Despite being the smallest state, Rhode Island boasts an impressive selection of specialty foods, some of which are almost impossible to find out of the state bubble. With our gorgeous beaches and bays, it goes without saying that Rhode Island has some of the best seafood in the country. The smallest state in the union is also home to a number of treats that can satisfy the sweet tooth of even the most experienced sugar-fiend.
So I compiled a list, albeit an incomplete one, of some of the most iconic foods in Rhode Island. Foods that can be difficult, if not impossible to find after leaving the state. It’s not guaranteed that every Rhode Islander far from home remembers everything on this list fondly, but it is true that you’ll have to have spent some considerable time in Rhode Island to even recognize everything on this list.
1. Awful Awful
They’re Awful Big and Awful Good and you can only find them at Newport Creamery. What started out as a local diner and ice cream parlor now has eleven locations and features the famous milkshakes that are now a Rhode Island household name. Thick and creamy, its not summer until you’ve consumed at least four.
#Spoon Tip: Stop by on Mondays during the summer for Awful Awful Monday’s for a buy one get one free deal that’s almost too good to be true.
You’ll find the best cabinets in one of the many small, family owned diners that still exist in abundance in Rhode Island. Technically, a cabinet is just a fancy name for a frappe, however, it deserves a place on this list because you’ll only hear them called “cabinets” in Rhode Island.
Delicious and hot balls of fried dough with bits of clam inside; clamcakes have become a staple all over the north east. You can find these in other places around New England, but I’m of the opinion Rhode Islanders have truly perfected the recipe. It’s worth the ferry ride to Block Island just to stop by Iggy’s and stuff your face.
4. Coffee Milk
Chances are if you haven’t lived in Rhode Island, you’ve never even heard of coffee milk. It’s basically a milk sweetened with coffee syrup, made similarly to chocolate milk. Coffee milk is liquid awesome; you can find it in schools, grocery stores, the local Cumbies, and local breweries even make coffee milk inspired beers. For anyone who has ever tasted coffee milk, it’s no wonder it’s the official state drink.
Made by mixing bread stuffing, clams, spices, peppers, onions and often chorizo and baking them together in a quahog (KO-hog) clam shell, stuffies are one of my favorite parts of living in Rhode Island. As of now my record stands at having eaten fifteen in half an hour, but I always dedicate quality training time to beating my record every time I visit home.
Rhode Island puts its own twist on calamari by lightly frying the squid in a garlic-butter sauce and adding banana or jalapeño peppers. I’m always a little irrationally disappointed when I order calamari and it comes out different from the particular version I love.
7. Del’s Lemonade
Del’s lemonade, now famous all over New England, got its start in Cranston, Rhode Island. In case you don’t know, a Del’s is a fresh lemonade slushy that has been making summertime dreams come true since 1948. Now with more than sixteen flavors, I’ve never met someone who didn’t like them.
Doughboys may just be warm fried pizza dough covered with sugar, but they mean so much more on both sentimental and spiritual levels. Funnel cake has nothing on doughboys.
9. Party Pizza
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest advocate of party pizza, dough with tomato sauce served at room temperature will never come close to replacing hot, melted, greasy cheese. That said, many people swear by this classic Rhode Island dish, and it does tend to evoke a certain sense nostalgia for home (in the same way that my neighbor’s screeching cats do).
10. Donut Cake
Rhode Islanders do love their Dunkin, but even better are the delectable donuts made by local bakeries, one of the most notable ones being Allie’s Donuts in North Kingston. If you visit Allies donuts on any given weekend, be prepared to wait in line. Their donuts and their incredible donut cakes are famous throughout the state and they’ve been named one of the best donut shops in the country by both local and national publications.
Johnnycakes are similar to pancakes, but are made with cornmeal. Originated by the Algonquian people of the American north east, the the Wampanoag tribe were ones who taught early Rhode Islander colonists how to make johnnycakes. Today they remain a yummy landmark of Rhode Island history and culture.
12. Spinach Pie
Spinach Pie in Rhode Island is more reminiscent of a calzone than anything else. It usually consists of a delicious doughy crust filled with melted cheeses and cooked spinach. Needless to stay these are hard to resist.
13. New York System Hot Wiener
These slow cooked hot dogs are named after the empire state but are pure Rhode Island. A staple of local diners, these dogs are usually short, cooked over slow heat and topped with mustard, onions, celery salt and a delicious ground beef sauce.
14. Clam Chowder
Though technically the Rhode Island version of clam chowder features a clear broth, you’ll find that many local restaurants tend to serve up the classic creamy New England style. Both versions are delicious, and however you like it, it’s hard to deny that clam chowder is essentially synonymous to the beautiful ocean state we call home.