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Best fried clams in New England

I just had the best fried clam roll I have ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot of fried clams. This is in Scarborough, Maine. The restaurant, in business since 1927, is Ken's Place, on Pine Point Road. The menu is extensive, but what my mom and I , landlocked far too long in Vermont, wanted was clams. We split one roll, at around $l0 (market value). The roll was bulging with clams - maybe 30 of them, the whole ones. They were small-average size. We were asked if we wanted them crisp or doughy (not the right word - but with more batter) - and we chose crisp. The clam morsels were not at all greasy and as fresh as I've ever tasted. They were sweet, no grit, no sand, no toughness. I would gladly drive back the 200+ miles to have another taste of this clam roll. With it, they served commercial tartar sauce. So, the only thing I would change would be homemade tartar sauce, but this is hardly worth mentioning. In our three-day Maine vacation, these clams were the best thing we put into our mouths. Ken's Place, Pine Point Road, Scarborough, Maine 04074. (They also have a raw bar - and picnic tables for fine weather.)

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  1. I think you must've hit them on a good clam day, which can make up for ANYTHING. I've been there before & found them just ok -- the breading undersalted, and the clams, that day, were of the dinky underfed variety. Just depends on the day.

    2 Replies
    1. re: the_MU

      I agree with Ligature that many times with clams it just depends on the day. I am huge fried clam fan and this summer have tried quite a few of the more well known places in and around Boston. Especially on the North Shore. Sometimes the clams have been excellent and at others times rather mediocre. For the record, the best I have had recently were at Neptune Oyster on Salem St. (North End) in Boston. The clams had nice sized bellies, were not overly greasy and the batter-to-clam ratio was just about perfect for my tastes. This place was recently voted in Boston magazine's Best of Boston 2009 as the best seafood in the city.

      1. re: the_MU

        We just had some terrific ones at the The Cove, in Stonington/Mysic, CT.

      2. The Clam Box in Ipswich ,MA, always excellent.

        1. Jordan's Snack Bar in Ellsworth, Me; our benchmark for fried clams. Bagaduce Lunch, not too shabby either

          1. Heirloom, New Haven. Recently had the best whole-bellied clams I have ever eaten. Though I haven't had a lot, I know fantastic when I have them.

            1. I love the Clam Box in Ipswich, MA

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nia R

                I think they are open in the off-season, but they appeared to be closed on Sep 8 (day after Labor Day). It was probably the first time I've driven by and not seen a line. A little eery...

                I'm hoping to get back to Brown's this fall for some fried clams myself. I like off-season best, because if you pick the right day, it still feels like summer.

                Fwiw, I have a copy of "New England's Favorite Seafood Shacks" (available at amazon) and eventually would like to make it to most in the book.

              2. Arnold's in Eastham MA (on the Cape). Long lines, super casual atmosphere but delicious and generous portions! been going there since i was a kid.

                1. NO place on Earth like the Causeway on Rte. 133 E,Gloucester!! NO way!! The portions are gigantic and they are fresh and fantastic!! The fried shrimp are awesome as are the mussels. Everything is great!! It's a BYOB, Mom & Pop kind of place with a liquor store next door. Nothing fancy but it will be memorable. I probably shouldn't be telling anyone because I won't be able to get in. No rez. There's a bench outside to wait but not much else.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: contessa1

                    While I love Causeway Restaurant in Gloucester for fried seafood, I'm no crazy about them using pre-packaged tartar sauce. I think the word is already out because it's always jammed packed when ever I go.

                    1. re: Infomaniac

                      What's so great about homemade tartar sauce? Isn't tartar sauce just mayo and pickle relish and a bit of lemon juice? Or should I say what's so BAD about commercial tartar sauce? It's not like using hollandaise from a jar or something. What , are we going to be wanting homemade ketchup from roadside fryolator joints now, too?

                      1. re: jackattack

                        Where are you from, LA or New England? These aren't Jack in the Boxes or chain places. Cheap, commercial tartar sauce can be horrendous!
                        If you're not here, experiencing it, how can you know?
                        BTW, I would NEVER eat tartar sauce on shrimp, mussels, clams or any seafood.

