first taste of Atlantic brine was on a stretch of beach south of
Annapolis called Mayo. It was somewhere between the end of the
Eisenhower administration and the early days of Camelot that I left my
footprints on those Maryland sands. While John Fitzgerald and other
sons of the Kennedy clan were most likely playing touch football at
Hyannis, another fellow navy man, retired Lieutenant Joseph Haslinger
brought his niece and nephew from New Jersey, and some portion of his
own brood of ten to this tranquil expanse on the Chesapeake.
Over the next five decades I would leave a fleeting imprint on Atlantic
shores from the Gulf of Mexico to the Sea of Hebrides. My fondest
memories are of those days when I could sit for hours and view the
timeless dance and exchange between land and sea. And what I would
consider to be my halcyon days were when that watch could be maintained
from the vantage point of a good bar. One such location along the
Atlantic trail is FLO'S CLAM SHACK in
Middletown, Rhode Island.
| REAR ENTRANCE
|HAPPY AS A CLAM
this seaside gem, located across from Easton’s Beach, has been a
favored stop for a few years, this summer’s pilgrimage to the Ocean
State was all about quality time at FLO'S.
bypassed the usual in
town hostelries of Newport in favor of lodging located near this
venerable New England clam shack. It was Chris, a good friend and
bartender at FLO'S that recommended we set up
our base of operations at
the Sea Whale Motel. This delightful
find was in and of itself a great
proprietors of the Sea Whale, Teri and Jeff, met in
New York City
in the early nineteen eighties, fell in love, married and opened a
flower shop. For Jeff, whose professional hockey career with the Boston
Bruins was cut short by injury, the journey was probably somewhat
different than what he had envisioned. And as quickly as fate would
amend his stay in Bean Town, another bend in the road would alter their
circumstance in the Big Apple.
On a whim one summer weekend Teri and Jeff took off to Rhode Island
without the benefit of reservations. With Newport being booked out they
head into neighboring Middletown and happen upon the Sea
Whale. For the
next fourteen years it will be where they spend their vacation. During
that time they will make two attempts to purchase the property, and in
December of 2002 it would become their home. One need only sit once
through a sunset over Easton’s Pond to understand their love for this
place. And if it were not for the outstanding scallops and exceptional
pints of Bass that await us at FLO'S,
Fran and I would never leave the
upper deck at the Sea Whale.
|SUNSET OVER EASTON'S POND
the editorial policy of this magazine is never to engage in
comparing or rating one public house over another, my personal feelings
about an establishment can be gauged by what I call the “Ten Hour
Rule.” Simply stated, anytime I spend ten or more hours, not that they
necessarily be contiguous, at any given bar during any twenty four hour
period, I suspect that I am supremely fond of the location. To date
only a handful of taverns have met the criterion: the Peculier
Pub(spelling intended) and P.J. Clarke’s in New York City,
the Cat’s Eye in the Fells Point
section of Baltimore, the Ponderosa Saloon in Virginia
City, Nevada and
of course, Flo’s Clam Shack.
This Rhode Island institution can best be described as an intriguing
blend of nautical kitsch, traditional tiki and surfside revival. But
like all noteworthy establishments it is defined by the patrons and
personnel that gather beneath its welcoming cover
|NEW ENGLAND KITSCH HANGS WHIMSICALLY FROM FLO'S WELCOMING
began our most recent session at Flo’s
with Chris at the helm. He
comes to these shores with the warm breezes of summer, and unless
delayed by the post season play of the Red Sox departs the
New England chill by early fall. For most of the year he provides
cocktails and counsel at a pub along the Florida coast. There are few
in the business that can preside over a room as well as Chris, except
perhaps for Lisa who joins him later in the day in order to assist with
the evening crush. Between them they are a perfect study of competence,
command and congeniality.
|CHRIS AND LISA, YOUR CONGENIAL BARTENDERS
between slow sips of ale and long periods of watching cruising gulls
and the rolling surf, there are pleasant exchanges with the tourists
and regulars that make Flo’s a must stop port of call during any
excursion to Aquidneck Island. There is one such visitor who also
appears to operate under the principles of the “Ten Hour Rule.” Myles
O’Grady and I spend the better part of the afternoon and evening
conversing about politics, philosophy, religion and anything else that
might cross the minds of two gentleman that lack the gift of brevity.
Our discourse is finally brought to its inevitable conclusion by three
simple words, “Gentlemen last call.”
|A BAR WORTHY OF IT'S WATERY HOME
morning I return to take some photos of the bar before the
first customers arrive. With that task complete, Lisa pours me a Bass
and I sit back to begin another Atlantic watch under stormy skies.
As I ponder the roiling waters it occurs to me that we are like
the waves, coming ashore briefly, leaving something of ourselves
behind, taking with us something of every wave that has washed over the
sand previously, and before returning to the sea seeking some sign of
affirmation from above to validate our time on the beach. On some days,
that sign is a double rainbow and on others . .
. it’s a neon clam.
|A GOLDEN MOMENT ON EASTON'S BEACH IS A TREASURE WAITING TO BE
FOUND . . .
. . . AS IS EVERY MOMENT EVERYWHERE!
FLO'S CLAM SHACK
RIGHT ACROSS FROM NEWPORT'S FIRST
EAT HERE - TAKE OUT
PLENTY OF PARKING ON WAVE AVENUE
4 WAVE AVENUE
MIDDLETOWN, RHODE ISLAND 02842