BRISTOL, R.I. — Best known for its Fourth of July parade, where people line the route as early as 5 a.m., the seafaring town of Bristol is starting to garner a reputation for excellent meals on any type of budget. Chef Champe Speidel at Persimmon is a three-time semifinalist for a James Beard Award as best chef in the Northeast. Much of the produce, fish, and meat in his inspired cooking come from local purveyors. On Bristol Harbor, Quito’s was once a fish market where local fishermen dropped off their daily catch. Now folks line up in summer for one of the finest fried clam platters in New England. Then there’s the Beehive, a popular breakfast spot known for its dark roast coffee and comfort food, expanding this summer to a larger space.
PERSIMMON One bite of the ham and pea bon-bon, where the first harvest of spring oozes out of the shell in a delightful burst, and you understand why couples from Providence or Newport think nothing of making the trek to Persimmon’s 30-seat dining room for its inspired fare. Most likely, the kale, arugula, and carrots came from Indie Growers, found just down the road at Mount Hope Farm. The slow roasted monkfish was caught in Point Judith, the lamb served three ways was raised at North Star Sheep Farm in Windham, Maine, the sea scallops found in Cape waters, and the crispy clam cakes made from quahogs that line the shores of Narragansett Bay. Yet, Chef Speidel is no prisoner to the region. If he needs Alaskan king crab legs to round out a dish of native farm egg, sweet peas, artichokes, and radishes, he finds it. Champe’s wife, Lisa, is a gracious host who will suggest the ideal wine, like a dry Grüner Veltliner to go with those crab legs. Entrees range from $26-$33. 31 State St., 401-254-7474, www.persimmonri.com
QUITO’S Overlooking the bay at the end of the 14-mile East Bay Bike Path from Providence, Quito’s first opened as a fish market in 1954. Fishermen still arrive at the docks in front of the restaurant to deliver the day’s catch, but now Albert Quito, son of the original owner, has a thriving seafood restaurant. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have to wait in line to snag one of the coveted tables outside in summer. The whole belly clam roll is worth the wait, yet you’ll be happy to know that not all dishes here are fried. The tomato-based seafood stew is chock-full of calamari, lobster, swordfish, scallops, tuna, and shrimp. Cod and scallops can be ordered pan-seared, and there’s fresh veggies, such as sautéed kale with garlic. Wash it down with a Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale and you’ll be ready to pedal back to Providence. Prices from $4.25-$24. 411 Thames St., 401-253-4500, www.quitos
THE BEEHIVE CAFE A local favorite, the Beehive is the type of breakfast and lunch place you wish every neighborhood would have. Stand at the counter to order from the extensive menu. Dark roast coffee is made from beans roasted by the Pawtucket wholesaler, New Harvest Coffee. Breakfast items include lemon cornmeal pancakes with genuine maple syrup, omelets with your choice of organic produce, and granola topped with Narragansett Creamery yogurt. At lunch, expect curried chicken salad sandwiches or smoked salmon BLT on flaxseed bread, and a good selection of salads and soups. Food in hand, head to the front patio or upstairs balcony to dine. Dishes from $4-$13. 10 Franklin St., 401-396-9994, www.thebeehive
Stephen Jermanok can be reached at email@example.com.