Don’t overlook Warren, Rhode Island, a quaint and quirky seaside village, the next time you’re hungry and looking for a day trip. Located south of I-195, the tiny, historic town is just outside Providence and a handful of miles north of Newport. It’s just over an hour drive from Boston, or around two hours via a combination of train and bus. Settled in 1680, it was the original home of Brown University and is chock-a-block with immaculately preserved homes from the 1700s.
Here’s how to eat and drink your way through a 24-hour trip. (Note that there are no hotels in Warren, but there are options in Bristol, directly south.)
For a wiener before 10 a.m. (and other early bites)
Rod’s Grille is a Warren institution. Owned by the same family since 1955, this dive is popular among old-timers and newbies alike; it’s just one of those spots. A perfect breakfast order that would also work at any time of day is a wiener or two (the locals call them “gaggers”) with meat sauce and mustard and an egg sandwich on a bolo (Portuguese muffin), chased down with a glass of cool coffee milk, a Rhody classic. There’s no coffee in it, per se; this official state drink is made with milk and coffee-flavored syrup.
Another place to grab brunch is at Waterdog Kitchen, where the Portuguese sausage chourico subs for bacon in every dish.
For fried fish, a chow mein sandwich, or other lunch bites
The chow mein sandwich (not to be confused with the chop suey sandwich), popularized in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, includes chow mein noodles, veggies, and meat in brown gravy, piled inside a burger bun. Salty and sweet, sticky and messy, it’s delicious. Diners can try this incredible specialty at the Chinese restaurant Luke’s Inn in Warren, which boasts leather booths and a full bar.
But no visit to a seaside town is complete without fried fish, and the go-to spot in Warren is Amaral’s Fish and Chips. Clam cakes and stuffed quahogs are a must — and of course, the fish and chips, which is lightly fried. You can’t go wrong with some whole belly fried clams with tartar sauce, either.
For an afternoon pick-me-up and/or before-dinner drinks
Delekta’s Pharmacy is an old-school soda fountain and former pharmacy famous for the concoction known as a coffee cabinet; there’s no actual coffee or cabinets involved! This tasty treat is essentially a coffee frappe, and it’s beloved all over the area. Delekta’s is the place to try it in Warren thanks to the classic, wood-paneled ambiance.
Archive Book and Snackery, a used book store with a bar, opened this summer, an extension of the Collaborative, a nonprofit local arts organization. This spot perfectly encapsulates Warren today: The wine is natural, the plates are shareable and composed of tinned fish and Ruffles potato chips, and the books are curated and acutely hip. It’s adorable and fun.
A visit to Warren wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Wharf, a classic seafood waterfront spot with a rooftop bar and a dock for boaters itching for a cool drink or bite.
For a town the size of Warren, even in a tourism-heavy location, the number of out-of-the box, creative restaurants is surprising — and exciting. Metacom Kitchen feels like it could be found in Providence or some other location where diners expect elevated plates. One dish that can be found on nearly every table is the coriander and sea salt chicken wings. They’re served on a bed of charred onions, and you haven’t lived until you’ve chased salty wings with sauteed onions. Duck is also always on the menu here in various preparations; don’t skip it.
Bywater is another favorite, featuring seafood, much of it locally sourced. Recently, clever preparations of crudo made with seasonal ingredients have been gracing the menu. Bywater also operates as a bakery and coffee shop during the day — coffees are often enhanced with rose or cardamom syrups, and the pastries and breads (a recent special was a turmeric and green onion sourdough boule) are truly special.
A more recent addition to the town’s dining options is Hunky Dory, a Southern influenced and seasonally driven restaurant with a gorgeous backyard patio surrounded by raised garden beds. The pimento cheese, which is also sold at local farm stands and markets, is a must-order. The fried chicken sandwich is also a favorite, but don’t be afraid to opt for whatever’s on special that night. Hello corn ribs!
Jack’s Bar is a classic drinks establishment, complete with hanging flags, a thick wooden bar, and pictures on the walls. It’s dark, it’s cheap, and it’s perfect. Another option with a slightly different vibe is the Galactic Theater. It has a bit more of a hip, polished ambience, and cocktails are a focus. Silent films are screened, and live music is a weekend fixture.
Bars in Warren close at 1 a.m., but when you get out, wander down the town’s side streets to truly take in the quiet beauty of this antique town.