                        1. re: jackattack

                          Taste jack....I can taste the difference between house made tartar sauce and packaged condiment tartar sauce, just like I can tasted the difference between Heinz condiment packaged ketchup and Stickney & Poor packaged condiment ketchup.
                          It is like hollandaise from a jar vs fresh made.

                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            Cain's tartar sauce is excellent.

                          2. re: jackattack

                            Warning! Kraft attack! Kraft attack. Homemade tartar cannot make up for bad clams, but does make good ones better.

                        1. re: Td61

                          I agree, Ronnies's is among the best, and I spent most of my life in Maine.

                          1. re: bigboy

                            Ronnies has changed their oil for frying, and I tried it yesterday in Charlton City. I didn't like the taste at all. The clams, fries, and onion rings tasted foreign. I can't spend any more money there for something that tastes this way. I'm all for lowering fats, but this taste was beyond that.

                        2. For the places I have visited in Rhode Island my favorite is Hortons in East Providence.

                          I don't have a best place for tartar sauce --- LOL

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: chefjohn

                            I just checked the Back Eddy's web site and their dishes come with "Tripp's Tartar," which sounds pretty homemade to me.

                            I'll make sure I get some next Saturday night and will report back. I could get some with the fried scallops, which have always been ridiculously good at the BE. I don't specifically recall the tartar sauce but I'm sure it's good -- otherwise Tripp would not allow his name to be associated with it, right?

                            1. re: chefjohn

                              I love Horton's. Surprising to find such good, fried seafood so far inland...

                            2. Menemsha Bites on Martha's Vineyard but I'm not sure if they are still open after Labor Day. I've had fried clams in dozens of places around Boston, Maine, and on the way to the Cape and these stand out.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chuck s

                                I second Menemsha's on MV- the best clams i have ever had, and super expensive, but worth it!

                              2. Brownie's in Pittston, Maine has fried clams to die for - unfortunately, the restaurant keeps weird hours.

                                The clams are so good, putting tartar sauce on them should be against the law.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: TonyO

                                    Best I've ever had were at Five Island Lobster Company in Georgetown, ME. I've has excellent clams at Buttonwoods Fish & Chips in Warwick, RI as well as a Harry's in Colchester, CT. That said, I'd completely avoid Iggy's Champlins, Georges & Aunt Carries in RI.

                                1. When discussing Clams, please state whether your favorite joint fries them in crumbs, or batter !!!!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: jackattack

                                    What about what they fry them in and whether everything gets fried in the same oil? Onion rings and clams fried in the same oil? Good suggestion.

                                    1. re: jackattack

                                      What? Who fries clams in batter or even bread crumbs for that matter? I've never seen that or heard of anyone doing that. I've only seen flour/cornflour coating.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        Harraseeket Lunch and Red's, for two examples, offer them batter-fried.

                                        1. re: LStaff

                                          The flour/corn flour dip is called "Crumbs", some places offer you your choice of "crumbs or batter"...which I think the original poster of this thread mentioned.

                                          1. re: LStaff

                                            in Maine fried clams are fried in a batter. It's what makes the "Maine style" distinct from the North Shore style.

                                            1. re: tamerlanenj

                                              I think that's why I found North Shore clams so "crumby". All what one is used to. Ought to become a Chowhound mantra.
                                              "So it Goes."

                                              Billy Pilgrim-keg

                                              1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                I've never seen batter-fried clams in Maine, except maybe at Brownie's in Pittston. In Maine it's usually crumbs. Maniacs may CALL it batter, but it's crumbs. Same with Maine onion rings, for the most part.

                                                Enlarge-able photo of Batter fried onion rings:


                                                1. re: jackattack

                                                  Red's definitely has batter. I like crumbs better. If you're deciding between Red's and Sea Basket, and aren't fixated on lobster rolls, Sea Basket does crumbs. And those onion rings in the pic are way too big, IMO.

                                                  1. re: the_MU

                                                    You're right, I forgot about Red's batter-fried clams!

