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The Clam Box, Woodman's or Farnham's - which one to choose?

d
Diane in Bexley May 11, 2010 08:02 AM

We are planning to combine a visit to one of the North Shore famed clam shacks with an afternoon visit to Salem, MA. Our goal is to have seafood for lunch as we are from the Midwest and we hope to find some tasty, local, fresh seafood. We are not wedded to either of those 3, but are looking for a recommendation on a clam roll of excellent value and quality in proximity to Salem. Any thoughts, hounds? Thanks!

  1. w
    weston448 Jun 16, 2010 06:30 PM

    My wife and I just got back from a visit to the Cape Ann area. We went in search of the "perfect" fried clam, like the ones we enjoyed during our honeymoon at Provincetown 45 years ago.
    We ate at Farnham's, Woodman's and the Clam Box of Ipswich.
    First, I suggest you take Woodman's off your list. Vastly overrated, very expensive, almost arrogant. The clams and the halibut were totally mediocre. Overpriced yet disappointing. We were struck by the thought that Woodman's is a place that has just not been able to keep up with its own hype.
    Farnham's was O.K. on the clams, but not great. We found the clams and onion rings just overcome by the "batter", and the cole slaw was almost yucky. The location is great: outside on a nice sunny day is awesome.
    No contest. The Clam Box was really very good, indeed. Great clams, excellent slaw, terrific scallops. The people who served us were terrific.
    Believe me, not even close.

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

    Clam Box
    789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

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

    1. j
      jsaimd Jun 11, 2010 08:58 AM

      We are heading up to Cape Ann with some friends. Second time in Boston, but didn't get to try much last time - so really first dining trip. Anyway, we are looking for cheap but tasty food. My son and I are celiac, so it has to be gluten-free and my husband has a psychological allergy to seafood. The family we are going with also is so-so on seafood. But i kind of want to try fried clams, as they are a regional specialty and Woodman's and maybe Farnham's are actually gluten free.

      Anyone know if Clam Box is gluten-free too?

      Anyway, are the non-seafood options at these places worth eating or are they pretty bad? Is there anywhere nearby we could divide and conquer with take out for the non-seafood eating folks?

      6 Replies
      1. re: jsaimd
        s
        scratchie Jun 11, 2010 09:07 AM

        Are you sure Woodman's is gluten-free? I think wheat flour is a pretty big ingredient in most fried seafood coatings but I could be wrong.

        Non-seafood options at the Clam Box are hamburgers and hot dogs, IIRC. I've never tried them but I imagine they're about what you would expect.

        The White Farms ice cream stand just up the road added a Sal's Pizzeria a year or two ago, so there's a non-seafood but probably not non-gluten option nearby. I dunno. Sounds like the whole trip is probably more trouble than it's worth.

        EDIT: Apparently Woodman's has gluten-free clams. Who knew? I wouldn't assume that anything at the Clam Box is gluten-free since it doesn't say anything about it on their website.

        1. re: scratchie
          j
          jsaimd Jun 11, 2010 11:16 AM

          We are going to be at a beach in Cape Ann area anyway. My friend asked me to find someplace to eat that was good, inexpensive, kid friendly and gluten-free friendly. BTW - I am from San Francisco, so I am completely clueless re: geography but trying to learn...

          I think some fried seafood places use cornmeal, which is why they happen to be gluten-free.

          1. re: jsaimd
            Science Chick Jun 11, 2010 11:34 AM

            Many places do a double coat (coat-wet-coat) and only use cornmeal for the final coat. The first coat is likely to be flour, and is frequently a commercial "fry coat" mix. Not sure if this is wheat based or not, but it's probably worth checking first.

            1. re: jsaimd
              s
              scratchie Jun 11, 2010 11:57 AM

              If Woodman's is really gluten-free, they're probably your best bet, but it will be pretty slim pickings for your hubby and the family you're going with. IMO you're probably better off finding a good restaurant in Gloucester or Rockport that will satisfy the non-seafood-lovers and provide, for example, a basket of steamed clams for you and your son.

          2. re: jsaimd
            t
            treb Jun 11, 2010 01:55 PM

            Given your specific needs and seafood alergies, I'd stay clear of all of these places. I don't think any are gluten-free and if hubby has seafood alergies why risk a potential bad experience. You may want to search North Shore CH threads for other options. Example; American BBQ in Rowley is pretty good.

