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In search of good fried clams in the NYC/Long Island area

Since it was doing nothing but raining I decided to try Bigelow's (on Sunrise hwy and Long Beach Rd)and Buoy for the first time. The fried clams at Bigelow's are an enigma to me. They seem to care about their food. The side of coleslaw was crispy, fresh and creamy without being overly sweet or having too much mayo, the clams were crispy on the outside without too much breading and not greasy at all and were nice and hot. However, they had no flavor. They had a "clam" aftertaste at the most. I am curious if the clams are made in-house or if they get them from a ready made for the fryer from a distributor. The consistency didn't tatse like it was previously frozen, like I say they were crispy and non greasy at all. My real gripe is the price. It cost $21.00+ for a large order with slaw and a Poland Spring. It's disheartning when the free condiments weigh twice as much as your main course.

Buoy's fried clams were a bit better but not by much. They were certainly bigger and certainly whole bellies. Again, crispy and not greasy. But, again, not too much flavor. And, they only cost around $12.00 sans side. I also had a warm shellfish medley salad. Bay scallops, shrimp, mussels and little necks on top of mixed greens with garlic vinegrette. The shrimp were tasty but had that "just thawed" taste. Some of the mussels were good, some were not. The clams,again some good, some not. The scallops were attrocious. They tasted old. They had that strong fishy taste that usally happens when fish has been out in the air too long. The vinegrette tasted like a mix of garlic powder, sugar and Gulden's mustard. So too make up for all this I went down the road and stopped in Spicy chicken. I ordered half a fried. That wasn't too good either. Just salty skin with a very sugary, non-too spicy dressing. The macroni salad was from the supermarket and the collard greens were just awful. I have no idea what was in them. They tasted like vinegar.

If it means anything, the staff at all three places were very professional and courteous.

I think it's a shame that there aren't to many good seafood places in NYC/LI. Next! Minnows in Park Slope.

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  1. There's a place called Nicky's Clam Bar at the Fire Island Ferries off of Maple Ave in Bay Shore LI. I have been going here for about 25 years.

    Nicky's has great fried seafood including clams (they use hard shell clams though) and excellent soups like seafood bisque, clam bisque and chowders.

    It's worth a try if you are in the area.

    1. Nicky's is good, but I think The Chowder Bar is even better! It's across the parking lot from Nicky's, also at the Bay Shore ferry dock. Everything is homemade, soups, salad dressings, desserts, etc. And very fresh fish.

      1. Been going to Nicky's since it was Porky and Glenn's. I think that nostalgia plays a big part for me. I remember when they had a big pot belly stove in the place for cold winter nights.

        Dressings are still fresh. I love mixing the red french with the blue cheese (as does everyone else according to all of the waitresses)Just went this weekend and the clam bisque was delish. The seafood bisque had a bit too much sherry, but still good.

        9 Replies
        1. re: jenniebnyc

          Nicky's was just Porky's, not Porky and Glenn's.

          Porky and Glenn's was around the corner and down the street.

          Porky's and now Nicky's has been excellent under both administrations. Their fried clams were terrific.

          1. re: Fred19

            right right
            i used to hostess at P&G's YEARS ago. it was definitely never as good as the "shack" by the ferry

            1. re: jenniebnyc

              I beg to differ Porky's and Glenn's had the best food and soups. I worked there for quite a long time and the chef Owen as I recall won the long island chowder contest several years in a row. Nicky's is okay but nothing beats P&G's lobster bisque. By the way I'm the only one who has that recipe now that their gone.

              1. re: dinglemom2005

                Sorry but you guys put fake crab in the bisque.

                1. re: jenniebnyc

                  never fake crab or imitaion lobster( at least not my recipe). I remenber there was one chef(the one with a handle bar mustache) who used that fake stuff and more nutmeg then any ever has a right too.

                  1. re: dinglemom2005

                    yep, i think that rings a bell. say around 1993??
                    oh well, since porky's is no more, i will maintain that Nicky's the best !

                    1. re: jenniebnyc

                      Grew up in Babylon and we loved Porky's - waited as long as it took and worth every minute/hour - I still miss it. Not only the fried clams but they had the very best steamers ever and the stuffed shrimp were amazing. When Porky's closed we started going to Porky and Glenn but it was never, ever as good. I haven't tried the shack in a very long time. I didn't remember the name of the replacement but Nicky's sounds right. We went when they first took over and it wasn't equal to Porky's. If you say that Nicky's is worth it now, next time we're down there (I live in Westchester now) visiting I'll go back. Still can't imagine same as Porky's (loved the pot belly stove in the winter) but then again the Long Island waters and the resulting clams aren't the same either.

                      1. re: laylag

                        yes, do give it another try. they closed for the winter on the day before thanksgiving and they will reopen on march 15.

                        ironically and unknowingly we ended up there the night they closed and got their last order of steamers!

