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Holly Moore

NE Fried Clams: Shacks & Restaurants

117 posts in this topic

My epiphany took place in 1985 when en route to our annual Cape Cod vacation spot, we stopped somewhere in Rhode Island at a shanty called "Sea Swirl". Maybe it wasn't Providence, but it was somewhere in that general area.

It was the first time I'd had clam bellies. Oh. My. God.

Unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure in several years. :sad:

Soba

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I have to agree that Maine is the place. They always have the greatest fried clams, and I eat them every day I'm there.

I have have them Downeast, around Bar Harbor, Machias and Calais, but I didn't realize that the difference was the belly type. Talk about an education from eGulleters!


Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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My epiphany took place in 1985 when en route to our annual Cape Cod vacation spot, we stopped somewhere in Rhode Island at a shanty called "Sea Swirl".

If we're thinking of the same place, the Sea Swirl is in Mystic Connecticut, just a few miles this side of the Rhode Island border. Their clams are good, but not the very best.

As for the necks, it's entirely possible that the much-praised Thirsty Whale is on to something, but here are some of the top-level shacks that remove them: Arnold's (MA), Aunt Carrie's (RI), Bigelow's (NY), Bob's Clam Hut (ME), Cindy's (ME), Clam Box (MA), Clam Castle (CT), Essex Seafood (MA), Flo's (RI), Farnham's (MA), Johnny Ad's (CT), Lenny & Joe's (CT), Sea Basket (ME), Sea Swirl (CT), The Clam Shack (ME), and Woodman's (MA).

Many people mistake the curly loop, separate from the belly, for the neck (see the picture upthread), but that's just the clam's outer superstructure that supports the mighty belly.

I’d forgotten to mention Arnold’s in my earlier post; though I haven’t been in several years, it was an old favorite.


"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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As for the necks, it's entirely possible that the much-praised Thirsty Whale is on to something

I think it is a Downeast thing. During my four years in Maine, I noticed that in northern Maine, necks were more likely to be left intact, but further south, the clams are de-necked.

I have always wondered if it was perhaps a French influence. Northern Maine places were more likely to do mussels in wine and garlic too (and I am referring to roadside shacks including the Thirsty Whale, not fancy places). And northern Maine has the largest concentration of Acadians (some towns still speak French as a first language). Anyway, I observed some distinctly French influences in northern Maine cooking that one did not find in the more southern or English regions of New England.


S. Cue

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I love Johnny D's idea, I'm in!

For what it's worth I'm a native New Englander that lived in Los Angeles for 12 long years. When I moved back (to Newburyport, MA) I had to eat clams at least once a week for a solid year to get all the smog and wheat germ out of my system.

I've eaten at all the Ipswich/Essex places and do think the Clam Box is the best, though if I can remember in time I'll bring my own tartar sauce (and beer too, if you eat at the picnic tables and pour into a cup in the back seat of your car).

There is a dark horse I haven't seen mentioned, which is Park Lunch in Newburyport. Natives to this town told me about this place for years, and I pooh-poohed the suggestion that anyplace could make better fried clams than the Clam Box.

When I finally went - it's really a smoky, old-fashioned neighborhood sports bar with wooden tables, and they're open late in spite of the name - the clams were definitely right up there, and the fried shrimp were (you can't see me but I'm crossing my heart and hoping to die) better than at the Clam Box.

Thing is, Park Lunch had a fire, which was treated as a local tragedy, complete with collections for the hourly help left temporarily jobless. I haven't been since they opened back up again maybe a month or so ago but this is more than the excuse I need.

--L. Rap


Blog and recipes at: Eating Away

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

--Wallace Stevens

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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?



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

: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.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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the local Maine yokels

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.


S. Cue

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

Here's a little Flo's preview:

f471c1a8.jpg


"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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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 (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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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!

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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:.


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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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??

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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.



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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 (log)

Emma Peel

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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.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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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.

gallery_10590_649_36715.jpg

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.

gallery_10590_649_87093.jpg

For comparison sake, a closeup of the two sizes.

gallery_10590_649_37574.jpg


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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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.

gallery_10590_649_36715.jpg

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.

gallery_10590_649_87093.jpg

For comparison sake, a closeup of the two sizes.

gallery_10590_649_37574.jpg

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...


"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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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.

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.


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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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.

gallery_1900_1106_1117481.jpg

gallery_1900_1106_315501.jpg

gallery_1900_1106_157773.jpg

gallery_1900_1106_770057.jpg

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 (log)

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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?)

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 (log)

S. Cue

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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.

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.

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:


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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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.

gallery_16643_1028_1725.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_15059.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_6421.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_12935.jpg


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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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.

gallery_16643_1028_1725.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_15059.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_6421.jpg

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

gallery_16643_1028_12935.jpg

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.


"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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