From what I remember, our conversation went like this:
Craig: Have you been to Providence lately?
Me: No, but I’ve been wanting to go! I heard they’re doing some cool things happening with local seafood right now
Craig: Let’s go!
Do we deserve to take a day off and do some impromptu “research” in Providence? We sure do!
Craig Fear (a fellow a-fish-ionado in western Mass and cookbook author) and I embarked to Providence with an edible “wish list”. Craig’s wish list included 1) experience a couple of variations of the Rhode Island-style chowder as research for his new cookbook on seafood soups, and 2) check out Providence’s hottest new club - I mean fish market! It’s called Fearless Fish Market.
We completed all of our wish list items in one day. Because I am tired of reading blog articles that are too long, I decided to break our day into 3-4 shorter blog articles. Here’s what happened.
First, lunch at Dune Brothers Seafood
The atmosphere at Dune Brothers is casual, relaxing, and best of all, FUN!
Even though we were right off the highway and surrounded by city construction projects, I felt like I was at a favorite coastal seafood shack. When you arrive, a path of white crushed shells leads you to a grid of picnic tables that boast bright bouncy red umbrellas. There is a cluster of Adirondack chairs for folks to relax in if they order food to-go. Lobster pots and buoys decorate the area. Good vibes and happy people all around!
Time to scope out the menus. Everything on their menus looked fantastic and making a decision was difficult. One menu listed their everyday items while another menu showcased their daily specials. Ultimately, Craig and I each ordered off of their main menu. We both got a chowder combo ( a cup of clam chowder with a side of clam cakes) and we would split the dogfish sandwich. Both of us skipped breakfast so we were ready to eat!
We hoped we ordered enough. In the end, we almost couldn’t finish it!
Chowder: Dune Brother’s chowder was SO enjoyable! It is easily one of best chowders I have ever experienced. Craig agreed, which is saying a lot because he's tried almost every type of New England chowder imaginable!
The base is rich and creamy without being too thick. Instead of the normal chopped clams, Dune Bros. uses WHOLE shucked clams! This was such a pleasant surprise that made both Craig and I giddy, happy, and wondering why we have tolerated chopped clams for so long! And while I am not a fan of putting pork in clam chowder, this chowder is an exception. Dune Bros. garnishes each chowder with its own house salt pork. It is so dang crispy and flavorful!
Clam Cakes: Just like the chowder, the clam cakes were well seasoned (thank you for salting seafood!) and were the perfect companion to the chowder. Never have a clam cake? It’s the hush-puppy of New England - chopped RI quahogs mixed with a tasty batter and fried until golden brown. I like dunking it in the chowder or treating them like french fries with a good squeeze of ketchup.
Dogfish Sandwich: Now onto my wishlist item #1 - the dogfish sandwich. This sandwich blew me away! Just check out this picture.
Dune Brothers are keeping it local by using dogfish (it IS delicious. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. They clearly haven't been to Dune Bros. yet) and encrusting it with Cape Cod potato chip crust. This fried behemoth is hosted by a soft grilled bun and topped with an addictive pickle-y slaw. Generous amounts of lemon and house tartar sauce were served on the side. The fish was well seasoned (again - thank you for salting seafood!) and the crust stayed crispy the entire time - it didn’t get soggy from hanging out with the slaw, tartar sauce, or from my compulsive lemon squeezing before every bite
We arrived with ravenous appetites and were absolutely stuffed after we finished eating. We hobbled back to the ordering window and chatted with the owners Jason and Nick.
They are so passionate about their work and appreciate the positive responses they have received from the community. They are adamant about sourcing locally caught and sustainable fish (like dogfish from Chatham fishermen) and keeping their menu small and seasonal. They know their food is awesome and they are showing others that local and lesser-used species like dogfish and Atlantic pollock can/should have a place on restaurant menus.
Obviously, we can’t wait to go back. We encourage anyone who is in the Providence area to give them a visit and be blown away by their approach to seafood. Bring an appetite (and friends!) and definitely wear the stretchy pants.