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NE Fried Clams: Shacks & Restaurants


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#31 LindaK

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 10:29 AM

I'll have to recruit a friend who owns a digital camera (I don't) but it shouldn't be hard to organize a "clam crawl" among my friends and report back here. Great idea and a good excuse for overindulging in fried clams!

Anyone know of any reputable places along Boston's south shore towns?


 


#32 mizducky

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 11:55 AM

[sound of transplanted Northeasterner gently weeping as she watches all this marvelous fried-clam activity from over here on The Wrong Coast]

#33 johnnyd

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 12:58 PM

[sound of transplanted Northeasterner gently weeping as she watches all this marvelous fried-clam activity from over here on The Wrong Coast]

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:laugh:

Consider yourself an esteemed ambassador of our fair region in a far away outpost of a clamless netherworld... or something like that! :raz:


Shall we try to accumulate enough "scorecards" to award a "Best of" designation by, say, July 4th weekend? Maybe right after since many vacationing eGer's will be in prime clam country and can participate. Any and all reviews/visits would, of course, be posted through the summer and beyond.
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#34 scordelia

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 03:58 PM

the local Maine yokels

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I lived in Seal Harbor for four years and worked on various fishing boats. One common lament from the old timers was that the clams were not as good as they used to be.

You see, Seal Harbor boasts one of the few natural sand beaches in the whole state. Running down the middle of the beach, sort of buried, is an old corrugated steel pipe that ends at the low tide mark. It's the old sewage pipe. The town installed a modern sewage system in the 1960's and shut off the old pipe forever.

According to those old timers, the best clams on MDI came from the base of that pipe--Quahogs as big as your hand! These guys would sit on the town pier and rue the day that damn filtration plant was built.
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#35 ahr

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 10:58 PM

...Best in RI: Flo's on the Newport/Portsmouth line. We're going Sunday, first trip of the season, bay-bee!!

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Here's a little Flo's preview:

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#36 johnnyd

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 01:55 PM

I just remembered the Yarmouth Clam Festival, a mother of an event hosted in "downtown" Yarmouth, Maine.

I manned a craft booth for a friend a couple years ago (there are plenty of them) and got a chance to check out the food options. Clams, lobsters and more are prepared by various area clubs like the Yarmouth Ski club, the Yarmouth Lacrosse Boosters... you get the idea. Some cook 'em better than others (see the "great food" page of the above web site for a complete list).

It's all very festive, especially if it doesn't rain. There is a town parade (floats of fifth graders, Shiners Go-carts), a couple bands and a clam shucking contest which I threatened to compete in until I found out they were softshell clams, not hardshell clams which are easier to open.

The 2005 Yarmouth Clamfest will be held July 15, 16, and 17.

Edited by johnnyd, 18 April 2005 - 08:18 AM.

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#37 fchrisgrimm

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 07:02 AM

All of this "foie gras of the Atlantic" talk got me hungry, so I picked up a quite serviceable order of clams at Westfair Seafood, a tiny joint affiliated with a local fish market, here in Westport, CT.

Being at the southern end of New England, I'm probably not getting the very freshest clams - though I hope that the other part of the Westfair business means that these will be as fresh as I'll get around here.

A lot cheaper than Mansion Clam House, too. Not sure where else to recommend in the neighborhood.

Westfair also makes great onion rings!

#38 hwilson41

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:14 AM

All you Yankees are making me weep. I'm a tried and true Southerner, but I love almost any kind of seafood. Grew up eating fried clams that I'm sure were strips sans bellies (now that I know the difference), which I thought were great, but obviously my education is greatly lacking :wacko:.

So tell me, is it not possible to get "good" steamer clams down here in the DelMarVa area? Surely New England doesn't have a lock on all the good clams on the Easters Seaboard. Do they? Please say it isn't so :raz:.
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#39 iriee

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:41 AM

im giving my two cents to daddys in niantic ct. they are large ,crispy and just great! the size of the order is huge so you can take some home and have them cold later,,yummmmm. i've had them at the summer shack at mohegan sun many times and there also very good.
i've been to the thirsty whale but i only had a papst blue ribbon on tap that was delicious.
what about chowder?? im a big chowder head. any recomendations??

#40 LindaK

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 05:04 PM

So tell me, is it not possible to get "good" steamer clams down here in the DelMarVa area?  Surely New England doesn't have a lock on all the good clams on the Easters Seaboard.  Do they?  Please say it isn't so :raz:.