                                          2. You really haven't lived until you've had fried clams in South Bend Indiana and lived to tell about it. There are so many incredible places for clams around here. If you could have a Kelly's Roast Beef fried clam plate in the midwest, they'd think they'd died and gone to heaven. I even tried sushi in South Bend one time but that's another scary tale. Also, semi-homemade tartar sauce is usually made with a better grade of commercial mayo (Cains, Hellmans) which accounts for much of the taste (throw in some capers - won't help Indiana clams but wouldn't hurt). Clam Box is great. Woodmans has gone downhill. A shame.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: shrinkwrapt

                                              That was good for a belly laugh! I had clam strips in Dallas. Nuf said. I lived through it, too.

                                              1. re: shrinkwrapt

                                                I prefer the Rocky Mountain Oysters of New Mexico (hand cut by moi) to Indiana Conjones Clams.

                                              2. My longtime favorite place for fried clams is Arthur & Pats in Marshfield. Lightly battered fresh sweet ipswich clams. So good that adding tartar sauce detracts from them.
                                                I could eat 200 of them, and then promptly pass out, completely happy.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                                  Flo's in Newport...and in Portsmouth Rhode Island....believe they'll be open after Easter. Evelyn's in Tiverton Rhode Island is not bad .....Best I've ever had (native New Englander) is Lindsay's in Wareham..getway to the cape....

                                                  And believe it or not...Houligan's (not a chain) in North Conway, New Hampshire has a good whole belly clam roll.....(scallops aren't bad there either)

                                                2. Best clams we've had: Cream & Kone, West Dennis, MA. We went there for 35+ years and their onion rings are to die for too. Lobster Connection, Tilton, NH is the absolute best we've had up here and you can sit on picnic benches near Lake Winnisquam and watch the boats! Truly a great find.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cremy1776

                                                    It's been at least 15 years (give or take) since I've been there but Cream & Kone was the best in the world when we were growing up. My Dad once drove to the cape just to eat there when he was on a business trip (I forget where he was but he drove at least and hour or two.)

                                                    1. re: cremy1776

                                                      Cosign on Kreme and Kone -- we go there every summer! Thanks for the Lobster Connection -- may check that out today :)

                                                      Lobster Connection
                                                      1007 Laconia Rd, Tilton, NH 03276

                                                      1. re: DistinctiveLaugh

                                                        Sorry, Cappy, but Downeast Maine got ya beat in all three: quality, quantity and price. I'll take take Jordan's Snack Bar, the Bagaduce Lunch and especially Tracy's in Sullivan over the Clam Box. CB are good quality, but pricey for a relatively small portion.

                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                          You couldn't be more wrong, pass. I have tried all the places you mentioned, and the Clam Box beats them hands down. Top quality with light flaky batter, never greasy, and huge portions - I have trouble finishing them and that's saying something! Plus the individual clams are much larger at the CB, allowing for optimal clam/batter ratio.
                                                          Prices are pretty much the same at all four.

                                                          1. re: terrystu

                                                            At the Clam Box it is imperative to ask for the big bellies. Sometimes they don't have them. Keg maybe you had the smller ones and they don't really shine. PS. They are not battered but crumbed.

                                                            1. re: LeRique

                                                              Prior to "crumbing", they must be dipped in egg wash, commonly referred to in the trade as "the batter". Purely a matter of semantics.

                                                              1. re: terrystu

                                                                Not to belabor this small point but egg wasah is egg wash. And many places offer batter or crumbs. Never heard the wash referred to as the batter and I have fried alot of clams in various restaurants. Anyway semantics or not The big bellies at Clam Box are great. Agree about the portions

                                                                1. re: LeRique

                                                                  Good to agree on the main point. I always ask for big bellies and they are absolutely the best anywhere. If you want the best lobster its Maine. If you want the best fried clams, gotta be Ipswich.

                                                                  1. re: terrystu

                                                                    Subjective reasoning = Massification?

