Monday, January 18, 2010

Ambrosia, Rhody-style

Tonight Crazy Burger in Narragansett will make its television debut at 10 p.m. on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” program. The restaurant began on Boon Street in 1995, creating an alternative vibe with an eclectic menu that caters to vegetarians and carnivores alike. This evening, owner/chef Michael Maxon and TV host Guy Fieri will hone in on three of the restaurant’s most popular dishes – the Luna Sea Burger, the Whassupy Burger and the Pacific Rim Rolls Appetizer.

Crazy Burger’s Andy Warhol moment got Half Shell salivating over some of our favorite signature dishes in the state. They include the Hall of Fame Chowder at The Boathouse in Tiverton, a bowl of creamy chowder - made from baby Maine shrimp, chourico and corn - that I hope to find at the counter in the Cloud Nine Pub in Heaven one day. (Although lapping it up while overlooking a summer sunset on Mount Hope Bay may be as good as it gets in this life.) The pot of plump steamed mussels in coconut milk, curry leaf and chili at The DeWolf Tavern in Bristol would also qualify, along with the roasted butternut squash quesadilla with black beans, jack cheese, avocado and a side of salsa at The Garden Grille, just over the Providence line in Pawtucket.

Two standouts for cheese lovers would include every variation of cheese board (with wine) at The Cheese Plate in Warren and the grilled cheese sandwich or the bowl of mac-and-cheese with linguica at The Red Fez in Providence.

The list would include pretty much anything alive and chilling at the raw bar at Hemenway’s in Providence (or any of the bisques and chowders, for those who prefer their mollusks and fish in a hot bath), the huevos rancheros (or whenever they make the jambalaya or Cajun asparagus soup) at The Bluebird CafĂ© in Wakefield, and (especially around St. Patrick’s Day) the corned beef sandwiches at Patrick’s Pub in Providence. Thayer Street must-eats include the gyros served “Soup Nazi” style (in the manner of ordering, not the attitude) at East Side Pockets and the baingan bharta and aloo paratha at Kabob and Curry.

I could go on forever – the seafood paella at The Cheeky Monkey in Narragansett, the Giant Lobster Roll, stuffies (baked in scallop shells rather than quahogs) or any of the bisques, stews or chowders at Blount Clam Shack, served from trailers amid mounds of broken shells on the Warren waterfront. (There’s another location at the old Crescent Park Loof Carousel in Riverside. Both are open seasonally.) I’m also partial to the hot ‘n’ sour soup and any Szechuan dish served with the trademark Oceanview rice at The Oceanview Chinese restaurant, which adds to the Rhode Island quirk-o-meter with dishes like Narragansett Surprise in a location that has no ocean view whatsoever. Let’s see…the lobster ravioli at Venda Ravioli in Providence, the pulled pork plate at Becky’s BBQ in Middletown, the Cajun scallop soup at The Mews Tavern in Wakefield…somebody stop me. It’s time for lunch.

What signature dishes belong on a “Best of Rhode Island” menu?