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Best clam chowder in Boston?

Greetings from L.A.!

Now I know y'all eat more than chowder, but. someone on my parenting group website is asking where to find the best clam chowder in Boston, in anticipation of a visit there in a couple weeks. My guess is that this group may have more ideas than a bunch of L.A. moms.

Any recs?


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  1. Hi,

    Try Great Bay near Kenmore Square.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Guinness02122

      Even though I dislike the restaurant and most of it's dishes, I think Legal Seafoods has the best clam chowder around.

        1. re: Guinness02122

          I'll also vote for Great Bay, but with a caveat: unless they've changed the recipe recently, what they serve is far removed from what a traditionalist would call New England-style clam chowder. It's really more of a clam tartare with a super-rich clam bisque poured over it. Wonderful stuff, but possibly not what the LA mom in question is looking for.

        2. Of everything I've had at Neptune Oyster, I'd say that the chowder was the only thing I disliked. There's an off-putting crunch to it which I didn't have the interest to figure out. Maybe it's a matter of taste, but that might be the worst chowder I've ever had.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Guinness02122

            I have to agree Guinness, I was disappointed with both the clam chowder and fried clams at Neptune Oyster. I must say the lobster roll with butter was really good though.

            1. re: callitasicit

              Definitely a matter of personal preference. Neptune does my favorite clam chowder, and I've called its fried clams the best in Greater Boston, though they're expensive. About the only thing I don't love there is that lobster roll (either version) because of that very strong-tasting grilled brioche roll.

          2. "Best" is something we'll never agree on, but there are many good ones.

            I'm a fan of Legal's chowder also.

            For a different, lighter style..Neptune Oyster is great...and a much better restaurant overall.

            A new entry for best chowder would be the newly reopened Cafe Marliave, thinner with a nice piece of pork belly..small but well chosen selection at the oyster bar downstairs.

            1. Depends on how you like your chowder, but I recently tried the chowder at Morse Fish for the first time and really liked it. Definitely creamy, not watery, but thinner - you could pour it not slice it. And tasted mostly of clams, which might seem redundant, but most chowders taste equally or much more of other things like cream, thickener or add ins like bacon. This was first and foremost clam chowder, with plenty of clams in it to go with the taste. The rare chowder I had no urge to boost the flavor with some pepper or butter or anything.

              Definitely not the place to go if ambiance matters and probably not the chowder for people who like the extra thick stuff oozing cream or with many different flavors, but the best pure clam chowder I've had recently.

              Morse Fish Co
              1401 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

              2 Replies
              1. re: psora

                I think Morse has gone way downhill over the last few years, At the beginning of last summer(June '07), I got fried clams. It was one big clump of rubbery mess. I threw it out. This past summer, just because I happened to be on that block doing another errand, I gave them another chance. I got some large cooked shrimp and a small container of what they said was freshly cooked lobster. Both were horrible. The shrimp had a chemical flavor like they were getting old and the lobster tasted canned or older as well. I'll never give them a 3rd chance. Years ago they were good. Not anymore.

                1. re: FrankieSandals

                  I just had the clam chowder at Morse 2 hours ago, and found it to be consistent with Psora's above description. I loved it - didn't even need oyster crackers. Which is rare for me.

                2. My personal favorite is Neptune Oyster. It has a clear broth, non-creamy, and the stock is clam-based, so it's a one-two punch of concentrated clam flavor. Whatever is in second place is way behind in my book.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I would guess that the OP is looking for New England clam chowder, rather than RI clam chowder. I don't have a rec for the best, but I can't stand Legal's. Someone tell me where there is a thinner chowder redolent of dried thyme - that's how I like it.

                    1. re: almansa

                      Legal's clam chowder, although frequently recommended, generally leaves me cold. It always seems to have all the fat of a cream-thickened chowder, but has the consistency of flour thickening. I personally prefer the thinner, more flavorful cream chowder, but can certainly respect a well made flour thickened version. I just don't like the combination.

                      1. re: tdaaa

                        Exactly. Cream, no thickener (or maybe a touch of slurry) or flour, roux and milk. Where oh where?

                        1. re: almansa

                          I had the Chowder at Anthonys Pier 4 on Friday night- too thin for my liking (though I love the thick chowders) and had some good flavor to it- very smokey background from bacon...

                          Not sure if that is what youre looking for or not....

                          1. re: almansa

                            The one I just had at Kingfish Hall may be just cream...?

                            1. re: almansa

                              Kelly's at Revere Beach, and the best part is they don't over cook the clams (pretty sure they use sea clams, not quahoags).

                      2. I'm partial to the chowder at Atlantic Fish Co. on Boylston St. I love the whole belly clams that are in it.

                        1. I send most out-of town chowderheads to Kingfish Hall, in Fanueil Market. It is smack dab in the tourist area, has very good chowder, is quite child friendly for a higher end restaurant, and the patio seating is great for people watching in the spring and fall.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tdaaa

                            I just had a delightful bowl of clam chowder at Kingfish Hall - moderately thick cream base, decent amount of clams, a few potato cubes and a generous amount of pork belly or bacon (it was good and fatty in pieces), a happy sprinkling of chopped parsley - overall, a fine version of the species, at $7.

                            1. If you're looking for take out Chower, I highly recommend the Chowa House in the Prudential food court.

                              I got a cup in a bread bowl the other day and it's definately some of the best chowder I've ever had. I don't know about the best...

                              1. A bit of background: clam chowder comes in many styles. The more traditional styles are actually rather thin - emphasis is on the clam broth and then some form of dairy (milk and/or cream), but no thickener other than the potatoes. This style of chowder is hard to keep over heat to the extent it has milk in it, because milk curdles when held over heat. Consequently, the more food-service oriented style of chowder developed that involves either lots of cream (which curdles less quickly than milk) or, more commonly, thickeners like roux or cornstarch. Purists disdain this style, but it's what many have come to expect, and tourist-oriented restaurants will tend to oblige this expectation.

                                For my taste, a shockingly respectable old-style clam chowder can be found at Kelly's in Revere Beach. With an ocean view.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Yep, Kelly's at Rever Beach, I still can't figure out how they manage to keep it from over cooking, a rare thing in restaurant chowder.

                                2. Imho it's at Turner Fisheries in the Westin Hotel. ;)

                                  1. Legals. Only reason to go there, but a good one.