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       ATLANTIC WATCH white logo
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH

JP Jones as seen in American Public House Review
As you peruse this article by Chris Poh, please click here for some engaging musical
accompanimentas well. Middletown, Rhode island's favorite singer-songwriter son, JP JONES
performsone of hisclassics:  IN THE BEGINNING from his recording: LIFE AND DEATH.



      Audio files are offered courtesy of the artist with the understanding that they may not be copied, republished, or redistributed in any format without the  
      express permission of the performer and/or their recording label.  Large files may take a few moments to load.
photo courtesy of Barry Botelho    
Easton's Beach in Middletown, Rhode Island as seen in American Public House Review
EASTON'S BEACH IN NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND




Flo's Clam Shack sign in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House ReviewMy 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. 



Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
FLO'S CLAM SHACK IN MIDDLETOWN, RHODE ISLAND


Back entrance to Flo's Clam Shack in middletown RI as seen in American Public House Review

Happy clam at Flo's Clam shack in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
  REAR ENTRANCE

HAPPY AS A CLAM




While 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. We 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 story.



photo courtesy of the Sea Whale Motel  
photo courtesy of the Sea Whale Motel  
Sea Whale Motel in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
Sea Whale Motel rear deck inmiddletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
THE SEA WHALE MOTEL
THE REAR UPPER DECK ROOMS




The 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.



photo courtesy of the Sea Whale Motel  
Suset over Easton's Pond in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
SUNSET OVER EASTON'S POND




While 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




Ceiling kitsch above Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
NEW ENGLAND KITSCH HANGS WHIMSICALLY FROM FLO'S WELCOMING COVER




We 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, the bartenders at Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
CHRIS AND LISA, YOUR CONGENIAL BARTENDERS



In 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.”




The Bar at Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI as seen in American Public House Review
A BAR WORTHY OF IT'S WATERY HOME




Neon clam at Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI as seen in AQmerican Public House ReviewThe next 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.



Double rainbow over Easton's Beach in Newport. RI as seen in American Public House Review
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 BEACH
EAT HERE - TAKE OUT
PLENTY OF PARKING ON WAVE AVENUE

4 WAVE AVENUE
MIDDLETOWN, RHODE ISLAND 02842


(401) 847-8141

www.flosclamshack.com






SEA WHALE MOTEL

150 AQUIDNECK AVENUE
MIDDLETOWN, RHODE ISLAND
02842

TOLL FREE: (888) 257-4096

www.seawhale.com

MAP AND DIRECTIONS




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