Ocean State Sampler: Foodways & Cultural Heritage

Food plays a central role in creating cultural identity. Learn about the many different groups who have shaped Rhode Island’s identity through their culinary practices and gastronomic connections. Visit a local market that sells Brazilian food and soccer paraphernalia. Explore the history of industrialization through the foods made and eaten by workers from around the globe. Drink spirits in the former “rum capital of the world.” Discover old restaurants and new stories of entrepreneurship at museums. From seaside clam shacks to diner counters to the top of Federal Hill, this tour invites you to sample some of Rhode Island’s heritage through centuries of culinary achievements.

Chan’s Fine Oriental Dining, Jazz & Blues

“Chow mein” and “chop suey"—both American appropriations of Cantonese words—have been part of the American English vocabulary since the late 19th century. With the end of mining and railway building as viable industries, Chinese food…

Autocrat

In the 1920s, when southern Italian immigrants brought their tradition of heavily sweetened coffee to Rhode Island, coffee milk was born. The beverage is so popular in Rhode Island that on March 30, 1993, the Rhode Island State Legislature designated…

DePasquale Square

Entering Narragansett Bay in 1524, the explorer Giovanni de Verrazano was probably the first Italian visitor to Rhode Island, long before tomatoes made it to these parts. Rhode Island named the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge (in the southeastern part of…

Ponto Um Market

Walking into Ponto Um, an unassuming shop on Warren Avenue in East Providence, you may be greeted with a cheerful “Bom dia!” or another Portuguese expression. Ponto Um, which translates to Point One, advertises the “Best Variety of Brazilian…

Culinary Arts Museum

BAM! While Chef Emeril Lagasse’s catchphrase may not have started at Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts, Lagasse did graduate in 1978 from J&W and go on to become a professional chef and television host. The Portuguese…

Del's

“Stop at the sign of the lemon!” declares the Del’s soft frozen lemonade slogan. The Del’s symbol, a frost-covered lemon, can be seen everywhere during summer in the Ocean State. Made from crushed ice, lemons, and sugar, Del’s sells their…

Tomaquag Museum

Eleanor Dove’s recipe for Raccoon Pot Pie was so beloved, so well-known, that it is now preserved in the Congressional Book of Records, according to her great-granddaughter. Eleanor and her husband Ferris Dove, both members of the Narragansett…

Kenyon’s Grist Mill

In the village of Usquepaugh, on the banks of the Queen’s River, Kenyon’s Grist Mill has ground whole berries of grain and whole kernels of corn into meal or flour continuously since 1696.Kenyon’s still uses the 1886 mill built by John Tarbox…

The World was his Oyster

“I would have been a millionaire today if I had bent to prejudice.” So said George Thomas Downing, prominent African American Rhode Island restaurateur and civil rights champion. From behind the curtains of his lavish Sea Girt Hotel, built on…

Newport Distilling Company

Thomas Tew gained such renown for his exploits from 1692 until 1695 that he was nicknamed the Rhode Island Pirate. Tew, a privateer from Newport who turned to piracy, led two major voyages, and accrued more treasure than he could spend before he met…

Flo's Drive-In

In Rhode Island, you are never far from the ocean. Many of the state’s most beloved foods come from the sea and are tied to the history of marine industries like fishing. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, indigenous peoples like the…