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Best / Favorite 5 North Shore Clam Shacks?

Searching Boston and North Shore for your 5 favorite clam shacks (and they need not literally be shacks). Especially love fried clam strips.

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  1. No particular order:

    Farnham's
    Clam Box
    Woodman's
    Red Wing
    Brown's

    Btw, liking clam strips is just wrong...... :-)

    1. no particular order also.

      Ceal's
      Clam Box
      Farnham's
      Land and Sea
      Agawam Diner

      1 Reply
      1. re: Infomaniac

        I second the Agawam dinner. great clams without the lines/drama. + coconut cream pie

      2. The Clam Box is always a runaway favorite with locals, though I also suggest trying Dube's in Salem. Fabulous light crisp breading and excellent onion rings, too.

        http://www.northshoredish.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: NSDishGal

          Dube's is a true gem. Ever have the chowder that is only served on Friday, and usually is gone by 7 pm?? Foir clam spots, the Black Lobster (Stromberg's) on the Salem side of the Beverly-Salem bridge has a great fried clam special. Not sure if the price is still $11, but it had lots of whole clams, ff, o-rings and slaw. Can't beat it. And surprisingly, the fried seafood spot in Salem Willows, Cappy's, has always had good clams.

        2. Just to be different (and mostly because I simply cannot wait in the long line at the Clam Box):

          Causeway
          Bob Lobster
          Village Restaurant

          1 Reply
          1. re: Science Chick

            Thank you - couldn't agree more - the long line a the Clam Box is a total mystery to me. You stand in line in the asphalt parking lot in the hot blazing sun. Then you place your order at the window and sit in dark (well, very dimly lit) dining room with absolutely no character to get very mediocre fried clams. The last time my husband and I went will indeed be the last time we go. There are so many other places to get good fried clams on the North Shore - places that the may have a long wait but at least they have some sort of decent view (think Farnams).

          2. For my money the best fried clams (alas, not strips) are served at the Park Lunch in Newburyport.

            2 Replies
            1. In my fav order:

              Clam Box
              Causeway
              VIllage Rest.
              Lobster Pool
              Woodman's

              1. For something very close to home, don't forget Royal Roast Beef near Orient Heights in East Boston. Its friend clams are well regarded by people who realize you don't always have to travel far for goodness.

                1. in order of favorite -

                  Lena's - Salisbury
                  Ceal's - Seabrook
                  Woodman's - Essex
                  Markey's - seabrook
                  foote's - salisbury center

                  1. I can't eat fried clams myself but my wife, who grew up in Ipswich and knows a thing or two about friend clams, says the Lobster Pool in Rockport is the best she's ever had.

                    1. Connected to the Clam Box topic: Does anyone know what happened to the Dairy Queen down the street? Best combination.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: djd

                        i think they're just doing a re-model/upgrade.

                        1. re: djd

                          White's is a MUCH better option than DQ for that area.

                          1. re: Chris B.

                            White's is better ice cream, but it's a much less iconic experience. I'd rather do the DQ any day, and I'm slightly disappointed to hear they're remodeling it. It's hard to find those old-fashioned walk-up ones anymore.

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              "White's is better ice cream, but it's a much less iconic experience."

                              —exactly. I don't even want great ice cream after fried clams or the beach. I want chocolate soft-serve with chocolate sprinkles in a sugar cone. I haven't changed my DQ/Carvel order in... at least 25 years. I think I ONCE got a Brown Betty like my mom did. No dice.

                              And I actually do like the way it tastes!

                              1. re: djd

                                I agree, the DQ option puts the Clam Box even farther over the top than it was, though my choice is a chocolate chip blizzard made with the cone dip as the chips, ummmm melt in your mouth yumminess!

                                1. Clam Box
                                2. Lobster Pool
                                3. Essex Seafood
                                4. The Village restaurant
                                5. Woodman's- on volume alone, they manage to stay somewhat more consistant

                            2. re: Chris B.