                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                      The thread lives on. To be fair I have never been to Jordans. The first time I went to the Clam Box att about 3 p.m. they were cleaning or filtering the oil which is not that common anywhere. Sometimes I have had some pretty good clams in somewhat ,less than pristine oil. Next time you are passing through Ipswich try the Choate Bar in center of Ipswich, good clams better drinks and over all pretty cool spot, good mixed grill. I knwo you like an occaisional brew, Keg

                                                                      1. re: LeRique

                                                                        "The first time I went to the Clam Box att about 3 p.m. they were cleaning or filtering the oil which is not that common anywhere."


                                                                        There are only three alternatives when handling used fry oil: mechanical filtration; gravity precipitation; or throwing it out (or recycling it). Filtering/cleaning oil is very common otherwise it'd cost restaurateurs a fortune to keep putting clean oil into the fry machines.

                                                                        I can tell you that there are few things that foul up a fryalator faster than making good whole-belly clams. Lots of the fry dust/crumbs fall to the bottom of the fry pot and then "cook" there, turning the oil from light amber to brown.

                                                                          1. re: shaogo

                                                                            Ah yes, if I had a nickel for every fryalator I filtered in my youth, I could retire. Gotta love that 5-inch thick dark brown sludge left on the filter bag, the birds out back by the grease dumpsters sure did!

                                                                          2. re: LeRique

                                                                            Twelve bucks at Tracey's, no French fries, no onion rings as fillers, just Big Friggin' Clams! ( The Wicked Good Band song).

                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg


                                                                              Though a really good onion ring isn't to be considered filler, in my book.

                                                                              1. re: the_MU

                                                                                Psst, we had onion rings on the side. The point was that there were no Frenchies under that beautiful pile of clams.

                                                                              2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                Well, I've had fried clams at a number of the places mentioned in this thread (love Jordan's, love the Clam Box, hated Bagaduce), but Tracey's is new to me. As it happens, I will be making my yearly week-long pilgrimage to Belfast later this month. If a person happened to find himself on Route 1 North headed in the general direction of Sullivan, and that person had a mind to end up at Tracey's, how would said person proceed?

                                                                                I notice that Connecticut is getting no love in this discussion. The single best serving of whole belly fried clams I have ever eaten was at Johnny Ad's in Old Saybrook a couple of years ago. The clams were so large that season that the cashier was warning everyone who ordered whole bellies that they were "really big", and she wasn't kidding. Huge, plump, juicy, and tender. I've not found any like that again there or anywhere else since.

                                                                                Another spot in the Nutmeg State that I love for fried seafood is the Sea Swirl in Mystic. I've had occasion to make a couple of trips to the CT shoreline in the last month, and have managed to fit in 4 lunches at Sea Swirl. The fried scallops were spectacular - large, juicy, tender, and some of the sweetest scallops I've ever had. The fried clams were not large, but very tasty nonetheless. My favorite, the fried oysters, were exemplary as usual. Unfortunately, the new menu item, Asian Shrimp, was a miss for me. The fried shrimp themselves were fine, but the Hunan style sauce was right out of a bottle and tasted too much of thickeners.

                                                                                1. re: groaker

                                                                                  I just ate at Darby's in Belfast last Sunday. Tracy's is about 15 mi north of Ellsworth on Rt. 1 on the rt side of the road, about a mile past Sumner HS. It is a road side ice cream/snack bar w/ a dining room, nothing fancy, and is BYOB. We had crab rolls 2 weeks ago, 2 for $9. Heading to Capt. Nemo's in Bass Harbor tonight, celebrating the 43rd anniv. of my arrival in Vietnam.

                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                    Thanks for the directions, Pass. I like Darby's and usually have at least one dinner and one breakfast there while I am in the area, although I have often found their dinner entrees to be somewhat under-seasoned.

                                                                                    Is Capt. Nemo's new? The only Bass Harbor restaurants that I can recall off the top of my head are XYZ and the Seafood Ketch.

                                                                                    Seafood Ketch
                                                                                    McMullin Ave, Bass Harbor, ME 04653

                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                      Nothing wrong with "nothing fancy", IE: Ruth and Wimpy's, Trenton lobster pound, and Thurston's.

