've died and gone to fried seafood heaven.

We finished off with a Stuffie.  This was at the request of the boy since the town in the Family Guy is a fictional town in Rhode Island, named Quahog.  Evelyn's Stuffie is a fresh local Quahog chopped and mixed with breadcrumbs and chorizo and baked in a quahog half shell.  At this point we were pretty full and had our fill of breading and fried food, but had to give the stuffie a taste.  I don't generally order things like this because as is clear I'd rather eat the fried clams, but I'm so glad I tried it I really enjoyed the way the chorizo worked with the clams and stuffing.  It added a spiciness that really made it special. 

All in all I'm a huge fan of Evelyn's Nannaquaket drive-in.  It's off the beaten path from the tourism of Newport, making it truly feel like a local spot.  The view from the patio is gorgeous and worth it on it's own.  The service is friendly and fast.  The food is fresh and flavorful.  It will without a doubt become a regular spot for whenever I am even remotely in the area when I need my fried clam and chowdah fix. 


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