            1. re: treb
              j
              jsaimd Jun 11, 2010 02:14 PM

              Just to Clarify Woodman's menu is GIG certified, so it is GF - they have a disclaimer as all restaurants do, but it is truly gluten-free. they have a separate fryer so there is no cross-contamination. My husbands "allergy" is completely psychological. He refuses to try seafood - he isn't really allergic to it.

              Anyway, bummer...I was hoping to get to try it, but it sounds like my boys and I would be forcing the rest of the group into less festive eats. I will search for other places. The problem is that I love seafood, our hosts like BBQ, but I really don't....and a lot of BBQ isn't gluten-free. Here we always default to Mexican or Indian which are outstanding, but hear they aren't as great there.

          3. p
            PAUL May 12, 2010 05:52 PM

            The Clam Box is hands down..without a doubt….no question about it…..not even close the best fried clam. Their scallops, onion rings and cold slaw are also excellent. I always have to get French fries with fried seafood. Unfortunately theirs are the same crappy frozen French fry that everybody does. I have only tried a few of the other items on the menu and found them to be fair to poor. Chickie’s philosophy is very unique in the food business. It is the reason EVERY order of clams is always fabulous. The other places mentioned all have something to offer, but if you want the best fried clam, go to THE BOX!

            1 Reply
            1. re: PAUL
              s
              scratchie May 13, 2010 06:20 AM

              He's right, you know.

            2. tatsu May 12, 2010 04:26 PM

              Chowhound seriously needs a polling app, I've been using this stupid site since the 90's and it still sucks. But the content is great, what can we do?

              1. j
                jeff Turton May 12, 2010 08:12 AM

                Diane is that Bexley as in the east side of Columbus suburb ? I would agree with the consensus that Clam Box is your best bet with Farnham's next and based on my experiences would not even suggest Woodman's

                -----
                Clam Box
                789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                5 Replies
                1. re: jeff Turton
                  d
                  Diane in Bexley May 12, 2010 09:35 AM

                  Jeff, yes that would be. Loved, loved the clam roll that was served at the HoJo's on the corner of James and Broad St. that was an insitution for years and years.

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley
                    j
                    jeff Turton May 12, 2010 09:51 AM

                    Just wondered. I grew up near the corner of Broad and Parkview. I remember the Ho Jo's The clams out here will be so much better than those old HoJo's clam strips. My brother is still in the area in New Albany, in one of the Wexler developments. Looks like I'll be back in the fall for my 40th High School reunion

                    1. re: jeff Turton
                      justbeingpolite May 12, 2010 12:16 PM

                      I've said before: the quality of the clams varies depending on the freshness of the lard/oil they're cooked in and the quality of the clams. You can get a great batch at Woodman's and a poor one at the Clam Box. But for overall consistency, The Clam Box is the favorite. Everywhere else, I've had an occasional bad batch. No love here for Essex Seafood? My number two for quality of clam, if not ambiance. I probably like it 'cause they still cook 'em in lard.

                      -----
                      Essex Seafood
                      143 Eastern Ave, Essex, MA 01929

                      Clam Box
                      789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                      1. re: justbeingpolite
                        mtm7654 May 13, 2010 07:44 AM

                        Had the fried clams (and onion rings) at Essex Seafood 2 weeks ago and they were both excellent. My first time there and I'll definitely go back.

                        -----
                        Essex Seafood
                        143 Eastern Ave, Essex, MA 01929

                      2. re: jeff Turton
                        d
                        Diane in Bexley May 12, 2010 01:28 PM

                        Jeff, went to Eastmoor High school a little after you when Archie Griffin (later 2X Heisman trophy winner) was the big star. Grew up on Broadleigh. Now live about 4 blocks from where you grew up and 1/2 block south of Broad.

                        Those were good days - HoJo's, Johnson's ice cream, Rubino's pizza, Grill & Skillet, Emil's, Eastmoor Drive In, Bev-er-Lee drive in. Nostalgia aside, it's hard to find a decent breakfast near Bexley these days.

                        When you are closer to your trip, shoot me a note and I can give you some great restaurant recs (BTW, you should really plan a visit to The Top, still a terrific steak destination).

