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JT Farnham: Dissapointed This Time

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Went to JT Farnhams in Gloucester before the firework show Tuesday night to get their so-called legendary fried clams. My clams and onion rings were over-cooked with a slight burnt taste. They were dehydrated. The only thing good was the cole slaw.

Maybe I went on an off-day but still I'm out $45 between me and my wife. Consistency in a restaurant is something I value very much, which Farnhams is not even if they occasionally create wonderfum clam plates.

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  1. Farnhams is in Essex. You probably passed Essex Seafood on the other side of the street on your way there. It's gotten lots of good comments on this board. I took my daughter there before the fireworks on Tuesday and had a very nice meal of fried clams, steamers and a lobster. The clams were good, but not great, I really think it depends on when you catch them. They cook their's in lard, like I think Woodman's still does. Not healthy, but really good tasting. The steamers and lobster were terrific. The red tide's off, so the clams were native. I like the atmosphere a lot. The Clam Box in Essex is a much longer haul along 133, but they may be the most consistent of the bunch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: raddoc

      1. Farnhams does not cook entirely in lard they are actually the healthiest seafood restaurant and they do not serve steamers.

    2. My recent experience at Farnhams was disappointing too. It was sad because I love the clam shack ambience of places like that. When we arrived and looked around at the salt marsh out back and smelled the air we were jazzed about the meal we thought we were about to have. But it was not to be.

      I posted about it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403584

      5 Replies
      1. re: seefood

        I did notice Essex Seafood and that there were a lot of cars in the lot, which is usually a good sign. I will try it next time I go fishing on the Yankee Fleet.

        1. re: bigboy

          Let us know what you think. I used to fry clams at Woodman's when I was a pup, many moons ago. They used lard then, and probably still do. Essex Seafood told me they use lard. Anyone know what Farnham's or the Clam Box fry in? Do I really want to know?

          1. re: bigboy

            We went to Essex Seafood on the 4th and were really disappointed. The clams were overcooked, and we had nasty, bloated, oil-bellies all day/evening! Our first visit, but seems like lots of posts indicate inconsistency here.......

            1. re: bigboy

              I had a plate of fried clams last night at the Causeway Restaurant directly across the street from Yankee Fleet. They were perfection - big bellies, perfect fry job, huge portion for 19 bucks. Beats anything I've had in Essex or Ipswich recently.

              1. re: FoonFan

                Oooh that sounds great. I can check in early at Yankee Fleet, then cross the street to the Causeway.

                Thanks for the tip.....It will be a few weeks before I can go but I will definitely post a report.

          2. Interesting, because 4 of us went to Farnham's on July 4th for the first time and loved it. Clams were definitely not overcooked or dehydrated. DH and I split a box of clams, but tried some of the fries and onion rings ordered by our friends. Couldn't get too excited about the fries, but the onion rings were great. Maybe it was just beginners' luck!

            1. We eat here many times a season and I was there about a month ago for the first disappointing time this summer. My clams were also over cooked and dry and I'm hoping that it was a fluke.

              3 Replies
              1. re: 4chowpups

                I can always go to either of these shacks in the off-season or off-peak midweek (infrequently - I generally save it for our 'tourist' friends when they come up to Cape Ann) and there are noticeable difference between peak and off-peak food experiences. Both places seem to diminish in quality as the volume goes up. When we order takeout [ its a 2 minute drive -literally] in peak times, its just never as good. Just yesterday when the clouds blew in and the skies got dark in the late PM, it seems every beach and backwater bay was evacuated and the lines at the clamshacks along 133 were about the worst I have seen it. It is unfortunately the worst time to get the Perfect Fried Clam.

                With one possible exception: Woodman's. They are built for volume and have more fryers and 3-deep help moving fryer production along. We had friends up from Jersey insist on Woodman's; we waited 35 minutes for their order (just like NJ, no problem!) and when the order came out the clams were prefect, golden brown, crispy, juicy and sweet.

