HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >

Clam Chowder Recommendations?

t
The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 12:54 AM

Hey everyone,

I'm getting ready to move to Boston for grad school, and I'm looking for some recommendations for some amazing clam chowder.

I had a chance to visit Boston a couple months back, but at the time all I got to try were the versions at the Union Oyster House and Durgin Park (very touristy, I know!).

While the latter was admittedly delicious, I'm looking for the definitive Boston chowda and would appreciate some help.

-----
Union Oyster House
41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

Durgin Park
1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. MC Slim JB RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 05:46 AM

    Neptune Oyster does my favorite version in Boston.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    -----
    Neptune Oyster
    63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      rebloonin RE: MC Slim JB Oct 31, 2010 09:15 PM

      I was just in Boston for one night this weekend and went to Neptune today for late lunch. Especially because the place is tiny, it was packed but because it was 2:30, a lull in the afternoon, we got a seat right away.
      Chowder was delish. Different than any kind I've had and have grown to love (the gloppy thick kind) but it was really great trying this style (creamy but thin, not heavy and very fresh tasting) and hubby and I agreed it was very tasty.

      Fried Ipswich clams we ordered but could have done without. At $19 we were expecting something more memorable but perhaps it was due to the nature of the small clams? I think if they were larger clams it would have made for a better batch of fried clams. They just werent clammy enough. So be it, glad we tried them. Goes to show how much we know about different varieties of clams.

      The lobster roll we had was to die for- decadence through and through. We got the hot lobster roll which was warm meat, no mayo, but rather drenched in butter. Usually i find $25 to be a little bit steep for a lobster roll but this one was so jam packed with meat it was worth it. Glad hubby and I split it because the butter was a little overwhelming *and* it came with fries (but who are we kidding, it was all about the lobster).

      I highly recommend this place- parking in the area is tough (but we eventually found a free spot) but this place didn't have a crazy touristy trap vibe and the lobster roll was ridiculous.

    2. okra RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 05:50 AM

      As a swamp yankee, the rule of thumb is to avoid any place that sells either 'chowda' or 'chowdah'. These will invariably be thick, gloppy, roux based clam juice milkshakes with chunks of precut potatoes with a dash of sodium-metabisulfate (potato whitener) thrown in. Some even stoop to using dried non-dairy creamer in the recipe.

      However, the most important rule is go with what you like. Some people won't eat it unless it is the consistency of the above mentioned glop, and they can stand their pewter spoon in it. If that is what you like, then, by all means, skip the name rule, and enjoy!

      Me, I like the taste of clams. We have been fortunate enough to gather our own clams and make our own chowder over the years. Salt-pork. Onion. Potato. Clams. Clam juice. Some pepper. Mom's family would add milk or cream. Dads family liked it black.
      Note the lack of flour, butter, tomato, celery, dill, liquid nitrogen and a sous vide. The colonists made it with what they had on hand.

      Your mileage may vary. You'll hear a lot of opinions. Welcome! :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: okra
        MC Slim JB RE: okra Jun 16, 2010 06:01 AM

        Terrific summary. I love the coffee analogy! By this standard, Neptune's version is "dark".

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      2. s
        scratchie RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 07:01 AM

        I'm with Okra and prefer to avoid the gloppy, think chowder (e.g. Jacob Wirth's).

        My favorite chowder in-town is Legal Seafood, and out-of-town is The Grog in Newburyport. The Clam Box in Ipswich also makes good chowder, if you need another reason to go there.

        -----
        Jacob Wirth Restaurant
        31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

        Clam Box
        789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

        4 Replies
        1. re: scratchie
          Karl S RE: scratchie Jun 16, 2010 07:48 AM

          So does Farnham's in Essex, as do many other clam shack type places (but not all - the Lobster Pot in P-town has an awful but very popular tourist-style version that forms soft peaks, as it were).

          Kelly's Roast Beef does a respectable traditional (that is, not goupy) version.

          1. re: Karl S
            f
            Fly RE: Karl S Jun 16, 2010 09:27 AM

            One great hidden classic is Dube's in Salem, only on Friday nights. Get there by 6, or it'll be gone.

            1. re: Fly
              MC Slim JB RE: Fly Jun 16, 2010 11:26 AM

              I love Dube's, but don't think I've had the clam chowder there. Very fine fried clams, though.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB
                f
                Fly RE: MC Slim JB Jun 16, 2010 11:29 AM

                The chowder (fish or clam) is the best thing on their menu by a large margin. And I love the rest of their menu.

                Edit: Well, I love the rest of their fried seafood menu. I can't imagine a reason to venture into the broiled or non-seafood part.

        2. CocoDan RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 08:14 AM

          My favorite is at Turner Fisheries in the Weston Hotel. Not thick. Very delicious. I think they won the Boston Chowderfest 10 years in a row. Anyway, it's the best in my book and the only one I'll eat other than my mother-in-law's. I've also think they have the coldest drafts in the city.
          Enjoy,
          CocoDan

          -----
          Turner Fisheries Bar
          10 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

          8 Replies
          1. re: CocoDan
            C. Hamster RE: CocoDan Jun 16, 2010 08:55 AM

            You and I so rarely disagree on anything! But I will disagree with you here ....

            I hate TF's chowder. There's just something about it that is very "off" to me. Some ingredient that shouldn't be in there. Plus the place has a very weird vibe to it.

            IMO chowder is that Legal does best.

            I also like the chowder at Dry Dock.

            -----
            Dry Dock Cafe
            Boston, MA, Boston, MA

            1. re: C. Hamster
              CocoDan RE: C. Hamster Jun 16, 2010 09:55 AM

              I agree that TF has a weird vibe, but we still like their chowder. My Farther used to say, "that's why they have horse races".

              Another place that has good chowder is Schooner's in Nantasket. Funky place, but good sea food.
              Enjoy,
              CocoDan

              1. re: C. Hamster
                rlh RE: C. Hamster Jun 16, 2010 02:18 PM

                Dry Dock is shockingly good, as is their seafood version. Also like Kelly's for thin and Legal for thick. Moulton's deserves honorable mention as well.

                -----
                Dry Dock Cafe
                Boston, MA, Boston, MA

                1. re: C. Hamster
                  p
                  Pegmeister RE: C. Hamster Jun 16, 2010 06:33 PM

                  Turner Fisheries is probably the most unfriendly place I have ever been in Boston. Staff is extremely off putting and I would never recommend it.

                  -----
                  Turner Fisheries Bar
                  10 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                  1. re: Pegmeister
                    t
                    treb RE: Pegmeister Jun 18, 2010 01:42 PM

                    2nd that, snobby staff. I gave it several trys with no success. Don't dis this but, I really like Legal's Lite Chowder, nice clammy broth with a little milk and no cream.

                2. re: CocoDan
                  trufflehound RE: CocoDan Jun 16, 2010 01:54 PM

                  I'll second Turner's for the chowder. They used gto have amazing fish chowder, but no more.

                  1. re: trufflehound
                    Karl S RE: trufflehound Jun 16, 2010 02:04 PM

                    Which reminds me to note for the OP that fish chowder, where served, is often an option less prone to tourist expectations of glopiness. After all, fish chowder is probably the ur-chowder, and it's stayed closer to its roots than other chowders.

                    1. re: Karl S
                      q
                      qianning RE: Karl S Jun 17, 2010 07:01 AM

                      excellent point Karl.

                3. p
                  Pegmeister RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 09:29 AM

                  I like Neptune's chowder, but I also like the clam chowder in a bread bowl from the oyster bar Walrus & Carpenter, (Fanueil Hall food court) especially when you add a few drops of hot sauce.

                  1. h
                    hhookk RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 03:29 PM

                    I am going to put in a vote for Kellys chowder. FULL of clams and great flavor. I know Kellys is not a favorite here, but they make killer chowder IMHO.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: hhookk
                      Karl S RE: hhookk Jun 16, 2010 05:22 PM

                      Actually, I think Boston 'hounds have almost without exception recommended Kelly's chowder. I know this because I always do, and have always found agreement, never disagreement, on that point. It's just that it's not terribly convenient for people seeking to stay in the center of town, as it were.

                      1. re: Karl S
                        h
                        hhookk RE: Karl S Jun 16, 2010 05:54 PM

                        To clarify I have seen the good recs on Kellys chowder too, just not for their roast beef and clams. I was more referring to the overall feeling about Kellys, not the chowder specifically..
                        I happen to like everything at Kellys so It's all good to me :-)

                        1. re: hhookk
                          q
                          qianning RE: hhookk Jun 17, 2010 07:09 AM

                          what to say, I love Kelly's chowder, and will go out of my way to get it, and I like the vibe especially at Revere Beach, but in truth I'm not that fond of their fried food or roast beef.....not that it is bad, but just it's not something i'd personally put up with finding parking on Revere Beach Blvd. for....the chowder, however is way worth the parking hassle...

                        2. re: Karl S
                          p
                          psora RE: Karl S Jun 22, 2010 11:50 PM

                          Thanks to the people who suggested Kelly's. Never had theirs before and probably wuldn't have without the recs. Had it today at the new Allston location (which FWIW does work for people staying in town) and was very pleasantly surprised - exactly as advertised: thin style vs glop, FULL of clams to go with plenty of potatoes which had more taste than the ones in the fries usually do, with a nice thinnish broth tasting just of clams and a little buttery dairy.

                          -----
                          Kelly's Roast Beef
                          1227 Commonwealth Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                        3. re: hhookk
                          p
                          phatchris RE: hhookk Jun 16, 2010 05:36 PM

                          Kellys is my favorite.

                          1. re: hhookk
                            y
                            y2000k RE: hhookk Jun 17, 2010 08:00 PM

                            Please excuse my ignorance... is it the Kelly's In south Boston on L street? Do they offer take-out? Just thinking that it may be nice to grab some clam chowder to-go and have it at Castle Island/Fort Independence area.

                            1. re: y2000k
                              h
                              hhookk RE: y2000k Jun 17, 2010 09:31 PM

                              http://www.kellysroastbeef.com/locati...

                          2. m
                            mikeinboston RE: The Food Buster Jun 16, 2010 04:20 PM

                            Just had a bowl of Legal Chowder last night at the Copley outlet. 2nd time there that the soup has been lukewarm at best. Shame on me for not sending it back for a reheat, but it does taste damn good. (And at the bar, they have actual pepper mills that you the customer are allowed to use as opposed to that bit of tableside "pepper grinding" theater that most places put you through)

                            1. Mike5966 RE: The Food Buster Jun 17, 2010 06:47 AM

                              Kelly's: I agree with some of the posters about regarding Kelly's. Theirs is a thin chowder, very consistently good and simple across multiple locations. It basically has just clams and some potatoes, milky good and not too salty.

                              Woodman's: I've had a couple of bowls at a few big catered clambakes from Woodman's of Essex and thought their thin white chowder was even better than Kelly's. The clams themselves had a chewier texture, and the broth had an even clammier flavor. You'll see little globules of butter floating around on top. This is another chowder that has just clams and almost nothing else, maybe a small potato cube or two floating around in each little paper bowl.

                              B&G: For a slightly thicker but not gloopy chowder, my favorite so far has been at B&G Oysters. Very pricey for a bowl of chowder, but this one comes with delicious bits of bacon and very flavorful clam meat. In addition, very beautifully presented and it is big enough to split between two people as part of a first course with some oysters so in the end doesn't have to be quite as expensive.

                              I haven't tried the versions at Neptune but I found the ones at Turner, Union Oyster House, and Legal to be just OK. Also, don't be tempted no matter how convenient and how chowder-hungry you are to try the Whole Foods chowder. It is tasteless gloppy gloop as are most of their other soups.

                              1. t
                                The Food Buster RE: The Food Buster Jun 17, 2010 12:33 PM

                                I just wanted to thank you all for all your recommendations! I wasn't expecting nearly so much help. Now I've got quite the list to try: Neptunes, Turner's, Legal, Kelly's, Woodman's, etc. You all just made my quest for clam chowder a whole lot longer, lol.

                                1. nsenada RE: The Food Buster Jun 17, 2010 01:50 PM

                                  A DC at Woodward claimed theirs was the best she's had. I had the asparagus soup, which I thought was great, but I was jealous.

                                  1. t
                                    topdog RE: The Food Buster Jun 17, 2010 01:53 PM

                                    Union Oyster House for sure.

                                    -----
                                    Union Oyster House
                                    41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: topdog
                                      C. Hamster RE: topdog Jun 17, 2010 02:15 PM

                                      IMO, there is no reason to ever walk through the doors of the Union Oyster House unless you are really tired and want a drink and some oysters at the raw bar and are unable to walk to Neptune. Sorry.

                                      -----
                                      Union Oyster House
                                      41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                      1. re: C. Hamster
                                        l
                                        LStaff RE: C. Hamster Jun 23, 2010 07:52 AM

                                        So are you saying that the last time you had the chowder at Union OH, it wasn't good? And exactly when was the last time you walked through the doors and had the chowder there?

