523 Charlestown Beach Road, Charlestown
(401) 419-6732
johnnyangelsclamshack.com

Johnny Angel's snuck up on us. Turns out they had been in business four years already by the time we first heard about them at the 2005 Schwepps Great Chowder Cook-Off. That was the year they won first place for their clam cakes. When we tried to find some information on the place we hit nothing but dead ends—no newspaper stories, no website, no listing in the yellow pages.

We're nothing if not resourceful, though, and we finally managed to track down the cell phone number of the shack's owner, John Martin. Far from being secretive, he responded cheerfully to all our questions.

John started Johnny Angel's Clam Shack around 2001 almost as a hobby. Up until then he had worked at a number of restaurants (Adesso, The Gatehouse, L'Epicureo) performing various "front of the house" duties. He was working at Adesso when he began putting together a plan for his own summer business, a clam shack. He was discussing possible names for the venture with co-workers when one suggested the obvious—name it after himself and call it Johnny's Clam Shack. Another friend pointed to a neon wall sconce shaped like an angel, part of the restaurant's decor, and suggested adding "angel" to the name. And so it became Johnny Angel's Clam Shack.

John says the business soon became much more than a hobby. With a built-in clientele of beachgoers, fishermen, and recreational boaters at his Shelter Harbor Marina location, he rarely has to worry about down time in the summer. Wickford's Kayak Centre has a satellite location right next door where you can rent kayaks, too. The take-out window is well-patronized and the deck overlooking Ninigret Pond is a favored spot to kick back and enjoy some of the shack's offerings.

Among those offerings are white chowder, those award-winning clam cakes, and two kinds of lobster roll: traditional style with mayo and a version where the lobster meat is sautéed in butter. Their stuffies are smaller than usual, but what they lack in size they make up for in flavor. The secret is the addition of bacon and red and green peppers to the mix. We don't mind telling you that drool is collecting on our keyboard as we type this.

John says the clam cakes are the most popular item on the menu. Our friend Laury describes them as "crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside like any good clam cake should be." John would rather eat one of his own basic burgers, though. "I sometimes have to make four thousand clam cakes a day," he says. "I can't eat them anymore!"

They also have a friends and family night, Wednesdays, when they serve Italian stuff—spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna.

In addition to the Chowder Cook-Off, Johnny Angel's can sometimes be found at a number of other festivals throughout the summer: The South County Hot Air Balloon Festival, Charlestown Chamber Seafood Festival, JVC Jazz Festival, Rhythm and Roots Festival, Oktoberfest, and Bowen's Wharf Seafood Festival. Johnny Angel's is available for catering, as well.

Johnny Angel's isn't the first to occupy the little building at Shelter Cove Marina. John believes previous incarnations have gone by names like Sugar Shack and Sunshine Cafe.

Johnny Angel's Clam Shack is open Memorial Day to Columbus Day (weekends only at the beginning and end of the season), noon-9pm weekdays, and until 10pm on weekends.

Awards

Schwepps Great Chowder Cook-Off: Best Clam Cakes (2005 (first place), 2006 (second place), 2007 (first place).

What’s nearby

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