Sorry, but it's so. I grew up here in MA, so I know a good fried clam. When I found myself in the D.C. and Baltimore area for 8 yrs, I tried many of the local offerings but finally gave up.

If it's any consolation, I can't get a decent crab cake around here. They're my indulgence when I'm back in Baltimore.

Oddly enough, I take some comfort in knowing that some foods will always be truly regional, even if misguided folks elsewhere put them on their menus.


 


#41 emmapeel

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 05:15 PM

Question for the fishermen (or if you know) -- Are clams so good in the northeast because the water stays so cold all year (especially downeast?)

Edited by emmapeel, 18 April 2005 - 05:16 PM.

Emma Peel

#42 Holly Moore

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 05:25 PM

Miscellaneous Fried Clam Fact (or "Downeast Legend": According to Mabel of Mabel's Lobster Lobster Claw, shucked clams for frying become more expensive in mid July / early August because the shuckers head north to pick blueberries.
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#43 slbunge

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 07:01 AM

This thread has me thinking about a drive we made last summer in search of the Clam Box in Ipswich that I had read so much about before moving to Boston. Turned out to be the final truly hot day of the summer. The town and the restaurant were packed. We have limited on experience with fried clam bellies and found them to be quite tasty. We paid extra to get 'local' clams which was a recommendation from people in line. The breading (or dusting) was light and the flesh was tender. In all, for the volume this place does, I think they have a nice touch with the fryer.

Ahhh, summer.

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This was lunch, outside at the picnic tables. My lunch is on the left (without the offensive red stuff my wife likes) and is actually the big bellies.

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For comparison sake, a closeup of the two sizes.

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#44 JohnnyH

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 07:07 AM

This thread has me thinking about a drive we made last summer in search of the Clam Box in Ipswich that I had read so much about before moving to Boston.  Turned out to be the final truly hot day of the summer.  The town and the restaurant were packed.  We have limited on experience with fried clam bellies and found them to be quite tasty.  We paid extra to get 'local' clams which was a recommendation from people in line.  The breading (or dusting) was light and the flesh was tender.  In all, for the volume this place does, I think they have a nice touch with the fryer.

Ahhh, summer.

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This was lunch, outside at the picnic tables.  My lunch is on the left (without the offensive red stuff my wife likes) and is actually the big bellies.

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For comparison sake, a closeup of the two sizes.

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Holy sh*t you're killing me. I'm not going to be in Harwich until August this year and now I've got this jones to deal with...
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#45 hwilson41

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 08:32 AM

Sorry, but it's so. I grew up here in MA, so I know a good fried clam. When I found myself in the D.C. and Baltimore area for 8 yrs, I tried many of the local offerings but finally gave up.

If it's any consolation, I can't get a decent crab cake around here. They're my indulgence when I'm back in Baltimore.

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OK, I feared that would be the answer. So my next option (other than driving or flying to MA :wacko:) would be to find somebody in this area who imports the clams from New England. Is this a serious option (assuming I can find them), or would the loss of freshness make it not worth the trouble? Thanks for the help.
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#46 HungryChris

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:34 AM

Inspired by this thread, we took a ride up to Essex, Mass last Saturday. We've been to Woodman's and the Clam Box a few times so we decided to give the Village Restaurant a try. This is not an order at the window kind of place like the aformentioned and there was no line. We tried the appetizers of oysters, fried clams, calamari and intended to split a lobster roll. Two rolls were served and I decided not to protest.
The clams were first order. They were the perfect size, had a light and crisp golden coating and were sweet as could be. They did not clump together ( I hate when that happens) and the tarter sauce they were served with was a perfect complement for every other clam or so. I was reminded of how long this winter has been. When asked what the breading was, the server replied "It's corn meal, I think." I think it was corn flour because it was light and formed a thin, flavorful coating. The calamari were also the perfect size and delicious with the same golden coating. They were served with cocktail sauce.
The oysters were fresh and shucked with an eye for ease of slurping and glistened with their liquor.

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The clams were on a small plate and we had some before we took the picture so it is not a true representation of the appetizer size.
After a bit of poking around the town for antiques I couldn't resist the urge to do a bit of comparison at the Clam Box (no photos, though).
We got there just when the sign said they were changing the oil so we waited for about 20 minutes. The counter guy said they were filtering it which I think is more accurate.
Let me preface this by saying that the clams at both places were excellent on Saturday and I would have been happy with either one. The Clam Box version had a bit more substantial breading and the dreaded 'clumping effect' was evident.
They were also of the perfect size, but were just slightly more chewey than those at the Village, which in my vote, had a slight edge that day.