                              i really never want DQ when i crave ice cream.
                              Soft Serve is in a different category for me.

                              but you're right about White's being the best in the Clam Box area.

                          2. Thanks to a recommendation on here last year, we now go to Seafood, Etc in Haverhill. Delicious, and no line (but no view either).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jrmd

                              Despite putting a ranking on this list, I continue to maintain that getting a good batch of clams is sometimes "luck of the draw".
                              Case in point: my daughter and I stopped at Essex Seafood last evening on our way home from Cape Ann. Chatting up the kid at the counter I confirmed that they still use lard to fry their clams. Woodman's used to, but I don't know if they still do. Not the healthiest, but if the lard's fresh,. ummm. The kid told me they change out the lard three times a week, and had done so the night before. He also told me, depite the local red tide, they had native clams, not sure where from.
                              The upshot.... a nearly perfecty small box of clams: nice sized clams, with solid neck and not to stringy, with bellys that were large and meaty, not full of liquid, but juicy and "oceany". Fried to a very light brown crispy and with a nice "snap" to them (you could bite the clam in half easily, so not rubbery at all). I'm not sure how they make their tarter sauce, or if they get big tubs, but they have out lots of plastic containers, not little "ketchup packets" of it, all you want. Nice flavor I thought. Sweet enough to complement the clam nicely ("you're a very good looking clam!")

                              All in all, a fine clam experience. I'd been having second thoughts about Essex Seafood, but this put them back high on my list.

                              1. re: justbeingpolite

                                change the lard 3 times a WEEK?? now, this comment was made in 2009, 5 years ago, so i really hope they have increased that to a much more frequent change. Heck, Clam Shack is famous for changing their oil once a DAY.

                            2. Thought I'd throw some links up here for folks who want to know where exactly these joints are.

                              -----
                              Bob Lobster
                              49 Plum Island Turnpike, MA 01951

                              Clam Box of Ipswich
                              246 High St, Ipswich, MA 01938

                              Lobster Pool
                              329 Granite St, Rockport, MA 01966

                              Woodman's
                              121 Main St, Essex, MA 01929

                              Village Restaurant
                              55 Main St, Essex, MA

                              Causeway Restaurant
                              78 Essex Ave, Gloucester, MA 01930

                              Farnhams J & T's Seafood
                              88 Eastern Ave, Essex, MA 01929

                              Agawam Diner
                              166 Newburyport Tpke, Rowley, MA

                              Land & Sea
                              67 Lynnfield St, Peabody, MA 01960

                              Dube's Seafood
                              317 Jefferson Ave, Salem, MA 01970

                              Lena's Seafood
                              131 Rabbit Rd, Salisbury, MA 01952

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: litchick

                                You Hounds are amazing. Coming to New England mid July. Looks like I have some decisions to make. So many clams--so little time (one week).
                                Thanks for all of your time and expertise!

                                1. re: SASSYMI2

                                  Take note! Dube's is closed on Sundays.

                                  Favorite clam places -- no particular order as most restaurants have variables from time to time

                                  Bob's Famous Fried Clams - Salem, MA
                                  Foote's - on Salisbury Beach
                                  Ceal's - Seabrook, NH (Great scallops, too)
                                  Sir Cricket - Orleans, MA
                                  JT Farnams (but avoid the scallops)

                                  1. re: oceanview

                                    i enjoy the scallops at Farnham's, did you have a bad experience?

                                2. re: litchick

                                  When I search for The Clam Box in google, Yelp gives me a place in Quincy, MA, which is a lot closer to Boston. The yelp reviews are good as well. Has anyone tried the Clam Box in Quincy? Is it comparable to the one in Ipswich?

                                  1. re: lardyda

                                    If you search these boards, you will find a number of discussions of it. It is well regarded. It is not the same, just has the same name.

                                3. Clam Box
                                  Farnham's
                                  Essex Seafood
                                  The Village
                                  Tom Shea's (awesome clam chowder)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: sweetsgirl

                                    gotta say, I think Woodman's is overrated. A bit of salt and pepper in the batter and/or after the fryer would do worlds of good!

