Best known as the birthplace of the clam cake, Aunt Carrie’s seafood shack in Narragansett, Rhode Island, offers the quintessential seaside summer experience.
By Mike Urban
Jul 01 2022
A trio of the famous Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes.Photo Credit : Mike Urban
Aunt Carrie’s, a beloved seafood shack on the western shore of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, has a long history of serving up heaping portions of fresh seafood and, more recently, wonderful baked goods such as breads, pies, and biscuits. But it’s probably best known as the birthplace of the clam cake—that deep-fried ball of dough chock-full of minced clams that’s become a classic Rhode Island treat.
Aunt Carrie’s offers two dining choices: a sit-down dining room with waitstaff, and an order-at-the-counter, dine-in-the rough experience. Enter through the screen doors, and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with spacious order and pickup windows staffed by friendly kids on summer break from school. A tempting menu hangs from the ceiling just behind the counter, and loaves of fresh-baked bread beckon from racks inside the kitchen. Order here for picnic table dining, or proceed to the door leading to the dining room, which wraps around the side and back of the building.
Regardless of where and how you choose to dine, it would be a sin not to order some Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes and chowder as either an appetizer or a meal. Made from a special dough mixture that’s flecked with chunks of clam and mixed with eggs and water, the cakes are fried in large vats of beef shortening to a golden crispiness.
The end result? Perfectly fried cakes of clam and dough that are crunchy on the outside and soft and steaming on the inside. Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes come in orders of a dozen or half dozen; another option is to pair three cakes with a cup of chowder for a snack or light lunch.
Chowder at Aunt Carrie’s comes in three varieties. There’s the classic clear-broth Rhode Island style; a tomato-based red chowder; and the traditional milky-white version. All come loaded with fresh clams, perfectly cooked chunks of potato, and seasonings.
As with most New England seafood shacks, the lobster roll is one of the most popular menu items at Aunt Carrie’s. Here, it’s a cold roll featuring chilled lobster meat mixed with a bit of mayo atop a bed of lettuce. There’s also a warm version, with drawn butter on the side. Both are served on grilled and buttered top-split buns. (If you’re feeling adventurous, ask for your roll to be made with slices of fresh-baked sandwich bread.)
The Rhode Island shore dinner is also very popular. It’s served in the dining room and includes chowder, clam cakes, steamers, fish and chips, a whole lobster, and homemade dessert. There are scaled-down versions of the shore dinner, too, each with plenty of options to make any diner happy.
One of the best and most distinctive things about Aunt Carrie’s is its prodigious baking operation. Huge ovens turn out dozens of loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread and white bread each day, along with fresh pies, biscuits, and more. Meanwhile, the dessert menu features such standouts as apple pie, blueberry pie, strawberry shortcake, and homemade Indian pudding. All are made from scratch every day in Aunt Carrie’s kitchen.
Right across the street is Aunt Carrie’s Ice Cream and Gift Shoppe. Check it out for more than a dozen different homemade ice creams, plus sundaes such as the Little Rhody, the Dirty Fisherman, and the Block Island Sunrise. The gift shop is packed with locally crafted jewelry and souvenirs, many with a Rhode Island theme.
Owner Elsie Cooper is a third-generation family member (Aunt Carrie was her late husband’s grandmother). Elsie’s two daughters, Laura and Amy, and Amy’s husband, Phillip, are also heavily involved in the daily operations.
Aunt Carrie’s celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020 with no signs of slowing down. The future looks bright for this New England classic on the shores of Narragansett Bay!
Have you ever visited Aunt Carrie’s?
This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.