Cheers,
HC

Edited by HungryChris, 20 April 2005 - 07:52 AM.


#47 scordelia

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:53 AM

Question for the fishermen (or if you know) -- Are clams so good in the northeast because the water stays so cold all year (especially downeast?)

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I think that is part of it, but you also need a good, mucky bed. Some of the best shellfish I have ever had are the ribbed mussels and quahogs I picked myself out of Black Fish Creek on Cape Cod (Black Fish Creek is where the famous Wellfleet Oyster comes from).

Black Fish Creek is really a tidal basin on the bay side of Cape Cod and the water is quite warm, but the bottom is this thick, stinking black sludge of decomposing vegetation and other things (you know they will find oil here is a billion or so years). Boy, do the shellfish love that black muck! It produces a large tasty mussel, oyster and clam.

But back to your point about cold water, I think that helps too. Maine lobsters are better than Massachusetts ones. And I have fished and gone diving in the waters off Cape Cod and in Maine, and the Maine waters have more abundant life.

Edited by scordelia, 20 April 2005 - 08:54 AM.

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#48 johnnyd

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 09:13 AM

Sorry, but it's so. I grew up here in MA, so I know a good fried clam. When I found myself in the D.C. and Baltimore area for 8 yrs, I tried many of the local offerings but finally gave up.

If it's any consolation, I can't get a decent crab cake around here. They're my indulgence when I'm back in Baltimore.

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OK, I feared that would be the answer. So my next option (other than driving or flying to MA :wacko:) would be to find somebody in this area who imports the clams from New England. Is this a serious option (assuming I can find them), or would the loss of freshness make it not worth the trouble? Thanks for the help.

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I've seen shucked clams in my local market for sale and thought there has to be a source for folks outside of the New England area. Lo and Behold: the Ipswich Fish Market will ship a quart or more to your door. This is probably an excellent option but not cheap. They also have a "Clam Fry Kit" which could be good. If anyone springs for this, your report could help out those who are out of the fresh clam loop. (mizducky?)

I have had (and made) a few crab cakes out of the Jonah Crab meat and they were really good. Browne Trading has them among other exciting products to order on-line.

hungrychris: your trip to Village looks terrific. They look tough to beat! :wink:
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#49 johnnyd

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Posted 07 May 2005 - 05:56 AM

So a friend and I stopped by the "Free Range Fish and Lobster" Company on Commercial Street here in Portland for a serving of fried clams and a lobster roll.

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They have a take-out window and a couple of tables to the side of parking area

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Lobster Roll came with chips and was pronounced "delicious" Cost: $10.99

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My clams were breaded, crisp and tasty. The foot-siphons were too chewy and the clams were packed in the box too tightly. Fries were awesome. Cost: $9.99 + Fries @ $2

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#50 CSASphinx

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 05:12 AM

So a friend and I stopped by the "Free Range Fish and Lobster" Company on Commercial Street here in Portland for a serving of fried clams and a lobster roll.

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They have a take-out window and a couple of tables to the side of parking area

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Lobster Roll came with chips and was pronounced "delicious" Cost: $10.99

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My clams were breaded, crisp and tasty.  The foot-siphons were too chewy and the clams were packed in the box too tightly.  Fries were awesome. Cost: $9.99 + Fries @ $2

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Johnny,

While we are between digital cams right now, if you are of the mood, might I suggest a trek out Forest Avenue to Susan's Fish and Chips? These are my favorite clams around (Southern Maine) and they are served with a real old New England-style boiled tartar sauce.

Which brings up another point. While certainly the clams, their preparation, etc. have gotten all the discussion, why no mention about the tartar sauce that goes with them?

I can't tell you the number of times I've gotten a very promising plate of clams only to be completely turned off by a tartar sauce made with DILL relish of all things!

Also, I have to say I disagree with the scoring criteria awarding extra points if the clams comes with a wedge of lemon. Lemon is for broiled seafood, tartar sauce for fried.

That said, I'm in for a variety of reports and pictures.