                    2. re: dinglemom2005

                      I'm witcha' on dat! The only thing that fake stuff (what they call `sea legs') is good for is..well, nothing, really. Although my wife likes seafood salad made with it, lemon, celery, onion and mayo on an onion roll. I confess, it's not bad once in a while, but I really hate when they serve it and have the audacity to call it crab.

          2. I'm pretty sure that Bigelow's used to buy the same white buckets of shucked soft clams from Ipswich Shellfish as so many of the better shacks along the New England coast, and breaded and fried 'em up fresh. I hope that you just hit a bad day, perhaps related to the recent Red Tide in Massachusetts clamming country, which caused many shacks to use inferior clams.

            7 Replies
            1. re: meatme

              Bigelow's is crap. Nuff said. sadly, so far no whole belly fried clams (Ipswich clams) to speak of on Long Island. I'm trying, folks. I'm as big an addict to them as there is. When I find it on Long Island I'll definitely post it.

              1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

                No, not "Nuff said." Repeating that every time someone praises Bigelow's doesn't make it true. To be sure, I haven't been to Bigelow's in over a year, but their clams used to be at least mentionable in the same sentence as the New England places--if not as good as the best--and I visit Cape Ann (Clam Box, Kelly's, Farnham's, Essex Seafood, the Village, and Woodman's, in approximate recent order of preference, descending) and Maine (Clam Shack, Bob's Clam Hut, and others) pretty much every summer.

                Unless things have changed dramatically, “crap” Bigelow’s definitely is not.

                1. re: meatme

                  I don't have the clam belly resume that you guys have but I really enjoy Bigelow's. I ate a ton of fried clams in Maine this past summer and I think Bigelow's would hold their own up there. I ate at places that were better but also at many places that were worse. If Bigelows is crap, then fold up the tent and go home because I don't know that you can do better on Long Island.

                  1. re: meatme

                    Okay...well, in an effort to keep Chowhound a friendly site, I'll just say whatever. I haven't changed my mind about Bigelow's. I don't like the place very much. I do go there when the Jones hits so hard I can't take it anymore haha, but I dropped into Crabby Dan's in Glen Head again the other day. He was out of Ipswich clams, but had oysters, so I ordered the fried oysters to go. Sat in the car and devoured them. They were excellent! Fantastic, even! incredibly generous portion too for $11 and change. I'm hoping he has whole bellies by now...I'm feeling the calling again. As I said, I'll report back asap, but if they're anything near the fried oysters, I'm in god's pocket! Glen Head is very nearby for me, whereas Bigelow's is not...another reason to eschew Bigelow's in favor of Crabby Dan. But, I don't want to be hasty...this space is all about clams, not oysters. So, good as they were, I'll hold out for the clams and let y'all know what I think. In any event, I only ever mean to suggest that whatever I write here is merely my own humble opinion.

                    1. re: meatme

                      Nope. Just came back from Woodman's. Bigelow's is crap. Crap, crap, crap. And the coleslaw is supercrap. The French fries don't even deserve a mention, since they're mega-crap.

                    2. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

                      I'm with you on, Rick, on Bigelow's. Very bland fried belly's. In fact most of their fried shellfish is just awful, which is a shame because the people who work their are very nice. To me, Bigelow's and the Grand Central Oyster Bar are the most overrated seafood places in NYS. I find that the Clam Shack in Kennebunk, Maine (and a lot of the other seafood places in that area), when there isn't any red-tide messing with their crop, is the best place for fried whole bellies.

                      1. re: bigmackdaddy

                        Just returned from Kennebunkport. Went to the Clam Shack a few times while there (Hey, it may not be the "best" but it ain't bad), and I have to say, Woodman's in Essex, MA is the best. Clam Shack is more than tolerable. Wait, that's not fair. it's good. Especially when you compare it to Bigelow's or some place like that, but Woodman's and Essex are better by a damned sight. That said, I'd rather be in Kennebunkport, eating whole bellies from the Clam Shack than to be stuck in Essex and eating a superior whole belly from Woodman's. Hahahahaha. Kennebunkport, and the whole coast going north from there, is just wonderful. To be fair, I think it makes the Clam Shack's food taste better just being in that wonderful place.

                  2. OK. Provoked by bigmac's disappointment, I visited Bigelow's today for the first time in months. As mac reported, the coating and frying were New England-immaculate. The clams themselves were a mixture of small and medium sizes (medium=3/4" belly measurement, with discernible goo). Many, though not all, had that oceanic, sweet, almost gamy flavor prized by clamlovers, and none were less than tasty.

                    The clams still come from Ipswich Shellfish, delivered (I think) every other day to ensure freshness They are currently collected up and down the New England coast from northern CT up to the Canadian border; even "native" clams served in Ipswich and Essex may not be quite so native. Their size and quality depend on where and when they’re harvested, and on current weather and sea conditions. In other words, there can be considerable variation.

                    Today’s clams weren’t the absolute best I’ve ever, ever, ever had, but they were very good—and my frame of reference is the Clam Box, Farnharm’s, and Essex Seafood. The price is not out of line with current prices up in Clam Country, as freshly shucked soft clams are in short supply.

                    As always, YMMV.