HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Really truly great bowl of chowder?

I have a friend coming in from Texas. He's especially looking for a great bowl of New England chowder while he's here visiting. It seems like chowder is served everywhere, but he's only got a few days here, and I want something really outstanding. Do you have a can't go wrong recommendation?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. As you said, in Boston it sems like every restaurant serves chowder. Two of my favorites are Legal Seafoods and Turner Fisheries in the Westin Hotel. They both serve a very good version of typical New England Chowdah. I also like the version served at Great Bay in the Commonwealth Hotel near Kenmore Sq.

    3 Replies
    1. re: RoyRon

      I was wondering who'd be the first bold one to say "Legal's", then duck and cover. You're a brave 'hound RR. I agree, though.
      A more PC response might be the lobster bisque at Locke-Ober, though I'm not sure that's what the OP is looking for.

      1. re: raddoc

        How is lobster bisque a response to a request for NE clam chowder?

      2. re: RoyRon

        I think Legal's has great chowder....When I lived back in Boston I would often times get their ceasar salad and chowder for lunch. Both delicious and perfectly filling.

      3. I like Legal's, also John Harvard's, and Jacob Wirth's. Haven't had any of the high end stuff. ;-)

        1. I'll agree with RoyRon if what you want is a decent thick-style clam chowder: both Legal's and Turner Fisheries do this perfectly well. I much prefer the thinner yet still cream-based type, which both Neptune Oyster and B&G Oysters do excellently.

          7 Replies
          1. re: bachslunch

            Ah, thanks for that. I never order chowder because I don't like the thick (sometimes gloppy) versions most places serve, I never understood how that came to be a preferred version. Any other good "thin" chowders out there?

            1. re: Zatan

              Zatan, I too don't like thick, super cream-y chowder, so for a "thin" version, I think Great Bay does it right. It has a touch of bacon and topped w/ a chervil sprig that gives it a good freshness.

              1. re: italophile

                I tried Great Bay's chowder at a Boston Magazine event. It was very tasty, but had a tang of creme fraiche that not everyone will like.

            2. re: bachslunch

              Agree completely with bachslunch. Depends upon the type of chowdah your pal prefers. If you're looking for a really traditional thicker style chowder, than yes, Legal's is probably the way to go.

              1. re: twentyoystahs

                I would think gluey is not what he's looking for, or me either, but not extremely thin. This is exactly the problem I'm having when I tried picking a place on my own. There are so many different kinds! I think the best guide would be flavor. So which is most flavorful? Or a bowl that doesn't skip out on the real clams?

                1. re: DonnaG

                  I've found the thinner types of clam chowder to have much more clam flavor, which the thickeners (often flour or something similar) in thicker style chowder tend to obscure.

                  1. re: bachslunch

                    I agree, this may sound blasphemous, but I do not eat fish or nearly anything from the sea apart from seaweed. I have lived in Boston for many years now and had my first cup of chowder, the thicker, less clamy kind, last week and really enjoyed it.

                    That said, I am sure that the brine-iness of the clams enhanced the flavour, making it preferrable to other sorts of chowder, at least for me.

                    It seems to follow reason, however, that someone who enjoys seafood would prefer the thinner, more clam filled version mentioned above.

                    Good luck!

            3. Since you didn't say what kind of chowder, I will report that Legal's has the only decent fish chowder I have been able to find. As to corn chowder, I have yet to eat any in a restaurant that even comes close to what you can make at home. Since I am allergic to clams, I can't help you with this one at all.

              [Aside] Would love to hear about other fish chowders in the area that are worth a trip.

              6 Replies
              1. re: smtucker

                I love Neptune but think their chowder is a rip-off at 11$, I prefer Kelly's over it for thin chowder.

                1. re: smtucker

                  Reply to your aside ... Something Savory in Arlington does a great spicy fish chowder. They also do spicy conch. You should definitely ask if they use clam broth in either due to your allergy, but they're both really worth the schlepp.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    I really enjoyed the fish chowder I had at the no name the other day. Not too thick not too thin. Creamy and Buttery. The rest of the meal not so enjoyable(seafood plate).

                    1. re: joth68

                      I think the chodwer there is good too, but that's the only thing I'd order there.

                    2. re: smtucker

                      Years ago I had an excellent corn chowder at Olives. But this had to have been 10 years ago and who knows if it's even on the menu anymore. It was so good though that I remember it.

                      1. re: smtucker

                        Go, go now to Lobsta Land in Glouscester right off 128. The BEST fish chowder you will ever have. Enough said.

