So what are the best fried clams? We will admit that tastes and preferences do matter somewhat, but there are some basics we cover below that are not debatable, like a requirement of fresh deep frying oil and fresh clams!
Also we insist that the best fried clams are whole clams, the entire clam including the clam neck and clam belly. These are typically called “whole clams.” The species used is the softshell steamer clam, Mya arenaria, which are 2 to 4 inches long and harvested from tidal mud flats by hand at low tide. We are willing to bet that other species are probably pretty tasty fried too, but I’ve never seen the likes of Manila Clams, Pacific Razor Clams, others deep fried.
You must be wary of deep fried “clam strips,” which although sometimes ok, are never great. These were originally popularized by Howard Johnson’s restaurants. Very often clam strips are in fact fake, made of strips of other less desirable mollusks, for example whelks and conchs. These are not as tasty and tough as shit, perhaps sun-dried shit would be more accurate, and I’m not quite sure how they are “tenderized” but I’m assuming chemicals are used.
To find the best fried clams, there are a couple of
techniques we discuss below.
Smell is critical. Now some of the best fried clams come from roadside restaurants, often called Clam Shacks or Seafood Shacks. Let your nose be your guide! If the smell outside is unpleasant, rancid, or overpowering in any way (onions perhaps), move on. Since most food will be deep fried, the oil needs to be changed quite frequently and sometimes is not.
The second is from a recommendation. We will list several of the best fried clam recommendations below from both us and readers, and feel free to send yours in too! Note that this is a contentious area – deep fried clam aficionados are very passionate!
OK, we’ll start with Maine since I’m in Maine right now. My vote is for Ken’s Seafood at 207 Pine Point Rd., Scarborough, ME a casual Clam Shack with inside and outside dining and a bar. They are open seasonally. In Maine and only Maine you get asked if you want the clams in crumbs or batter – go for crumbs!
My Clam loving friend Chonicle swears by Susans Fish-n-Chips on Forest Ave in Portland Maine for his Fried Clams, and they are a perennial favorite among many. One of the few on this list I haven't been to (yet!).
Newicks Seafood for sure! A simple indoor restaurant at 431 Dover Point Rd, Dover, NH with a couple of other locations in Concord NH and South Portland Maine. The fried clams are wonderful, and I love the place, but just order simple seafood and not anything fancy.
Here we recommend three among many great choices. Clancy's, in Dennis MA in the midrange price, The Weatherdeck, in Harwich MA which is less expensive although clams are never cheap, and the killer Legal Sea Foods chain with locations in Cambridge Mass and more.
OK, I might piss people off here but I’m voting for The Neptune Oyster Bar in the North End. It’s expensive, it’s hip, and everything rocks. They love their food and wine in this small and simple French Style bistro. It's on several best 100 restaurants of the USA lists. And also Legal Seafoods, the one on the waterfront, which is less expensive but still steep and great.
There are great clams all over Cape Cod, and as we mentioned before, Clancy's in Dennis MA and The Weatherdeck in Harwich MA are both notable choices
I’m out of my area of expertise here, but the Clam Hooting Skipper swears by Aunt Carrie's, Point Judith RI, and I trust him!
So, you got any favorite places for the best fried clams? Tell us where and hopefully why!
Also see our primer on Fried Clams.|