                  2. l
                    lypp May 12, 2010 06:59 AM

                    Definitely Farnham's, Clambox, Woodman's. In fact Woodman's wouldn't even make my list.

                    1. tatsu May 11, 2010 11:05 PM

                      I'll vote for Farnham's. It's remarkable how greaseless they come out, the fried whole clams.

                      Woodman's is good, the largest of the three, perhaps the most commercial in atmosphere as well, but it has nice marsh views like Farnham's as well.

                      Clam Box is very close to the small service road to Crane Beach, which is just gorgeous. They do a good job, and it's quaint. It plays up it's roadside appeal.

                      They are all pretty close in quality! It may come down to things like whose sides you like better, the wait, etc.

                      But I really think after trying all three, JT Farnham's does the best clams and I like the atmosphere the most as well.

                      There are a few other options as well, but I haven't tried them.

                      -----
                      Clam Box
                      789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: tatsu
                        s
                        sysco kid May 12, 2010 05:05 AM

                        Woodmans all the way. Mostly because I proposed to my Wife there 18 years ago .
                        We bring our two kids there every year now

                        1. re: sysco kid
                          tatsu May 12, 2010 10:51 AM

                          Aw, that's sweet but it exposes a serious bias you have! None the less, happy for your fond memories.

                        2. re: tatsu
                          ipsofatso May 12, 2010 10:52 AM

                          The Clam Box in nowhere near, let alone "very close" to the "Service Road" to Crane Beach. That would be Argilla Rd and not a service road at all. It is 6 miles from Crane Beach to the Clam Box and about a 15 minute drive on a busy beach day. Just for the record.

                          1. re: ipsofatso
                            tatsu May 12, 2010 11:07 AM

                            Sorry, I always get lost because of my terrible sense of direction. Thanks for correcting.

                            1. re: tatsu
                              ipsofatso May 12, 2010 11:43 AM

                              No problem; I live between Farnhams and Crane Beach, lucky me!

                        3. s
                          sinned61 May 11, 2010 08:24 PM

                          We always always ALWAYS choose Farnhams first...Clam Box is good too but too much of a zoo for me....by the way, the Clam Box on your Map is about an hour and a half south of the Clam Box of Ipswich!!!

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

                          1. f
                            Fly May 11, 2010 09:16 AM

                            I'll say Farnham's first, Clam Box second, Woodman's third. But you're not going to be disappointed with any of them.

                            Also, if you're in Salem, Dube's is pretty darn spectacular as well. Get there early on friday for the fish chowder.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Fly
                              SEH May 11, 2010 10:36 AM

                              Of the 3 you mention, Farnham's is closest to Salem and Clam Box is the furthest (if that makes any difference). Farnham's also offers more menu variety (grilled fish -- a wonderful grilled haddock sandwich, lobster, etc.) than Clam Box and that's the reason I like it best since I don't like fried foods.

                              -----
                              Clam Box
                              789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                              1. re: SEH
                                ipsofatso May 11, 2010 10:50 AM

                                Its a wonder neither Woodmans nor Clam Box though to install a grill or a broiler.

                                1. re: SEH
                                  d
                                  Diane in Bexley May 11, 2010 10:53 AM

                                  When you say closest, is it minutes we're talking about here? From my Mapquest, it doesn't look like any of them are a huge distance (30-45 min?)

                                  We were kids in the 60's and have a fondness for Howard Johnson's clam roll, which was fried clam in a split top H/D roll with tarter sauce. We were thinking one of the 3 would satisfy our craving? We are big time fressers, willing to travel for good food.

                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley
                                    f
                                    Fly May 11, 2010 10:56 AM

                                    All three will satisfy a need for a clam roll. And yeah, from Salem, any of the three is 25ish minutes away. Clam Box might be 35 minutes. Maybe. They're all the same distance.

                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley
                                      L2k May 11, 2010 11:09 AM

                                      You could walk from Farnham's to Woodmans.

                                      I've been to both of those many times, I prefer the atmosphere (and view) from Farnhams. Only been to Clam Box once, the lines were so freakin' long that I can't even remember how good the clams were.

