By Mike Virgintino
Sampling the food at the same diners, drive-ins and dives featured on the Food Network. One of the most popular programs on the Food Network is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Hosted by California chef Guy Fieri, the program (also known as DDD and Triple D) travels the country looking for the food joints that are heralded by locals for unique and delicious menu choices rather than for elegant dining or romantic ambiance.
The program has traveled through every state, and many of its fans use it as a guide as they travel on business or pleasure. Fieri has stopped several times in Rhode Island during the show’s handful of seasons, and among his featured eateries are Crazy Burger Café and Juice Bar in Narragansett and Evelyn’s Drive-In in Tiverton.
Crazy Burger Café and Juice Bar
When entering Rhode Island from the west, exit Interstate 95 and drive toward Narragansett. Look for Route 1 and then find 144 Boon Street near the water. Crazy Burger is known for its burgers, but it also offers breakfast, other lunch and dinner entrees, and shakes and smoothies. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but many arrive with bottles of wine or small coolers filled with several beers.
Popular items include the moo-moo melt (ground beef and caramelized onions from the griddle pressed into rye bread with mayonnaise and cheddar), the loco burger (beef, avocado, black beans and cheddar grilled into a tortilla with salsa on the side), stuffed spinach crepes with three cheeses, chocolate milk shake and a slaw that has a taste of ginger.
The next stop is about 20 minutes northeast of Newport. After dining at some of New England’s best restaurants that surround the water and main drag of Newport, some people might question a road trip in search of great food. If the destination is Evelyn’s Drive-In, then all the questions can be tabled.
Besides the take-out window and the picnic tables under a roof canopy overlooking the water, diners also can enjoy service at the indoor counter and 15 tables. About another 15 tables with service also are found outdoors at the water’s edge. Anyone who chooses to arrive by small boat can dock at the single slip.
Everything on the menu is popular with the locals and vacationers, but several items always are in high demand.
These include the Rhode Island Chowder (different than New England Clam Chowder; it is clear soup and often uses local quahogs), the shrimp plate, clam cakes, stuffies (fresh local quahogs), lobster chow mein (two-ounce lobster atop hot chow mein with gravy and crispy noodles) and blueberry pie.
Owners Dominic and Jane Bitto purchased the eatery from the original Evelyn. They maintained many of the original dishes and recipes while adding new choices to the menu. Evelyn’s is located at 2335 Main Road in Tiverton. It is seasonal from April to October.
Bad New York Dogs
Rhode Island’s New York.System wieners are hot dogs served on steamed hot dog buns. Toppings include meat sauce, onions, celery salt and mustard. Most locals order three doggies at a time. Though a number of eateries offer New York System wieners, the original, according to the locals, is Olneyville New York Wieners. One outlet is at 20 Plainfield Street in Providence and the other is at 1012 Reservoir Avenue in Cranston.
Nicholas Stevens and his father, Anthony, arrived from Greece and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where they operated a candy shop. During the late 1930′s, they moved the entire family to Rhode Island and opened a small restaurant to serve hot wieners and a few other items on a small lunch menu.
While not seen on DDD, Olneyville New York System was featured by Fieri on another Food Network show (The Best Thing I Ever Ate) that aired on June 14, 2010. As explained by the show title, Fieri considers these wieners among his favorite dogs.
Though these doggies are popular with the locals and Fieri, many out-of-state visitors have wondered what the fuss is all about. The wieners just can’t wag their tails when compared to a New York City hot dog.