                                    1. re: nomadgirl

                                      Agh! I just went to Black Lobster on the recommendation of these comments. Fried clams - yes. Overpriced, but DELICIOUS bloody mary - yes. Steamers - hell no. Someone needs to tell these folks t use salt, onion & some ind of seasoning. A dead mollusk & water does not make the meal!

                                      1. re: luckycat

                                        Where is the Black Lobster, and who recommended it on this thread?

                                  2. I tried fried clams at Frank's yesterday in Brockton of all places. Totally legit, was very very surprised at the QA level. Staff wear all white uniforms, very organized tight ship operations. Better onion rings than many of the places mentioned here. Plus there's a strip club on the back side of the building. Unique experience. Also known locally for their hot dogs, buns and dog done on flat iron grill. Did not try. The fried shrimp and haddock looked really really good. Fries are semi wavy but not nearly as big as a full-on crinkle.

                                    1. One of my faves isn't a shack, but an old school Institution. Dube's in Salem has great fried seafood and onion rings.

                                      39 Replies
                                      1. re: phatchris

                                        o.k. chris, we might try this place soon. plse tell me what it's like visually. And is there an outdoor area? And are onion rings battered or just flour/cornmeal coated? ( i dislike batter-too greasy!) The clam chowder that is Fri only and usually sold out by 7-- is it milk thin or thicker/creamy? does it have corn, thyme? (for example, i was not impressed by the 'famous' fish chowder at that place near the Gloucester rotary/128 intersection..?..) thx much chris.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          No outdoor space, heck it doesn't even have windows. Not a dive, but very old. Very friendly family oriented place. Kind of like a New Bridge Cafe. The rings are really good, not battered. Portions are huge, two diners could easily split a fishermans platter and mini onion ring and be satisfied. Go early or be prepared for a wait, especially true on Fri and Sat nights.I haven't had their clam chowder, my 3 year old loves the fish chowder, it's thin and milk based.

                                          1. re: phatchris

                                            Oh and ask for extra tartar, they serve it in ridiculously small paper containers.

                                            1. re: phatchris

                                              of course, i live in cambridge and try to avoid driving. But are the clam shacks any better than ICOB or Jasper's?

                                              I guess that i should bite the bullet and drive up there some time though the time, gasoline, and wear-and-tear on my car makes it not economically sensible.

                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                If you are up there, its a nice thing to do, but honestly, its not like they are many, many times better than Courthouse Seafood (which kicks the crap out of Jasper Whites joint for 1/2 the price).

                                                The main thing to do with seafood is not fuck it up. Simpler is, more often, better.

                                                1. re: hyde

                                                  Courthouse is by far the best place in the Boston area for fried clams and all other freshly cooked fish dishes. They have super fish and chips specials on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Prices can't be beat. It's a gem.

                                                  1. re: mvi

                                                    That is a pretty strong statement. How are they ' by far the best place?" and compared to others you've eaten at in, let's say the past three years.

                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                      Gosh, we just like them, that's all. They are sweet and tender, fresh and not overly cooked. The portions are large and the price is right. This is a site devoted to opinions and diversity, and I just tossed out mine, but no one has to agree. The OP was asking about the North Shore. Hyde brought up Courthouse, and it was just my two cents. Give them a try next time you are in the neighborhood. It's a tiny, family run place that is always packed.

                                                    2. re: mvi

                                                      I love Courthouse, but its hard to say the clams are better than Neptune or ICOB. The fried scallops or fish and chips are my go to.

                                                      1. re: phatchris

                                                        The clam strips at Courthouse are over-coated; they are much worse than ICOB or even Summer Shack. Ditto the onion rings.

                                                      2. re: mvi

                                                        Courthouse is okay in a pinch. I feel the clams are a bit too coated and heavy over all. It's been a while but I'd probably pick Morse Fish over them. I liked Franks's in Brockton better than both. Farnham's is the best in Ipswich so far for me. Never had fried clams at a fine dining place.

