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Crispy, golden, and lightly battered, fried clams are delicious at any time of year. While you’re visiting a seafood shack along the Cape or sitting down to a meal by the water, a plate of them can complete your day. Crunchy and slightly briny, clams are a specialty of the region, especially those from Ipswich or Essex.
We asked Boston.com readers to tell us their favorite places to order fried clams, and over the past two years, we heard back from over 1,000 people. Woodman’s of Essex, which claims to have invented the fried clam, was the No. 1 pick for two years in a row.
Maureen Woodman, director of sales at Woodman’s, said that when diners look for good fried clams, they want to go directly to their places of origin.
“The entire area of Essex and Ipswich, because the clams are native to this area, people want to go where the clams come from,” Woodman said.
Boston.com readers told us about destinations all across Massachusetts, from diners, to taverns, to ice cream shops that also serve hearty batches of seafood. We put together a list of the 159 places that you recommended over the past two years, with the map below including last year’s picks as well. Scroll down to see the top favorite restaurants from 2022.
A 🏆 means that this spot was among the top 5 in both 2021 and 2022.
Kream ‘N Kone first opened in West Dennis in the 1950s as a place that served ice cream, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Since then, the restaurant has blossomed into a spot that is known for its fried seafood. Readers have said that the batter on their fried clams is light, not too heavy, and that each bite is full of flavor. The destination took 4% of the vote. An anonymous reader said: “Clams are fried to perfection, not a lot of batter, small bellies, smaller, more succulent clams than others I’ve tried elsewhere; by far the best I’ve ever had!” Visit now and sit on the patio, overlooking Swan River.
961 Main St., West Dennis
The Newburyport sports bar is famous for its fried clams, and readers know this, giving The Park Lunch 5% of the vote. It’s a no-frills joint, a casual, fun hang-out to watch a game. Pizzas and burgers can also be enjoyed at this dive, which has a family-friendly atmosphere. Readers say that the clams, taste fresh and are never overcooked. One patron said that they are “the perfect size,” small and tender. Bob R., of North Hampton, said that the clams are “World Class! Perfectly fried. No grease. Served with an amazing homemade tartar sauce.”
181 Merrimac St., Newburyport
With scenic views of the Essex River, J.T. Farnham’s is known for its golden fried clams and excellent seafood chowder. Their clams are served hot out of the fryer, readers said, lightly salted, not too puffy, and perfectly crisp. The restaurant took 10% of the vote. Melissa L. from the North Shore said, “The fried clam competition is stiff on the North Shore, but J.T. Farnham’s checks off all the boxes: fresh fried clams with a ton of flavor, friendly service, and a one-of-a-kind atmosphere right on the water. I’ve been to them all in the area (Clam Box, Woodman’s, etc.) and while they’re all tasty, nothing beats J.T.’s!”
88 Eastern Ave., Essex
The Clam Box of Ipswich, which opened in 1935, garnered 11% of the vote. The legendary establishment is a landmark, and it’s popular among locals from the historic town of Ipswich. The fried clams are sweet, crunchy, fresh, mouthwatering, and plump morsels. Reader Tom R. from Groveland said: “Big, fresh native clams fried to perfection. Clam Box changes their oil every day at 2:30 or so [and filters at night], and if you get one of the first batches in fresh oil they are light, flavorful, and delicious. My wife and I split the fisherman’s platter which is loaded with clams, scallops and shrimp and we can barely finish it. Best ever!”
246 High St., Ipswich
It’s hard to deny the pull of Woodman’s of Essex, who many claim invented the fried clam in 1916. You’ll enjoy the clam chowder, fresh lobster, onion rings, and ice cream at this restaurant, but it’s the fried clams that readers are clamoring for — the stuff of folklore. Reader Katy from Jamaica Plain said, “Huge whole bellies! Served with the best tartar sauce… They’re locally caught in Ipswich, [Essex, and Gloucester]. All their seafood is delicious.”
Maureen Woodman, director of sales at Woodman’s, said that the freshness of the clams and their simple recipe makes them stand out.
“The location of the restaurant is conducive to sustainability, so the clams come right from the river where we live,” Woodman said. “They’re sourced locally, and whenever you eat locally sourced food, it has more flavor. It’s not sitting for a long time.” As for the recipe, she said: “[It’s] the same recipe that Chubby Woodman [who opened the restaurant] used over a hundred years ago. That’s evaporated milk and corn flour. That’s the entire recipe. … We fry them in lard.”
Tony’s Clam Shop: Beautiful beach views along the South Shore and generous plates of juicy, tender clams make Tony’s a favorite. Readers say the breading on the fried clams is simple, and baskets come served with French fries. 861 Quincy Shore Drive, Quincy
Choate Bridge Pub: This Ipswich spot, where guests like to mingle by the bar, serves up fried clams that are “sweet tasting and fried to perfection,” according to readers. Get a cold drink to accompany your order of seafood. 3 South Main St., Ipswich
A ⭐️ means that this shop was voted among the top five reader picks at some point over the past two years.
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