One last addition, while it may not rise to the level of true contender for the crown, the Sea Basket just south of Wiscasset, ME, has been a consistent performer working in fried seafood of all kinds.
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#51 johnnyd

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Posted 10 May 2005 - 09:16 AM

A bit more about "Free Range", It is actually more of a seafood retail store, and has a nice take-out on the side which, I'm sure, will be busy this summer. Actually that is now a question as the "Scotia Prince", the 100+foot car ferry that ran twice daily to Yarmouth Nova Scotia from a slip behind Free Range (under the bridge to SoPo), has pulled out of Portland in a huff. It seems the ferry terminal, which is maintained by the city, failed a mold test and the ferry company refused to book any routes for this summer. The city put several thousand $Ks into the terminal and disputes the claim. It has hit the town hard as the sight of the mini-cruise ship leaving or entering the harbour, especially at night, gives the town a charm most beloved for three decades. The trip also brought many tourists, who see "Free Range" before anything else on the way into the Old Port.

Before this place was Free Range Fish and Lobster, it used to be "Tiny's Bigman Seafood". Tiny, as you may guess, was not a small person. I used to sell my sea-urchins to a guy upstairs who rented an office from Tiny, and after a while the place seemed like a frat for waterfront types of all stripes. When the urchin biz cooled off, Tiny bought a display cooler, painted a sign and sold some mighty nice looking fish. He then put in a couple fryers and opened Tiny's Take-out. I had the BEST fried clams at Tiny's about seven years ago. They were a revelation. I had hoped Free Range would get close, but not really. I'll go again, even if they didn't have lemon (which I feel, CSASphinx, counteracts the oil in fried foods, so I use it often).

I will definitely check out Susan's as well as a couple other hole in the walls around here. We might uncover a diamond in the rough. I get so disappointed sometimes after dumping ten bucks on a gnarled tangle of battered stuff, that I make fried clams at home when I can. I make my own tartar sauce too and even tweak it with Mae Ploy hot chili sauce or some ancho sauce. Yum... damn, I'm getting hungry! :raz: :huh:

Edited by johnnyd, 10 May 2005 - 09:18 AM.

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#52 HerndonJake

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 12:13 PM

Since my wife is from Ipswich and the family is still there, I've had many the chance the past 15 years to dine on clams throughout the North Shore. The best we've had as others have mentioned, was at the Clam Box. Bar far the best plate we ever had was one afternoon about 2:30ish right after they had just changed/cleaned the oil in the fryers. Absolutely the best tasting clam plate I have ever had wasthat day, we haven't been able to time it right since. Altough I will try again in July all in the name of research.

I to grew up on the HoJo style fried clam. Fortunately for me, we lived right near a clam bake grove, so right from a young age I learned to apprecaite them raw and of course properly steamed with melted butter.

#53 LindaK

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 07:16 AM

Today's Boston Globe has an article on the local fried clam scene in light of the red tide outbreak. Just as I was gearing up for a road trip to Ipswich and Essex to sample the offerings...it seems unlikely to improve any time soon.


 


#54 Siren

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 12:48 PM

johnnyd---thank you for the info on the Clam fest!! seems maine does love her fests :)

Have you been to the lobster shack? I went yesterday for the first time and the fried clams were good.. if not a bit skimpy for the $10.95.. Becky's diner has some nice ones.. but I'm waiting for the season to fully get swinging before I try some more..
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#55 johnnyd

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 08:41 AM

Have you been to the lobster shack?


Funny you should ask! Inspired by Daniel's Whirlwind Trip in search of New England's Best Fried Seafood, I and my betrothed headed out to Two Lights on Memorial Day to see what was going on. Considering the horrific string of cold, rainy days we've had recently, yesterday was fabulous...

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There was a line out the door as usual, about a fifteen minute wait, but we ran into a couple chums and chatted while we waited. it was nice to be outside again anyway. The crew was busy at the order station...

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We took in the knick-knacks hanging from any and everywhere inside the restaurant while we waited for our order,

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...and got our self-serve tarter and catsup cups ready for the meal. Mrs JohnnyD had a medium-size fried clam plate w/onion rings and I had a lobster roll "boat" which means the addition of an order of fries and a 2oz tublet of coleslaw w/pickle.

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We sat outside of course and feasted! The clams were whole bellies and lightly battered, as were the onion rings so flavors popped in our mouths instead of getting buried in goop or grease. The coleslaw was spectacular: clean, crisp and not too sweet. Tartar was below par, probably out of a 100gal drum.