                The smaller shacks it seems are generally a "our-family-all-hands-on-deck" affair when it gets crazy like it did yesterday - I would say Woodman's - because it is set up for volume production and has the edge in terms of setting out a tasty well-presented, professionally consistent plate of clam frittes. If you can go off-peak, the smaller shacks can really be the better bet.

                1. re: ipsofatso

                  I too went to Farnham's on the 4th. The day was prefect and a spot in the lot opened when I pulled up. I took it as a sign. The line was short and we got a picnic table out back with a view of Essex, the salt marshes running off to the horizon and the sound of family outings and summer in the air. I waited inside with an Ipswich ale and a cup of spicy Manhattan Scallop Chowder. The order came up at the window and too much expertly fried point of purchase seafood was piled high on thick paper plates. We got the combo with fish, scallops, oysters, shrimp and perfect belly clams dusted perfectly in a corn meal batter and friolated to perfection. The fries and onion rings were just right too. (twice fried perhaps?) Little cups o' tarter sauce sauce, ketchup and malt vinegar, tangy coleslaw and a lobster roll thrown in made this along with Birch Beer a perfect fried fourth memory with only a faint grease stain left behind.

                  1. re: EATTV

                    I prefer Clam Box to Woodmans (better frying and better price), haven't tried Farnham's yet but this review keeps me optimistic. I've seen the salt marsh behind Farnhams, it does seem like a perfect location (Woodman's also wins on locale but not food).

              2. Two factors:

                1. Red time has closed many if not most local clam beds. While summer volumes nowadays mean most of the clam supply is not local, that's even more true during red tides.

                2. Never go to clam shacks on summer holidays, just like I never go to any place expecting a great meal on peak volume days (like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, et cet. - Thanksgiving is the one exception because it's easier to make an indestructible T-Day dinner, since millions of Americans manage to do that with all the traditional foods...). Just too much volume to get any consistency. It was one thing when clams were cheap - remember when clams were much cheaper than oysters? But given the expense, it's

                1 Reply
                1. re: Karl S

                  BTW & FWIW: Red tide closures have ended - about a week ago the local clams were in back in the fryers.

                2. One cook prefers himself the clams to be more on the well-done side but if you make sure to specify that you like them lighter- or yes regular- just ask and they will write and note and make sure to not over cook them. When you have 50 people having clams in their 3 small friers it gets hard. Don't dismiss them because of one time if you come on any other day where they aren't packed (like not the 3rd or 4th of july their busiest day) i can guarantee you will get the best of service

                  1. I've never had anything but PERFECT Fried Clams from Farnhams year after year.

                    1. I went to Farnham's last year and wasn't impressed. The Clam Box was far superior.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: observor

                        We went to Farnhams again 2 weeks ago...once again PERFECT Fried Clams...year after year! So perfect I STILL have not tried the Clambox.......

                        1. re: sinned61

                          you really should, i think the frying is better, more delicate, and the portions are larger.

                          1. re: ScubaSteve

                            Steve...I really plan to try them...I just need to drive by Farnhams to get there....NOT easy!

                            1. re: sinned61

                              My wife and I tried Farnham's last fall and were not impressed. The clams were somewhat greasy and the french fries were limp and cold.
                              We gave them a second chance last week because I realize any restaurant can have a bad day. Sad to say, same result. We won't be straying from the Clam Box again. They really are the best.

                              1. re: derekj

                                I must be a very lucky guy. I only go there 3 to 4 times a year for the last 6 or 7 years and they have always been A+++++ ALWAYS.

                      2. I used to be a regular at Farnham's, then last year someone here on CH recommended the Clam Box. I will never return to Farnham's again. While Farnham's has the view, Clam Box does a lighter fry, much less greasy, and the clams are bigger and sweeter.
                        I don't even use tartar sauce anymore. As if that weren't enough, their onion rings are way better.