                                      1. re: L2k
                                        d
                                        djd May 13, 2010 07:04 AM

                                        Allow time for the Clam Box. The last time I went it was, I think, a weekend day but at some odd time like 4:30, and we waited on line for an hour. Maybe we got caught in the oil change backlog. And bring cash--every so often the in-house ATM runs out.

                                      2. re: Diane in Bexley
                                        s
                                        scratchie May 11, 2010 11:24 AM

                                        If you want the real Hojo's/Friendly's experience, make sure you order Clam Strips and not whole belly clams. Those who grew up on the former do not always enjoy the latter.

                                        1. re: scratchie
                                          f
                                          Fly May 11, 2010 11:54 AM

                                          This is correct re: what Hojo's serves/served. But do NOT think that you're getting the clam shack experience with strips, either. It's a valid preference, but I don't think you should recommend that they skip what Ipswich does best.

                                          Don't skip the whole clams.

                                          1. re: Fly
                                            s
                                            scratchie May 12, 2010 06:40 AM

                                            I'm not *recommending* the clam strips. I'm just pointing out that someone who has a "craving" for Hojo's clams may not like whole-belly clams.

                                    2. re: Fly
                                      h
                                      hoohah May 11, 2010 07:20 PM

                                      Can't say enough about Dube's in Salem. Best fried food around, great prices, chowder is awesome and the local vibe is the best. They do a phenomenal baked schrod too!!

                                    3. Bob Dobalina May 11, 2010 09:08 AM

                                      While I have no reason to disagree with the general comments here, I think when you go - as in time of day and time of season - also can make a difference. I went last year on a chilly May day to Woodman's and it was awesome - some of the best fried seafood I have had. I have also been to Farnham's on a busy mid-summer afternoon and it was just terrible.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                        d
                                        Diane in Bexley May 11, 2010 09:36 AM

                                        We will be in Boston weekend of 5-22 for DD's college graduation. We have done "the historical sights" many times and never been to Salem. It might still be chilly.

                                        1. re: Diane in Bexley
                                          s
                                          steve999 May 12, 2010 11:00 AM

                                          If it's a chilly or rainy day, check out the Village restaurant in Essex and eat inside. They do clams as well as anyone else in the area. Their fried whole bellies are really good. They have a clam roll on the menu, but I haven't had it.

                                          You'll hear remarks about "blue-hairs" and how going there is like a step back in time. There's some truth to both, but the clams there have always been good when I've been. As an added bonus, they offer a lot more than a hot dog, grilled cheese, or chicken fingers if you have someone with you that doesn't eat seafood.

                                          http://www.wedigclams.com/

                                        2. re: Bob Dobalina
                                          ipsofatso May 11, 2010 10:03 AM

                                          Woodman's CAN be good, just very inconsistent.

                                        3. ipsofatso May 11, 2010 08:28 AM

                                          Yup the Clam Box is Numero Uno...but Farnhams is pretty good too with better views and outdoor in-the-rough dining.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ipsofatso
                                            g
                                            gourmaniac May 11, 2010 08:36 AM

                                            also agree. For me it's no contest with farrhams as a distant second and woodman's not out of the gate.

                                            1. re: ipsofatso
                                              macca May 11, 2010 08:36 AM

                                              Love the big bellied clams at the Clam box. Have heard that Farnhams has great clam and seafood chowder- has anyone tried it ?

                                              1. re: ipsofatso
                                                p
                                                powerfulpierre May 11, 2010 08:40 AM

                                                Yup, ipsofatso has it right. . . . but I usually go to Farnhams when it is comfortable to sit at one of the outside tables. The marsh views are great and the food is still good. Overall I prefer it as a whole experience. BTW, last fall Farnhams had cod cheeks and they were absolutely the best I have ever had!

                                                1. re: powerfulpierre
                                                  ipsofatso May 11, 2010 08:48 AM

                                                  Cod Cheeks are like....to die for!!!!!!!!!

                                              2. t
                                                treb May 11, 2010 08:11 AM

                                                IMO, Clam Box is the best, they change their oil twice daily. We did a crawl, going to 5 clam shacks which included Woodman's and Farnham's, 2 years ago and Clam Box blew them all away.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: treb
                                                  r
                                                  robertlf Jun 17, 2010 05:52 PM

                                                  Ditto on Clam Box. It's the clear winner and you can't beat the building design.

                                                  -----
                                                  Clam Box
                                                  789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

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