                                                                                    2. re: groaker

                                                                                      groaker, fried oysters are my favorite as well, and the best I've gotten recently were from the Salmon Run Fish House in Lee, Ma of all places. They were small, more like the size of clam bellies, but incredibly tender and very sweet. Salmon Run is right on the main street in Lee,and we make it a point of having lunch there whenever we go to shop at the outlets in Lee. Their lunches run about $10.

                                                                                      Among our favorite spots back home are Lenny's in Indian Neck (though I found the oysters there two weeks ago kind of oversized and a little too soggy inside), and I do like Johnny Ad's as well.

                                                                                      The worst I've gotten recently were at Max Oyster Bar in W. Harford, ironically, where they were overcooked to the point that you had to chew them so hard that they just stuck in your teeth!


                                                                                      1. re: junescook

                                                                                        junescook, thanks for the tip on Salmon Run. I don't get out to the Berkshires very often, but when I do I am always looking for new places to eat.

                                                                                        Lenny's is fun, and I've always found the food there to be quite good and reasonably priced, although I have never tried the fried oysters either there or at Max's. I have eaten at a couple of Max's places, sometimes with great results, sometimes not so much.

                                                                                    3. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                      Fried Seafood in a styrofoam container should be against the law....just AWFUL!

                                                                                      1. re: sinned61

                                                                                        I dunno, the grease soaked styrofoam container makes a pretty tasty dessert.
                                                                                        Do you eat clams or analyze the packaging?

                                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                          My guess on what sinned61 is trying to point out is fired food in a styrofoam container creates condensation which would make the coating soggy. Definately a no no in my book for fried food.

                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                            Pass, I eat GREAT Fried Clams at Farnhams and The Clam Box. Have never had a great Fried Clam in NH or Maine. Good? yes but never great.
                                                                                            Infomaniac is exactly correct. The condensation from the foam container ruins fried clams etc. If Fried foods are not packed in paper/paperboard containers, they are useless, no matter how good they were in the begining. So yeah I guess I also analyze the packaging, because I want the product to be the BEST!

                                                                                            1. re: sinned61

                                                                                              Oh, I now understand. Tracey's is primarily a take out, but we eat in the dining room. The clams are not in the styrofoam container long enough to condense.
                                                                                              Just out of curiosity, why do you feel Mass. clams are superior? I enjoyed the CB, but felt the price was too steep. Twenty bucks for clams and fries is a lot of money for this country boy. I really enjoy the local places we have. I often dig/buy clams and fry 'em up myself. Is this, on both our parts, geocentric chauvinism? One of the true joys of summer is our annual outing w/ another couple and a case of beer (unless I'm the DD.) and go on a downeast clam golf (going from hole to hole). The fried clam of New England, is a very special regional food. Go the the LA board and see the pain, suffering and sorrow of the poor transplanted New Englanders in finding fried clams.
                                                                                              "I don't want no burger.
                                                                                              I don't want no Spam.
                                                                                              I don't care if it's boiled or fried,
                                                                                              Just gimme a big friggin' clam."
                                                                                              The Wicked Good Band
                                                                                              Ye Olde Dumkeg

                                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                I don't understand how people can tell the difference as when red tide is on in Massachusetts, most of the clams come from Maine which is alright by me. The real difference to me is in the coating and frying.

                                                                                              2. re: sinned61

                                                                                                Last Oct, on vacation, I had GREAT fried clams in Maine at Cape Elizabeth: Lobster Shack at Two Lights and also at Red's Eats in Wiscasset. Can't wait to go back and eat lobster and fried clams everyday.

                                                                                                Red's Eats
                                                                                                Main, Wiscasset, ME 04578

                                                                                                Lobster Shack
                                                                                                225 Two Lights Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107

                                                                                          2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                            Yum. I'm thinking pictures should become standard operating procedure on Chowhound when we start talking "best of". Me likey.

                                                                        1. had the clams at Red's eats. Just cannot get into the "batter" thing.