                                                        1. re: tatsu

                                                          Nice! Im a Morse fan too but they get little love on these boards .

                                                          I dont eat there as much lately (I really dont care for fish) but it was convienient to meet a freind there who lived in the South End.

                                                          A person at work said they had eaten there twice recently and the oil tasted old, downhill alert?

                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                            I've posted this before. When I got clams there, not only were they a big messy clump of clams, one of the times, they tasted very minty. Someone must have put the wrong seasoning in. Both times they were stuck together in a big clump with the coating of the inner ones being a soggy glob. They got thrown out both times. The only reason I went back a second time, was because a friend insisted on clams, there wasn't much time, and we were in the area. I warned her, but we went anyway.

                                                            1. re: catsmeow

                                                              This is disconcerting to hear, and, I hope, an anomaly. I like the people who run the joint and its decidedly low market feel in what can be an area with too many hip white people.

                                                              But what do I know? I moved out of the neighborhood in 1994 because it was too gentrified.

                                                    3. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                      cd, i'm not chris but my 2 cents is:
                                                      i only eat fried clams ~ 1-2x yr. and I don't want to eat them in the city, or in a dark windowless bar , or a fluorescent lit seafood store or formica table place, because we really enjoy exploring the whole area around the Clam Box. We both have ordered/ tasted the fried clams at ICOB, Neptune, The Village Restnt, and agree that Clam Box beats them all. The first 2 are very good, just not as great as Clam Box and i have no idea why. The ones at Village were not very good.

                                                      I started a fried clam thread ~ last year and there was alot of posting. The upshot for me was that we stayed with Clam Box, always going around 2 or 3pm to miss the crowds and profit from the ( daily) 2pm frying oil change. I am tempted to try the clams at Farnham's(because of the view) and Agawam Diner (because of the pie); we shall see!

                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                        I got Farnham's fried clams today and thought they were outstanding, as good as any I've had (Woodman's, lots of Cape places). They had a sign up saying they had large bellies available, which we ordered.

                                                        The setting/view is very nice, too, either inside or out. Looked like a long line at Woodman's when we drive past, but not a very long wait at Farnham's and no wait for a booth inside (and they had picnic tables available outside as well).

                                                        1. re: CportJ

                                                          We went to Bob Lobster today. Very crowded, but the clams were good, as usual.

                                                          1. re: CportJ

                                                            I too was at Farnham's on Mem Day and it was very good although prices seem to have crept up. A scallop plate was $21, but done well w/ good onion rings and mediocre fries. Clam boat was $15 I think, w/ fries. Lobster roll with minimal mayo was tasty, crab cakes (3 for $11) were not "loaded with crab" as described. Sitting by the marsh, it was a good time overall especially since we just missed getting a ticket for parking on the road (they really should allow a strip of parking there).

                                                            1. re: total13

                                                              On Tuesday, at The Village Restaurant in Essex, you can get a fried clam plate for $12.99, pretty good value. Went to The Causeway yesterday, prices are up a few bucks per entrée but, the food is always fresh and abundant.

                                                          2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                            I was thinking of this thread at lunch today. I think it was your other thread about the place on the water further north with the great view that convinced me that today was a perfect day to head out to someplace with a great view of the water. We went to The Landing in Marblehead, and the special was fried clams!

                                                            The Landing is right at the town landing in the "historic" part of town. It's been there for years, and until the recent owners came along a few years ago it was just terrible! But now it is actually quite good. Not world class. Not Five Corners, but certainly solid lunch type fare: chowder, lobster rolls, burgers, salads and sandwiches that kind of thing. When I asked the waiter about the clams he described them as Ipswich clams, medium belly, fairly sweet. I also took this as a good omen. It's a sign of good management that they make sure the waitstaff can pass along the basic vital stats of the fried clams! And I am like you, I only eat them about once a year. I prefer a situation with a full bar and actual plates to a picnic bench and cardboard!

