It is difficult to find truly hidden gems among Rhode Island’s restaurants. For one thing, the state is so small that nothing is really hidden. For another, people want to keep the hidden gems under wraps. When I told family and friends what I was planning to write about this month, the reaction was not great. “We love it,” everyone said. “But we don’t want anyone else to find out about it.” Despite their protests, I have decided to share with you one of Rhode Island’s best kept secrets: Jim’s Dock.
Jim’s Dock is located on Succotash Road in South Kingstown. You are probably familiar with the road, having passed it en route to the Matunuck Oyster Bar and East Matunuck State Beach. Jim’s Dock is on the right-hand side, about a half mile past the beach. It is the quintessential dockside seafood shack. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, with amazing views of Point Judith. If you get a kick out of the Block Island Ferry, you’ll be glad to know that your meal will be punctuated by its comings and goings. The place is more rustic than fancy, but its comfortable, casual vibe is pleasant after a day at the beach; sandy feet and swimsuit cover-ups are the norm.
One of the things people love about Jim’s Dock is its BYOB policy. You can bring anything you want to drink and there is no corkage fee. On the night I visited with my family, we brought a cooler packed with a variety of Nantucket’s Cisco beers. On past visits, the Place family has brought wine and even fixings for fresh margaritas. Since I have relatives with an East Matunuck beach house, Jim’s Dock is a family favorite.
In Rhode Island, a clam shack is only as good as its clam cakes and chowder, so we started with a cup of Rhode Island Clear Chowder ($5) and a half dozen clam cakes ($6). Jim’s chowder was more flavorful than some other clear chowders I’ve sampled, owing to plenty of smoky bacon. The clam cakes were, in a word, awesome. They were freshly fried, so the outside was extremely crisp, and there were plenty of clams embedded in the tender cake batter. As if that wasn’t enough, we also split a Point Judith Stuffed Quahog ($4). What set this enormous stuffie apart from others was its perfectly crispy topping, and at $4, it was a bargain. Before our main courses arrived, we also tried a Greek Calamari Special ($14), which was delicious. The calamari was lightly fried and accompanied by feta cheese, olives, sautéed spinach and diced tomatoes.
Since there were five of us dining, we were able to try a wide variety of meals. I had the Lobster Salad ($21): a plain green salad (lettuce, sliced tomatoes, rings of white onion and a balsamic vinaigrette) topped with a cup and a half of delicious lobster meat lightly dressed with mayonnaise and a hint of lemon. There were no pesky vegetables hiding among the lobster – just the way I like it. My mother ordered the Harvest Salad with Grilled Salmon ($19): walnuts, mandarin oranges and dried cranberries tossed with mixed greens and well-cooked fish. My brother had the Grilled Tuna Steak ($22), which was served with a choice of potato (he chose French fries) and mixed vegetables (carrots and broccoli). My father went a little wild and ordered the Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs ($17). He thought the shrimp paired well with the sweet, caramelized, grilled pineapple. The kabobs were served with mixed vegetables and a very garlicky risotto. A family friend we brought along for her first trip to Jim’s Dock ordered the Fish and Chips ($15), the fish battered and fried expertly, and not too thick. My friend also loved the French fries and the cole slaw on the side.
At Jim’s Dock, the desserts are all homemade. The night we were there, there was a choice of blueberry, key lime or coconut cream pie. After all we had eaten (there were no leftovers), we decided to split the Blueberry Pie ($5). The piece was large enough that all five of us managed to get several bites each. It was topped with two giant scoops of vanilla ice cream, the perfect end to a summertime meal.
When “the summer wind comes blowing in from across the sea,” be sure to pack up the family and head to Jim’s Dock. Bring a cooler of local beer and wave to the people waiting for a table at Matunuck Oyster Bar on your way. Oh… and don’t tell too many people about this hidden Rhode Island gem.
1175 Succotash Road, Wakefield