I regrettably knew nothing about Warren before I embarked on this journey. I wasn’t even sure where it was — in the middle of Rhode Island somewhere? But I’d heard it described as “an underrated beach town” with an artsy feel and waterfront restaurants, and that was a romantic enough portrait to make me plug it into my GPS and discover it for myself. (For the geographically challenged, Warren is nestled between Bristol and Barrington, the Cinderella to its two ritzier stepsisters, and is only 20 minutes from Providence.)
My friend Sarah, I fortuitously discovered, is a Warren resident, and she created the perfect line-up for a Friday night. Our first stop was Blount’s Clam Shack. It wasn’t a restaurant that screamed, “Get your alcohol here!” but I’d heard rumors of its high caliber chowder, so I thought it might be worth a try. Since it closes early — 8pm — I assumed it’d be a prequel for the evening; I did not anticipate it being a worthy crawl location.
I was oh-so-wrong. In fact, I’d recommend all evenings in Warren begin with Blount’s Clam Shack — it is full of charm and epitomizes the seaside lifestyle. The venue is outdoors, with white seashells carpeting the ground, picnic-style benches beneath a large tent, a smattering of umbrella-covered tables and wooden chairs facing the river. The “Shack” operates from two windows, one for ordering and one for pick-up, and the employees wear visors that say “Chwdr” and are upbeat and amazingly friendly.
When we arrived, the sun was setting and a musician sang with a Jack Johnson-esque sound. I felt transported to my days of living in Hawaii, where the vibe is always “relaxed” and everyone has an air of being on vacation. We read the neatly penned blackboard menu and tried to choose an appetizer from so many wonderful-sounding options: spicy calamari, lobster bisque, Chourico stuffies (which I was mispronouncing until my friend corrected me) …
Finally, we decided on three clam cakes with a cup of chowder and a pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. I thought nothing of the line (it was barely long enough for two indecisive people to figure out what to order) until a girl came around with a basket of clam cakes and offered everyone one, complimentary, for “enduring the long wait.” This is nothing compared to brunch on Federal Hill, I thought, but I WILL take a clam cake, thank you!
We faced the river and enjoyed our “prequel” until the sun disappeared and it was time to move on to cocktails. We crossed the street to Stella Blues, where the inside has a rustic, cozy feel — a great place to warm up in the winter — while the outdoor seating and covered patio are airy and perfect for summer weather.
The cocktail list was long and exciting — more than 12 different martinis — but I chose the “Stella Blues” cocktail: vodka, blue curacao and lemonade. It was as bright as a blue snow cone and just as easy to consume. Sarah enjoyed a Red Sangria garnished with four large slices of fruit. I wanted to return later for another cocktail, but our waiter said the bar closes, “Whenever the last person leaves,” so it wasn’t guaranteed we’d be able to come back. Alas. But it was time to move on.
We hopped over to the slightly-more-happenin’ Square Peg and this time sat at the indoor bar. One of the beer specials was a coffee milk stout, and since I love coffee milk, I confidently ordered one. The bartender eyed me carefully and asked if I’d ever tried it before — “people either love it or hate it” — and she offered me a sample. Good woman. I decided on an actual coffee instead, Irish style, while Sarah ordered another sangria, different from Stella’s but equally delicious. We chose two desserts: the house specialty banana crème pie (my assessment: “there are real bananas in this!”) and a strawberry rhubarb pie. After we polished off both plates and emptied our cups, we journeyed to our final spot: Jack’s Bar.
Sarah’s impression was “a super sketchy hole in the wall,” which meant we had to go. We walked half a block down to an unassuming white door with a neon outline of “Jack’s Bar” posted above it. Inside, we were greeted by a sweet brown dog with a “please pet me” face and a small Chihuahua-mix held in the tattooed arms of a young woman who warned us, “Be careful: he licks faces.” There were Boston team flags strung across the ceiling, and pictures and fliers covering the walls. A handwritten sign said “Cash Only,” and much to our dismay, we only had $7 between us. As we fretted over finding an ATM, the bartender told us wine was only $3 a glass, and we rejoiced! Jack’s Bar is the new favorite! We finished the evening with two glasses of wine in a definitively non-sketchy atmosphere, and left Jack’s Bar to find a quiet, mostly-asleep Warren.
An enchanting place to enjoy sunset drinks with waterfront views and friendly dive bars, but at the stroke of midnight, Cinderella’s coach turns back into a pumpkin, and it’s time to turn in for the night.
Blount’s Clam Shack: 335 Water Street (Warren)
Stella Blues: 50 Miller Street (Warren)
The Square Peg: 51 Miller Street (Warren)
Jack’s Bar: 187 Water Street (Warren)