                                                            And they were very good. This place has a very good fry cook. They have both thick and thin french fries and they are both dependably great year round.

                                                            But mostly I went there for the view, which IS world class! We opted for indoors, but people were waiting for seats on the outside deck.

                                                            Oh, I also wanted to mention that normally when we go here I order the steamed mussels, which are very well prepared and outstanding during good mussel years.

                                                            Anyway, I thought I would add my little review to the collection. I really do feel strongly that Marblehead and Salem make for a great destination, and this is a nice place to have lunch.

                                                            1. re: nrthshr

                                                              The Landing is fine as long as you keep it simple, their dinner entrees are a different story.

                                                      2. re: phatchris

                                                        Great place, I like the reference to The New Bridge which is divey in a good way, ala character.

                                                      3. re: opinionatedchef

                                                        Do you mean Lobstaland by the rotary? Agree the fish chowder is not good at all.

                                                        1. re: gracenote

                                                          yes, thx. I got it takeout because of a CH rave, but was sorely disappointed.

                                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                            If you want your spoon to stand up in your chowder you will be disappointed with Lobsta Land. However......If you like your chowder the way it should be made you will surely be delighted with Lobsta Land.

                                                            1. re: PAUL

                                                              The wifes family (multiple generations in the area) always seem pleased eating at LobstaLand.

                                                              1. re: PAUL

                                                                I liked the chowder at Lobsta Land. Not the best, but good. I love a fresh milky fish chowder with a depth of sea flavor. But then again I've never liked the famous Legals chowders at all.

                                                                1. re: PAUL

                                                                  sorry, i disagree. For what I like in chowder, their's is major meh for 2 reasons. The most important is the lack of flavor (other than fish, of which theirs has an abundance.) imo, a stellar clam chowder (that's the chowder i eat; My Love eats fish chowder.) needs to have bacon, onion, and herbs (thyme, specifically) and extra points for corn. LL has none of these. And I prefer the base to include cream and be thicker/richer than just milk. ymmv and if you love it, great for you.

                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                    if you don't like fish chowder, why go out of your way to slam a fish chowder and an establishments version? curious

                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                      i know you prob can't relate to this,but i drove all the way there and bought it specifically for a loved one's bday, so it was a bummer when he found it meh. iirc, i spent some time on it and gave it some flavor, and he was alot happier.

                                                                          1. re: gracenote

                                                                            I put thyme and bay leaf in all my chowders...as does the Bar Harbor Food Co! ;)
                                                                            http://www.barharborfoods.com/recipe-...

                                                                            But corn in corn chowder and clams in clam chowder....never shall the 2 meet!

                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          I have to agree, not a fan of corn in clam chowder. I do agree on the fresh thyme. The best chowder I've had came from a chef (Sara) out at Thompson Island's Clambake business in the 90s. It was milky and had just the right amount of fresh thyme.

                                                                          1. re: Chris VR

                                                                            Agreed on both points. I like corn chowder fine, I've had a corn-and-crab chowder that was quite good, and I can even maybe see corn in fish chowder, but somehow it doesn't seem right in a clam chowder. And yes, a hint of fresh thyme is a very good thing.

                                                                        2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          IMO, corn does not belong in a fish/clam chowder. I do like corn in a Corn Chowder.

                                                                          1. re: treb

                                                                            Yes. The sweetness of corn throws off the delicate balance and simplicity of classic clam chowder. Hey, I prefer the more traditional salt pork (or even pancetta or another unsmoked fatty pork product) to bacon, especially hickory-smoked bacon, if the bacon is going to have a noticeable presence, also because a little goes a long way in flavor notes in clam chowder. The thing is, don't make the taste of the sea. And I realize a lot of people DON'T like the taste of the sea, which is one reason good clam chowder is harder to find than I'd prefer.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              yep, it's just a little corn. I like the way it counterpoints (!) the smoky salty of the (little bit of) bacon and the clam juice. Agreed > like everything in cooking, balance is everything.