10 “Must-Try” Rhode Island Foods (and where to find them)

When I moved to the Ocean State over 20 years ago, these Rhode Island foods were new to me and some of them took a little getting used to and others I loved from the start. Now I can’t imagine eating anything but Rhode Island-style calamari and I eagerly look forward to feasting on lobster rolls, stuffies, clamcakes, and doughboys in the summer, washed down with a Del’s Lemonade of course!

These are just a few of my picks for must try Rhode Island foods — from the quirky and unique, the street food and the home-cooked. This is certainly not a complete list of Rhode Island foods, but these are a few highlights that you just can’t miss.

10 Must Try Rhode Island Foods

If you are wondering what to eat in Rhode Island, start with these delicious Ocean State favorites.

Calamari

Calamari from Pane e Vino | 10 Must Try RI Foods
Photo credit: Pane e Vino Restaurant

Unlike other parts of the country, Rhode Island calamari is very lightly battered, then fried or sautéed and served with a mix of garlic butter and hot cherry peppers; and it is delicious.

In fact, RI-style calamari is the official state appetizer. I rarely have a bad plate of calamari so you really can’t go wrong at any of the fine restaurants around Rhode Island; but if you want a stand out serving, try ordering it at Pane e Vino in Providence.

If you love seafood, head down to Matunuck Oyster Bar for both the calamari and the locally-farmed oysters — my favorite in the state!

Del’s Lemonade

Rhode Island Foods - Del's Frozen Lemonade

Based on Italian lemon ices, Del’s offers frozen lemonade (like a lemon slushy) and is ubiquitous in Rhode Island during the summer from permanent stands to roadside carts at popular attractions. Del’s is now available in a variety of flavors including mango/peach and watermelon.

Lobster Ravioli

While many restaurants serve it, most of them source lobster ravioli from the masters – Venda Ravioli.

Located in Depasquale Square in Providence’s Federal Hill district, Venda Ravioli is a gourmet Italian market, complete with a sidewalk cafe. If you can’t get a table there, try their sister restaurant Constantino’s just across the square. You can even buy frozen versions in many local markets, such as Dave’s Market.

Clam Cakes

Dune Brothers clam cakes
Clamcakes from Dune Bros. in Providence

A clamcake is a egg-sized mixture of fried dough with small pieces of clams inside. I think of it like a fritter but clearly some disagree!

Clam cakes are one of those foods that people swear by one vendor’s versus another; but if you want to try two great examples, head down to Narragansett to try Iggy’s and Aunt Carrie’s.

However, I’ve recently been converted to think the best clam cakes in Rhode Island are at Dune Brothers Seafood food truck in Providence. Their secret? Cooking them in beef fat. It adds this extra layer of flavor that sets them apart.

I’m also a huge fan of the lobster rolls, fried clams, and clam cakes at Blount’s Clam Shack in Warren.

Doughboys

Iggy's doughboys

While you are down at Iggy’s, you should also pick up some doughboys. Every region seems to have its own version of fried dough (funnel cakes, NJ-style zeppolis…), and doughboys are Rhode Island’s.

Doughboys are flat, sometimes-plate sized pieces of fried dough. Others are smaller and you get them by the half-dozen. Served hot out of the fryer, you can get them plain, with sugar, cinnamon sugar, or powdered sugar.

Pizza Strips (aka Party Pizza)

RI Pizza Strips | 10 Must Try RI Foods

When I first moved to Rhode Island, I didn’t understand these cheeseless pizza strips that turned up at every party. I often heard, “I’ll bring party pizza!” This oddity has since grown on me and now I’m sometimes the one bringing the party pizza.

Pizza strips are strips of focaccia-like dough topped with a thick tomato sauce. They are served at room temperature and are available at most local bakeries and markets.

Zeppole

10 Must Try RI Foods - Zeppole from LaSalle Bakery

When I was talking about doughboys, I mentioned NJ-style zeppolis, which are small balls of fried dough (strangely enough, about the size of a clamcake).

These are sold by the dozen or half-dozen, and topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. It was a favorite treat of mine when visiting the boardwalk at the Jersey shore.

So when I moved to RI, I heard about this holiday called St. Joseph’s Day, which was celebrated by eating zeppole. I was excited until I went to the bakery and found that the zeppole sold in RI are actually a creampuff-like pastry filled with a custard-type cream or other option, and topped with cream and usually a cherry.

Yummy, just not what I was expecting. Unfortunately, zeppole are mostly found around St. Joseph’s Day in March so if you are visiting at another time, you might miss out.

But if you are lucky enough to be in town at the right time, I’d recommend stopping by LaSalle Bakery in Providence (also pick up one of their amazing red velvet cupcakes while you are there.)

Coffee Cabinets and Coffee Milk

In Rhode Island, a cabinet is not just a place to store things, it is coffee beverage made of coffee ice cream, coffee syrup and milk. I’m not sure if it is the official state drink, but it should be. You don’t see them too often anymore, but it is something the long-time Rhode Island residents still know about and they are still served at Newport Creamery.

However, coffee milk is something you still see around, or at least you can buy coffee syrup in the market. Coffee milk is made by adding a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup to milk, the same way you make chocolate milk.

 Stuffies (aka Stuffed Quahogs)

Stuffies (aka Stuffed Quahogs) | 10 Must Try RI Foods

Stuffies are another famous Rhode Island food that I never heard of before I moved here but now order or serve often. Stuffies are a form of a stuffed clam that is exclusive to Rhode Island.

They are stuffed with a breading that includes chopped quahogs (the RI state mollusc), herbs, and bits of peppers and chourico sausage.

Stuffies are another thing that you can get just about anywhere and my favorites are actually from my local Dave’s Market; but if you would rather eat them out, try Finn’s Harbourside in East Greenwich.

New York System Hot Weiners

10 Must Try Foods when Visiting Rhode Island #10 Hot "NY System" style weiners

I had to put this one last because after 21 years in RI, I still don’t understand why locals tout a food that was named after another state. I also lived in NY and I don’t get the connection. My guess is it goes back to Coney Island style hot dogs although I’ve seen similar offerings on the Upstate Eats Trail in New York on the way to Buffalo.

But, that said, these hot dogs are a classic RI food so if you want to try it, head over to one of Olneyville N.Y. System’s locations.

The traditional wiener is made with a small, thin frankfurter made of veal and pork, giving it a different taste from a traditional beef hot dog. It is served in a steamed bun, and topped with celery salt, yellow mustard, chopped onions, and a seasoned meat sauce.

Bonuses

Rhode Island is a foodie state and Providence is a foodie city. So while I can list all of the best food in Rhode Island, there are a few honorable mentions that I simply can’t leave out.

  • Donut Cake. Yup, that is a must try food that I’ve only seen in RI and you can only get them at Allie’s Donuts in North Kingstown, but you better order in advance.
  • Gregg’s Chocolate Cake. Yes, you can get chocolate cake anywhere. But can you get this thick, rich, moist, extra chocolatey cake like you can at Gregg’s restaurant.
  • Johnnycakes. These cornmeal pancakes are found around, but not as prevalent anymore.
  • RI-style clam chowder. Unlike New England clam chowder, RI has a clear broth.
  • Dynamites. Hamburger meat with peppers, onions and tomato sauce – sort of like a sloppy joe.

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Publish Date: December 26, 2022

159 thoughts on “10 “Must-Try” Rhode Island Foods (and where to find them)”

  1. Who in RI calls them NY System Hot Wieners? I’ve lived there my whole life..and not once have I heard that. Ever.

  2. Codfish cakes! Yummy patties of potato and salt cod, seasoned with onion, slat and pepper, fried in bacon fat!

  3. Johnny Rey Justus

    A most excellent article, as people must know that every state has their indigenous foods. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention johnnycakes. Yes, those delightfully grilled flint cornmeal patties that goes back to colonial times. Served with maple syrup, or butter along side anything purchased at the Washington County Fair in August.
    Now, about the weiners. Why does every outsider who writes about RI food continually dismiss any weinery outside of Providence? I’ve eaten at Olneyville………they’re ok. New York Lunch in Woonsocket serve the most addictive weiners. One just needs to eat outside Providence for that!

  4. I live in NC now but when I go back I stockpile. last time I was back Caserta’s was closed and I missed out on my pigs in a blanket. but its all good

  5. So, 1. Can’t believe there are so many RI transplants in AZ. 2. Have tried many of the places listed, yummy to them. 3. As a Rhode Islander we do not call them New York System wieners, they are just wieners or gaggers, Haven Brothers made some great gaggers.

  6. Olneyville for NY Weiners is great, but the best I have tried is at Rod’s Grille in Warren, RI. I discovered Rod’s as they were listed as a favorite in Rhode Island Monthly magazine. They also have the best french fries , which I use white vinegar on mine, but I think this is mostly a RI way.

  7. Have to visit Pelloni Farm Market off exit 1 on the 95, first stop to try homemade pie and the best whoopee pies in RI! They even have a Patriot Pie for all New England Patriot fans, which is an apple pie with blueberries and raspberries. Go Red, White and Blue! They are also a berry farm so they make lots of the baked goods from berries grown right on the farm. They also make unique jam flavors such as Jalapeno Peach and Vanilla Pear.

  8. A great list and agree with some of the added items. Pizza strips from Solitro’s in Cranston were a fav. Caserta Pizzeria on The Hill – yep. Also, go to Twin Oaks and have their Baked Stuffed Shrimp or a lobsta roll

  9. Madeline LaRose

    Relocated to Ocala, Florida sixteen years ago, and cannot get any of these RI Specialties here, miss them all. Here breakfast foods are Sausage and Bisquits with white sauce, and fried apples (strange, huh?), and the Fish is Tilapia (what is it?) not flounder or haddock, and nowhere can get Fish and Chips to go wrapped in newspaper. Oh Well! There is always New England Clam Chowder in the can, nothing like real RI Quahog Choder.

  10. Hi, originally from Rhode Island. We used to visit more often than we do now.
    After reading all the above comments, does any know if any of these establishments, pizza, clam cakes, etc. ship out of state…………..would love to know, because we would immediately order. What about shipping lobsters?

  11. Veal & Peppers at Angelo’s on Federal Hill, Portuguese Rolls from the bakery in Fox Point, Cavatte & Broccoli at Manielle’s in Knightsville. Sausage & Peppers at any festival in RI

  12. Wow… now I’m homesick AND hungry! Great article, thanks for stirring up so many great memories. Signed “I’ll always be a Rhody no matter where I live” ;currently in Tennessee ūüôā

  13. We’ll if your from R.I. You haven’t had the best food around unless you’ve eaten at lil & genes in Manville or uncle Ronnie’s tavern in Pascoag down the street from wrights chicken . Coffe milk amust and don’t forget your coffee cabinets we used to have the best place was called chic s those are my favorite places to go when I go home.

  14. Home fries with writers and a coffee milk were my favorite indulgence when I lived in R I. Like your site.

  15. Concetta L. Patriarca

    My family left Rhode Island in 1960 and I have only been back twice- for my father’s, then later for my mother’s burials. Had to have a Dell’s lemon and had to go get clam cakes from George’s, two of my favorite childhood memories).
    When we first moved to Huntington Beach, Ca “strips” were being sold at the beach, only they weren’t “strips” as we knew them in R.I., they were tortilla strips, deep fried and salted- definitely culture shock for us.

  16. The term “NewYork System” refers to the style of how they are displayed being cooked and prepared in a window. This was done in the City many, many years ago as a way for small shop owners to advertise their wares. It really has nothing to do with the “weenie” itself. I really appreciate the info on the ingredients tho, I never knew they were made with pork and veal! This will really help with explaining to non-Rhode Islanders what a “weenie” is and why it is unique. Great Article, tho I do disagree with you on Stanley Burgers. As a former over the road Driver, I’ve eaten burgers in every State in the Union (except Hawaii), and while I’ve had some really great burgers, I’ve never had a burger like Stanleys. Stanleys is as unique to Rhode Island as Dels! After living in New Jersey for the last 15 years (on the Shore of course!), not counting Family, the food is what I miss most. GIMMEE 4 ALL THEY WAY!!!!

  17. Great list! Used to live in Rhode Island, now in California. The first thing I do when I land in RI is to head over to Olneyville for two NY Weiners. Next, over the the Crow’s Nest for a big plate of fried clams! Crunchy, tender, delicious. Soon after, I have to walk around Federal Hill to see what’s left of the old places from 40 years ago. I miss a lot of the old Italian places, but there are a few left. Then I have to rest a couple of days – we don’t eat like that here in So Cal!

  18. Ye Olde English Fish & Chips in Woonsocket. Whenever I go home to RI, it is my first stop after leaving T.F.Green Airport.

  19. For RI’s we are all known for our cabinets (I think they are called frappes elsewhere), grinders (hoagies is another name for these), (Don Bousquet’s famous cartoon…the waiter carrying a meat grinder and a cabinet on his shoulder from the kitchen saying “Some guy from RI just ordered a cabinet and a grinder.” Del’s Ice Cream, Coffee Milk, Allie’s Donuts, Wright’s Dairy Farm (the best every!), Dynamites, Soupie, New York System Weiners, and Iggy’s Doughboys, which incidentally you can also get with brown sugar and if you wish, maple syrup, Quahogs, and don’t forget YooHoo!

  20. The one food I will always remember from Rhode Island was — unlike nearly all of these — actually good for you: wok-seared spinach, at the Salvation Cafe in Newport. I’ve never been able to reproduce it.

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