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Jul 1, 2007 06:06 PM

Woodman's vs. J.T. Farnham's for fried clams

Did a direct comparison very recently between Woodman's and J.T. Farnham's, two major league spots for fried clams in Essex, MA. In both cases, got a belly fried clam plate with rings, fries, and slaw.

Fries: forgettable in both cases, frozen standard issue, nothing special.

Onion rings: depends on your taste. Farnham's uses a somewhat non-uniform breaded style coating similar to how it does its clams. Woodman's is darker, with a more uniform tube-type coating, notably greasier, but tasted good nonetheless. Different, but both very good.

Slaw: no contest. Farnham's is much better, with a creamier consistency and more flavor, slightly yellowish color. Woodman's is comparatively bland, with little flavor, thinner dressing, much whiter color.

Clams: both are well more than edible, but Farnham's is better. Similar moderate size and similar breaded style coating. Both had good clammy, slightly briny flavor. The major difference -- Woodman's unfortunately had some clams with very rubbery strip portions, some of which couldn't be chewed. Farnham's clams didn't have this problem.

Both places of course are "in the rough," with picnic style booths indoors (also some diner style stools at Farnham's) and picnic tables outside; you stand in line at both spots to place your order (Woodman's however has two lines, one for drink orders, one for food orders). Nothing fancy, a bit of grubbiness, and plenty of rustic atmosphere at both. Advantage Farnham's: there's a really nice salt marsh view from their outside picnic tables, Woodman's has a marsh view of its own that's a little less picturesque, but its tables are covered by a tent. Advantage Woodman's: there are real bathrooms here, regrettably only a port-o-potty at Farnham's with no place to wash hands.

Given the choice, I preferred Farnham's, but Woodman's wasn't bad.

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  1. An excellent & cinematic post bachslunch,
    Doubly so, LOL, since I agree with every word of it! Have you been to Essex Seafood as of yet? I haven't but it gets some pretty nice reviews on this board.


    1. Last time I was at Farnhams there 's a bathroom inside!

      3 Replies
      1. re: shaebones

        yes, farnhams has proper bathrooms inside

        1. re: basachs

          That's surprising, as I saw a sign at Farnham's directing people to use the port-o-potty out back when I went, and later saw the little comfort station sitting out back. Maybe their inside bathroom was out of order?

          1. re: bachslunch

            If they're on a septic tank(s) system that may explain it. Anybody who's ever tried to stage a large party at an abode that's not connected to a town system soon understands the joys of port-a-potties :-))

      2. my order of preference:
        1- Clam Box
        3-whatever i can find when i can't get to #1 or #2.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ScubaSteve

          Agreed. The Clam Box in Ipswich is the place to go for fried clams. The servings are huge, clams (and other seafood) are lightly breaded on the outside, moist on the inside -- never too greasy, always fresh. Same goes for fries and onion rings. Definately worth waiting in line for!

          1. re: ScubaSteve

            totally agree with this ranking, myself.

          2. Just out of curiosity, what does a fine repast like this cost? Here in downeast Me. it would be 10-15 bucks.
            I don't want no burger, I don't want no spam;
            I don't care if it's boiled or fried,
            Just give me a big friggin' calm.

            Has anyone been th the Yarmouth, Me. clam festival lately?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Passadumkeg

              the 2-way combo (clams/scallops) at The Clam Box is about $21 and is plenty big. at least 10 large scallops and probably 15+ clams. that includes a heaping portion of fries and rings too.

              at Farnham's i find the price to be about the same but the portion is about 1/3 less.

            2. I remember a few years ago when I was living in the Boston area, I found out that Woodman's fries their stuff in lard. Is that still the case? And does anyone know if any of the other seafood places use lard to fry? I like the taste and texture that lard provides, but I think the fryers at Woodmans are always too full and brings the temperature down too quickly, which results in soggier food. While the fried seafood can be variable there, I've found that the onion rings and the crab roll (my two favorite items) are pretty consistently good.