Seafood is such an integral part of our industry and identity in the Ocean State, so I was shocked to learn that the majority of fish caught in our state is exported – by some estimates, up to 95 percent. That means much of the fish we eat in Rhode Island is imported. The diversity of available seafood doesn’t match our waters, and many of the state’s unique catches are almost impossible to find in local stores.
Dune Brothers, a seafood shack in the Jewelry District, is aiming to address this discrepancy by introducing the city to sustainable and underutilized local seafood. Take, for example, cape shark. It’s abundant and affordable, but I had never seen it on a menu before my first visit to Dune Brothers. It’s hard to understand why, because it’s a totally delicious and approachable fish. Thick and hearty with a clean taste, it made a much better fish and chips than the usual cod. It also excelled as the base of a fish sandwich, which had as much heft as a hamburger and was served potato-crusted with pickles and slaw providing a nice contrast.
My office is down the street from Dune Brothers. Months ago, I watched curiously as the building was refurbished and landscaping planted. Was this tiny shack really going to be a restaurant? But with a coat of bright red paint, some picnic tables, and warmer temperatures, it suddenly made sense. Though you’d have to stand on a table to see the water, you have a front row seat to something much more interesting – a changing Providence. The Wexford Innovation Center next door and the pedestrian bridge across the street, both in progress, are reclaiming former 195 land. Around the corner is the brilliantly renovated South Street Landing, once just a shell of an abandoned electrical station. This corner of the Jewelry District, formerly quiet and deserted, now sees a surprising amount of foot traffic.
Dune Brothers’ menu is all seafood. I’m not exaggerating – each time I’ve visited, every dish contained fish or shellfish. It’s a refreshing break from menus that try to have something for everyone. The small kitchen is highly focused on its mission and nails every single dish on the short menu.
The chowder and clam cakes are more than a notch above average, the New England-style chowder brightened with a couple of in-shell littlenecks and a sprinkle of herbs. The menu has a few versions of fish and chips. I’ve already mentioned cape shark, a good traditional choice for fish and chips. I especially liked the Bait Box, made with a rotating selection of fish such as whiting or butterfish, usually fried whole. If fried isn’t your thing, there’s often a daily special that’s grilled with local vegetables or grains, like squid, scup, or black sea bass.
There are restaurants that pay lip service to local food, but Dune Brothers truly built their business around it. At the same time, they’re also filling a void in Providence by bringing seafood shack fare to the city. It’s a win for both foodies
239 Dyer Street • 648-2598