                                                                          1. The WORST fried clams I've had in the past couple of years were from the Kelly's in Medford, MA. It was a bit late at night...maybe 9:30 or 10 p.m. They were dreadful, soggy, had an off taste, and made me feel queasy.

                                                                            1. George's Surf & Turf in Mendon Massachusetts has the best fried scallops and fried whole clams that I have ever had. They are a bit expensive and it is open only in the warmer weather and have car hops on Thursday thru Saturday. You do not have to use the hops. It is basically a take out type eatery with picnic tables galore. You can eat in your car too. Fantastic seafood.

                                                                              1. someone should start a thread "best fried clams NOT along the coast of NE"! I've had awesome ones in Northfield NH, just off Rt. 93 before the Tilton exit at Dipsy Doodle. Used to get awesome ones at Village Kitchen in Moultonboro (lakes region) but I think the cook moved to another restaurant - Ken's Seafood in Ctr Harbor maybe.

                                                                                Village Kitchen
                                                                                RR 25, Moultonborough, NH 03254

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                                                    yes, take a left at end of ramp, up on the left less then a mile (across from Police). I love their food, I've gotten both lobster rlls too (without mayo & melted butter/ with mayo) both awesome. their haddock is great too

                                                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                      thanks. i'm up that way a lot in the winter (x-country at gunstock), and always looking for stuff between 93 and Guilford (there's not much)...which leaves open the question, is dipsey doodle open in the winter?

                                                                                      1. re: qianning

                                                                                        I believe they did stay open last winter, might want to check to see if they do again.

                                                                                1. To again repeat my favorite song by The Wicked Good Band:
                                                                                  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 (edit. full bellied) friggin' clam!
                                                                                  Bread crumbs or batter, is all pretty moot,
                                                                                  Moving to the land of Navajo lamb,
                                                                                  Where cowboys don't give a hoot,
                                                                                  And I'll be dreaming of a big friggin' clam!!!
                                                                                  Be back June 1!

                                                                                  El Passadumkego

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                    Oh well, PDK, we hear that they have some big oysters out in the wild west too!

                                                                                    1. re: junescook

                                                                                      Yup, I've cut them off. Really! Grab the scrotum w/ the left hand, cut w/ pocket knife, put oysters in old mayo jar, when round-up is finished flour & fry 'em up. Poor little calf is bleating, 'nuff to turn one into a vegetarian.
                                                                                      I was just looking at old photographic slides of round-up last night, to have them printed to take to the mother of my 7th grade student , who took me to his family's ranch for round-up 39 years ago. He died last year of leukemia.
                                                                                      Life is short, carpe chow!

                                                                                        1. re: LeRique

                                                                                          Little Daddy's Seafood in Sanford Maine Best Clams around!

                                                                                  2. I can't believe that nobody's mentioned the Village Restaurant in Essex -- up the street from Woodman's and in my humble opinion a much better place. Superior food and a casual but nice sit-down environment. Excellent seafood all-around -- fried, broiled, baked, whatever --, family-owned for decades, simple but scrumptious New England style desserts (Indian pudding is the best anywhere, including the famous Durgin Park). Had a mixed seafood dish there once -- shrimp and scallops with marinara, artichokes, capers, etc. -- that was to die for. And the clams, light and sweet, are out of this world. I'm sixty years old and I've been going there since high school -- same family still owns and runs it, same family recipes. I live in Boston but make sure I get up to the North Shore to eat there a couple of times a year.

                                                                                    1. My vote goes to the Clam Box in Ipswich but there are many excellent versions on the Cape too. Arnolds and KremeNKone to name a few. With Arnolds and Clam Box you get the smaller bellies and that generally comes with added sweetness/flavor - if you aren't a big belly fan you're sure to love them. KremeNKone wavers in the middle. The clam should hold the breading easily, contain locked in clam flavor, arrive relatively dry (not too oily), crispy on the outside - and oh, golden! A surprising amount of places offer fried clams with largish bellies (not a fan) or have maybe a soft, flavorless texture. It's getting harder to find good fried clams these days.