It's clear the folks here have perfected their style explaining why it is mobbed all summer. I don't remember exactly how much "market price" was y'day but we paid about $35 for our lunch w/2 sodas. Everyone is saying that once the clams from the last red-tide-free harvest runs out, it'll be time to push haddock. :hmmm: :huh:

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights: grade A
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#56 hwilson41

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 10:06 AM

Lo and Behold: the Ipswich Fish Market will ship a quart or more to your door.  This is probably an excellent option but not cheap.  They also have a "Clam Fry Kit" which could be good.  If anyone springs for this, your report could help out those who are out of the fresh clam loop. (mizducky?)

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Johnnyd, thanks for the help. Sorry to be so long replying (I lost track of the thread). Anyway, I'm having a serious debate with myself about whether I'm willing to pay $90 for a quart of shucked clams :wacko:. I'm going to check Wegman's and try to figure out what theirs would cost in that quantity. Maybe I can practice on theirs, and then hit Ipswich when we're having a party. Thanks again.
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#57 Siren

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 12:06 PM

Johnnyd... we were there on Sunday... the view is the best in the area--very active and awe inspiring. But, the inside seating, on rainy days, seems to be more than a wee bit cramped.. thanks for the pics!
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#58 Daniel

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Posted 01 June 2005 - 06:06 AM

Great photos Johnny..

Whats a clam burger? A clam cake on a hamburger bun? The price certainly looks right.,.

#59 johnnyd

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Posted 01 June 2005 - 10:26 AM

Yes, the price does look about right for a clam or seafood stuffing style patty on a hamburger roll. I presume the fishburger are fitted filets (4-5oz?) on the same bun. Not too big i'd imagine.
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#60 ahr

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 10:21 PM

Herewith, the results of four days in Clam Country, coinciding, unfortunately, with a Red Tide infestation—after I had scheduled this visit early in the season to avoid crowds and the concomitant supplementation of the Cape Ann crop with non-native clams to accommodate demand.

All the shacks are self-service, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Bill's Seafood is table-service only; Flo's is both table- and self-service.

BILL’S SEAFOOD (Westbrook, CT). Big, soft, gooey, tasteless clams, competently prepared. Lobster roll in the Lenny & Joe’s style, even slightly better, but no match for Red’s (too tough and too many shreds). Outdoor waterside view accompanied by the thrum of car tires on metal bridgework. Cash only.

FARNHAM’S (Essex, MA). My old sentimental favorite. Clams of the usual local size but not locally sourced, fried to their usual standard. As with Essex Seafood (see below) only the odd few had that lovely sweet, almost gamy, taste characteristic of the best of breed. Picnic tables between the road and the salt marsh; cheerful indoor seating. Cash only.

ESSEX SEAFOOD (Essex, MA). Also Maine clams, slightly crisper than Farnham’s, with a bit more greasy residue. Some too large and excessively chewy. Picnic tables out back facing the trees.

CLAM BOX (Ipswich, MA). Clearly the best sampled—as is true perhaps 75% of the time—if not quite so good as on previous visits. Of unspecified origin, but the only clams that might have passed as local. Uncharacteristically slightly underdone, and mine served slightly cold (my bad for not exchanging them). Picnic tables overlooking the parking lot. Cash only.

WOODMAN’S (Essex, MA). Skipped this time, after too many past disappointments.

LOBSTER POOL (Rockport, MA). No clams ordered, though on the menu. An OK lobster salad roll and an OK steamed lobster in a pretty seaside setting.

It may be more than coincidental that the Clam Box was the only one of the Cape Ann joints that was seriously crowded. Farnham’s and Essex, however, provided the sweetest service.

EVELYN’S (Tiverton, RI). Rhode Island, like Connecticut, does not produce fried clams as good as those in Massachussetts. Besides that, these were too soft. Cash only.

FLO'S (Middletown, RI). A huge portion of clams, excessively breaded, with the sort of brittleness—not crispness—that bespeaks fattiness, though no residue was to be found on the plate. Unusual and nice underpinning of what New Yorkers would call mesclun. Cash only.

SCALES AND SHELLS (Newport, RI). Tender littlenecks cooked in white wine with LOTS of garlic; sweet sea bass with the edge of a wood-grill char. A full-service, in-town restaurant. Cash only.

A few bits of clamporn for the easily aroused:

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"To Serve Man"
-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook