We always wish we had more time to explore the nooks and crannies of the New England coast, the quaint downtowns and salty enclaves nestled between our usual destinations of New Haven, Providence, Boston, and Cape Cod. But until we make that rambling road trip happen, we are content with stopovers for good grub on our way up the coast to visit the Cape every summer. Recent years have taken us to Cranston for an icy Del’s lemonade and to Fall River for our favorite Portuguese pastries, but this year we had seafood on the brain. Here are a few great new-to-us spots:
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough
Generally the first thing that comes to mind when we’re in the car, driving north in the summer? Buttery Connecticut-style lobster rolls. Something about lobster meat glistening with warm butter, wrapped in a soft roll, captures the very essence of summer for us. We already know we are fans of Lenny’s in Branford—where the lobster roll overflows with meat and the fried whole-belly clams are downright addictive—but this time we pulled off onto the pretty, winding streets of Noank, an historic harbor town, and into the festive parking lot of Abbott’s. The lobster roll (pictured above) was more like a slider here—just a few bites to polish it off, but memorable ones—and we loved the sprawling waterfront backyard setting, all picnic tables and hanging buoys, seagulls and sailboats on the Mystic River. We heard the clam shack next door, Costello’s, is good too. BYOB; 117 Pearl St., Noank, CT; abbotts-lobster.com
Just a few minutes off soulless Route 95 in Guilford is a funky, outdoors-only wood-fired seafood spot called The Place, where an 18-foot-long fire pit churns out roasted clams, charred corn, and grilled lobster to happy people sitting on tree stumps. It’s a pretty unexpected scene, but it predates the Walmart across the street by a lot, with roots as a roadside clambake in the 1940s. We enjoyed the “roast clam special”—littlenecks roasted in a butter-cocktail sauce concoction—and the sweet roasted corn, but we made one nearly fatal error: We didn’t bring any beer. Everyone else had coolers of beer and wine at 2pm on a Sunday, while we waited 10 minutes for cups of tap water. Next time! BYOB; 901 Boston Post Rd., Guilford, CT; theplaceguilford.com
Coming from the south, you have to drive out of Rhode Island, through a little bit of Massachusetts, and then back down into Rhode Island to get to Tiverton, disconnected from the rest of the state by a couple of bays and islands. It’s a scenic little area, and Evelyn’s doesn’t disappoint on the water-view nor the fried-seafood front. While we’ve had better stuffies elsewhere, we absolutely loved the locally sourced golden-fried calamari, presented Rhode Island style with hot banana peppers, cocktail sauce, and a garlic-herb butter sauce (yesss!). (We also tried the regional specialty/novelty item, the chow mein sandwich, kind of good and gross all tied up into one super messy dish, offered here with lobster on top if you want to shell out for market price.) Finally, local beer—Newport Storm summer ale—was offered on tap, to wash it all down. 2335 Main Rd, Tiverton, RI; evelynsdrivein.com
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