I was lucky enough to grow up in a family of boating enthusiasts, which means I learned how to water ski long before I ever stepped into any binding on a snow-specific ski.
While my uncle kept his houseboat at the Pirate Cove Marina, in Portsmouth, R.I., my aunt kept her Formula docked behind a Main Road liquor store owned by a friend in Tiverton. It was the latter boat that we would take out most often, headed to nearby Nannaquaket Pond, where the smooth, calm water always welcomed boaters to go water skiing, fishing or lounge in the summer sun.
But for all that goes into making Nannaquaket a perfect environment for a day out on the water, it’s the pond’s only source of dining that also attracts hungry visitors by both land and sea.
When Evelyn DuPont erected Evelyn’s Drive-In in 1969, she created a local phenomenon for Rhode Islanders and residents of southeastern Massachusetts. Yes, you could always, easily, drive to Evelyn’s. The clam shack is prominently featured along the side of Tiverton’s Main Road. But Evelyn’s has long been defined not only by the delectable seafood options it provides, but also its dock in the rear, welcoming boaters to the shore with the promise of a New England favorite.
I’ll say this now: Thanks for playing to everyone else and all, but Evelyn’s has the best clam cakes in the state. Indeed, if there are a host of images that defined my childhood, they might include my room, my first day at school, and those grease-stained paper bags that had a baker’s dozen of crispy clam cakes, filled with piping hot dough. There aren’t too many trips to Evelyn’s that I can recall when I had anything but.
It was Evelyn’s lobster chow mein, though, that got the shack recognized on Guy Fieri’s popular “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on TV’s Food Network. Fresh lobster is set atop Fall River-style crispy noodles, a local favorite that is also an ingredient in the regional delight of a chow mein sandwich.
“One of the greatest seaside diners that you will come across happens to land at the top of our diners list — truly a location that you cannot pass up on when visiting this state of Rhode Island,” it reads on the “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” website. “The choices truly are amazing including Rhode Island chowder, clam cakes, lobster chow mein, and their specialty of fried clams.
“For nearly five decades, they have been one of the best sources of fried seafood in the neighborhood. Nothing better than freshly prepared seafood on a quaint New England summer day, you’ve got to try it at least once in your life. The bar is also fully stocked with plenty of wine, beer and cocktail options to choose from. We also have to once again mention the clams as it is easily some of the best clams we’ve ever tried. We can easily summarize this diner as a tremendous experience and we’re extremely proud to be able to share it with you.”
The menu keeps on going with more memorable options, including the two-pound seafood platter featuring fried cod, whole belly clams, sea scallops, calamari, shrimp, onion rings, and, of course, the clam cakes. You can choose either the traditional New England clam chowder or the broth-based Rhode Island version. There are stuffies (stuffed quahogs), lobster rolls, fish tacos, grilled salmon and salad, too.
Grab a beer or a specialty drink and hang out on the heated patio. Grab your food and hang out in your boat down by the dock for a bit. Or, if the weather looks to be turning iffy, hop on indoors.
Evelyn’s is now offering catering, with stuffies, chowder, sandwiches and entrees available for parties (cost is based on serving 12-15 people). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and pricing.
The sunsets at Nannaquaket Pond always have been spectacular. Pair them with the perfect clam cake and you’ve got the ingredients for a memorable summer evening.
Evelyn’s Drive-In, 2335 Main Road, Tiverton, R.I., www.evelynsdrivein.com.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at email@example.com.