What is your favorite NE Clam Chowder?
I'm wading through other discussions, but wonder -- where do I take my mom who wants the most delicious NE Clam Chowder -- open to thick/creamy or thinner/milky options, but light on potatoes and heavy on clams?
For reference, she liked Legal Seafoods' version years ago and we may return, and last visit she loved the seafood chowder at Dry Dock Cafe in the Seaport area -- but we don't expect them to be open on Labor Day. Hopefully it will be made on premises and not rely on bacon or other smoked pork for its richness and flavor. We are willing to travel as far as Cape Ann from Boston.
Current contenders include:
Kelly's (probably Saugus unless the new one at Wellington is open or it's a great day at the beach....)
Turner's (Melrose, not the Westin place)
East Coast Grill (what type do they serve?)
Summer Shack (which location -- Alewife is more convenient - does it matter?)
Kingfish Hall (not really keen on going to Quincy Market, however)
Any recent experiences, standouts, or must-avoid tips?
I recommend the chowder at Neptune Oyster in the North End. They feature it as being "made to order". It is on the thin side, (much thinner than Legal's), which is far more authentic. It tastes fresh, full of fresh clams, garlic and potatoes. I dream of it often.
I second Neptune Oyster's chowder. I also like Kingfish Hall's. Both are authentic, in that they aren't so full of flour and thickeners that you can use it as a (superior) Big Dig cement. BTW, why are you against pork as a flavor base? Salt pork is the traditional way to start a NE chowder.
His beef (pun intended) is not with pork but with smoked pork flavors. Salt pork is cured, but not smoked. Ditto pancetta, which would be a non-authentic twist that would be truer to the dish than a heavy masking of hickory-smoked flavor....
I have not sampled the Neptune Oyster chowder, but I would trust the recommendations above. Garlic would be an innovation for NE clam chowder, but a light hint of it (or minced shallots or leeks for that matter, rather than the storage onions one would have been lucky to have on a ship in the 19th century....) would not rule it out so long as onions were still used for the essential sweetness they offer that garlic cannot.
re: Karl S
Thanks for the clarification -- spot on -- salt pork is fine. Interesting -- we went to Neptune for my first time EVER (sad, right?) on Friday, but didn't order the chowder there -- now we know. I have enjoyed the Kingfish Hall version (along with the amazing, perenially English standard tuna tartare), but what overpricing and tourist attraction feel the place has most of the time...
Back to Neptune -- the oysters (raw bar and Po Boy) were spectacular, as were the foie gras mussels (wow! -- they just need to serve some bread for sopping up that sauce..more on that later.)
While the lobster portion of the warm lobster roll was great, the roll part was an overly-rich, (old?) too darkly-baked, brioche-like bun that I thought detracted from the lobster/butter inside.
It also crumbled so badly there was no hope of picking it up to eat it -- so I used the roll to soak up the aforementioned mussel sauce. The fries were also really good and the waitress (at lunch) was super-friendly and helpful. It's a real find -- glad to have finally made it there.
It may be too far for you but I recently had a great clam and corn chowder at the Back Eddy on the harbor in Westport, not thickened but a nice smokey flavor.
Anthony's Pier 4; very thick and buttery (fyi: I hated Legal's chowder every one of the probably five times I had it). The last I had Anthony's was 1999, but my father had Anthony's chowder at Anthony's Hawthorne frequently many decades ago; he said it was exactly the same in 1999, so one would assume that the quality can have been maintained over the last 7 years. The rest of the food was nothing special, but the chowder was spectacular.