Right across from First Beach (also called Easton’s Beach) is Flo’s Clam Shack, a staple in Newport (actually Middletown) for almost 20 years. Its history, though, goes back about 75 years.
To understand Flo’s and its popularity, it is important to understand the fried clam in Rhode Island. New Englanders always ate steamed clams. They were on the half shell or chopped in chowder. On July 3, 1916, someone whose name is unknown to history, suggested to Chubby Woodman, a Massachusetts restaurant owner, that clams might have a good taste if they were fried.
Since then, most New Englanders have settled for only the best fried claims. In Rhode Island, many claim the best can be found at Flo’s Clam Shack. Flo’s serves fried clams (the fresh, tender, sweet, plump kind) and other fried and non-fried seafood (lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari and oysters). It has a raw bar, serving fresh native littlenecks and oysters, crab legs and more. Peel and eat shrimp is available by the pound.
1936: A chicken coop is moved to the Island Park beach in Portsmouth. Flo’s opens for business.
1938: A hurricane destroys the original building and a new one is put in its place.
1954: Two more buildings help Flo’s to grow.
1991: Hurricane Bob demolishes Flo’s. Only the “Flo’s Drive-in” sign remains. Of course, Flo’s is rebuilt.
1992: Flo’s opens at a second location in Middletown in a building that survived the 1938 storm.
Flo’s seems to have hauled in all the media claims for good eats much the same way they haul in the best seafood. Flo’s has been featured in The Boston Globe and Yankee Magazine and on CNN and the Food Network. It even has received attention on stations in New York and in Gourmet magazine.
Besides the jewels from the sea, Flo’s has a Greek salad, burgers, hot dogs and, for the kids, chicken fingers with fries.
Tried and enjoyed: Flo’s Famous Fried Clams Platter and the No-Nonsense Lobsta Roll Platter (all platters include fries and cole slaw).
[Image: Mike Virgintino]