                      2. Kelly's is an excellent rec. A milk based chowder w lots of flavor. Unfortunately if you're looking for ambiance, you won't find it here.....there's the original takeout spot on Revere Beach and then a few other counter service spots...one on Rt 1...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: twentyoystahs

                          Kelly's is the closest to traditional around here at a reasonable price point. A lot of people assume that chain food automatically means mediocre; this is an example that disproves it (except perhaps to people who like gloppy chowder that doesn't taste much of clams).

                          1. re: twentyoystahs

                            i disagree about the ambiance part
                            as long as it is not horribly cold out(below 20 deg) walking the beach with chowder in hand and a friend or two is such a great feeling

                          2. How does the Summer Shack and Skipjack versions stack up with the rest?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: nasilemak

                              I think they're both decent mid-range options from what I remember. I'm pretty sure someone mentioned Kingfish Hall as having good chowder when this came up a while back, and others agreed. May want to do a search. Legal does have the light chowder available as an option for those who prefer that.

                              1. re: AnnieP

                                Can't recommend Summer Shack, gave it yet another try last week and had the chowder - creamy but only one piece of clam the size of a dime! Plenty of potatoes, potato chowder would be more appropriate.

                              2. re: nasilemak

                                Skipjacks is pretty mediocre. Mc Cormack and Schmick is better, but Legal is better still, IMO.

                                Turner Fisheries chowder is ok, but overrated, IMO. Plus there is such a bizzare vibe in that place.

                              3. I agree with the bizzaro vibe at "Turner's", but I have to give it my vote for thr best chowder. Also, I've never been disappointed in their raw bar. And, I'd say they have some of the cooooldest drafts in town. Goes real good with the chowder and raw bar!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: CocoDan

                                  Yeah but you have to sit there!

                                  Last time I was there a disgruntled employee got hammered at the bar at lunchtime, refused to pay, had a loud argument with the manager, punched a waiter and left. Police were called.

                                  Even without sideshows like that, the place has a certain upscale skeeviness to me.

                                  I thought the chowder was just OK, but i know a ton of people swear by it.

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    That's what you call dinner and a show! Wild story c. hamster!

                                    1. re: hoplover

                                      I really feel Kellys chowder is the best around here, it is not the least bit thick so if you like the glumpy stuff (glumpy is a techincal term) you may not go for it but it is loaded with clams and has great flavor.

                                2. My favorites art Great Bay, a restaurant in Scituate Harbor(I think it's the Mill Wharf?) and Legals. In that order.

                                  1. Hi,

                                    Well, if the discussion has broadened out to include fish chowder, in addition to the usual thick clam chowder, I'd have to stick my neck out and recommend NoName's fish chowder. It's fresh, simple, and delicious. Lots of white fish, in a cream base with little or no flour thickening, and just a dollop of butter on top to give it some richness.

                                    As for the more stereotypical clam chowder, Legal's is good, and Durgin Park has an excellent version as well. Atlantic Fish Company also does a nice version.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mwk

                                      Not in Boston, but the best fish chowder I've ever had was at the Sole Proprietor in Wrocester. Big hunks of fish, great density to the creamy broth, just an amazing bowl of chowder

                                    2. The Causeway Restaurant - Gloucester, MA

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Infomaniac

                                        Plus, since its the Causeway, you'll probably get several gallons of it for on the order of $3 (if you haven't been their portions are gigantic).

                                        1. re: Admiral Ackbar

                                          I agree....I was struggling to find some potatos in the chowder there was so much fish in it. Their cup size is a deep bowl. Go hungry.

                                      2. I think the clam chowder at Neptune is fairly amazing -- they use a clam stock for more concentrated clam flavor. I'm also fond of the chowder at Green Street, which is basically a corn chowder with fried clams added to it, so it's got the flavors of corn chowder, clam chowder, and fried clams in one go. Both versions don't appear to use any starch thickening, just clear broth lightened with a little whole milk or cream. (I really hate the gloppy stuff that gets served at most places.)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          That Green St. chowder is amazing. Don't plan on eating much else if you have a full bowl of that.

                                        2. Agree with Neptune. Also like KingFish's version.

                                          1. Last weekend I tried the clam chowder at Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village. It had three real clams and smoked salmon and was quite good. It was thick but I loved it. Perfect for that first really cold day of the year.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: madcow

                                              I like the Lite Chowder at Legal's, it's very brothy and not gloppy.

                                            2. The chowder at kingfish hall is really good. Its not to thick and its always fresh. its definately better than legal's.