                                      2. re: topdog
                                        MC Slim JB RE: topdog Jun 18, 2010 05:49 AM

                                        Count me among the Union Oyster House haters. Nasty tourist trap, which is too bad, because it's a lovely, historic space. I don't even go for the downstairs oyster bar anymore, as there are so many superior alternatives for oysters in town these days. Any place that calls itself an oyster house yet serves pre-shucked oysters (as they do here everywhere except at the downstairs oyster bar) should hang its head in shame.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        -----
                                        Union Oyster House
                                        41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          l
                                          LStaff RE: MC Slim JB Jun 23, 2010 07:55 AM

                                          Unless you can offer an opinion on their chowder, I don't see how any of that is relevent to this thread.

                                          1. re: LStaff
                                            Karl S RE: LStaff Jun 23, 2010 09:10 AM

                                            Uh, the OP had partaken of the UOH's and Durgin Park's chowders, and noted the latter was delicious. So you can guess that the OP already knows all that's needed to be known about the UOH chowder. C Hamster and McSlim are longtime vets of this board and no doubt decided to omit what did not need specific addressing due to the OP.

                                      3. melpy RE: The Food Buster Jun 17, 2010 08:04 PM

                                        We just tried both Legal Seafood and Durgin Park and preferred Durgin Park.

                                        -----
                                        Durgin Park
                                        1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                                        1. MC Slim JB RE: The Food Buster Jun 18, 2010 05:45 AM

                                          Must say I did not love the clam chowder at Kelly's. Nicely loaded with chopped clams, and no gloppy thickeners (which I loathe), but it tasted mostly to me of the heavy dose of cream or half-and-half. Plenty of potatoes, no bacon or other pork products. Looked right, but was strangely disappointing.

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                            Karl S RE: MC Slim JB Jun 18, 2010 06:37 AM

                                            I've always assumed they used salt pork, not bacon, because the pork flavor is not noticeable, and that's common with even traditional clam chowders that don't use a lot of salt pork to start with.

                                            It might be a Catholic clam chowder, as it were. Of course, salt pork is canonical (smoked bacon is a newcomer, so smoky flavors are not required in good chowder). But, for Catholics - not old Yankees, of course - who used to (or still) abstain from animal flesh on Fridays and during Lent, one would omit the pork. (Obviously, it's still not kosher due to the inclusion of shellfish, though one could make a kosher fish chowder that way.)

                                            1. re: Karl S
                                              m
                                              Mr Bigglesworth RE: Karl S Jun 20, 2010 06:11 AM

                                              Go to the Vineyard and immediately proceed to The Bite. Perfect chowder and fried clams.

                                          2. n
                                            niedobra RE: The Food Buster Sep 7, 2010 06:57 AM

                                            The Chart Room in Catumet over looking the harbor.....delish Chowder - just beyond. Blows Legal and other Boston restaurant's chowder out of the water , so to speak.

                                            -----
                                            Chart Room
                                            1 Shipyard Ln, Buzzards Bay, MA 02532

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: niedobra
                                              okra RE: niedobra Sep 8, 2010 06:25 AM

                                              How / why is it so much better? What are they doing correctly that the others are not?

                                              -"When I stop learning, bury me".

                                            2. j
                                              joth68 RE: The Food Buster Sep 7, 2010 08:50 AM

                                              I really like the Clam Box's chowder. The fish chowder at No Name is also excellent.

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

                                              No Name Restaurant
                                              151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: joth68
                                                c
                                                catsmeow RE: joth68 Sep 7, 2010 03:53 PM

                                                This past Sunday, I had the Clam Box's chowder for the first time. Loved it. In the past, Legal's had been my favorite. Unfortunatly, I was disappointed with their clams. They were very small and the bellies were almost non existent. Hopefully, it was a 1x thing. I've always found their clams to be the best.

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

                                                1. re: catsmeow
                                                  j
                                                  joth68 RE: catsmeow Sep 8, 2010 07:04 AM

                                                  I've been to the Clam Box four times and the clams have been small with almost no bellies each time. Very disapointing considering all the hype. Love the way they fry but I'll be sticking to scallops and chowder from now on.

                                              2. Niblet RE: The Food Buster Sep 7, 2010 06:14 PM

                                                The chowder at Hillstone (name changed from Houston's) is excellent, although there isn't much in the bowl and it seems a bit pricey to me. But it's rare that I crave chowder, so when I do this is the version that I want. The broth has exceptional flavor, and in the center is a small pile of smokey bacon and oyster crackers. It's not always on the menu; they have a daily schedule of soups and chowders and I think it's only on Sundays, but that's good because it's not so crowded then anyway. (also note that I'm not recommending this place in general; I especially recommend avoiding the drinks which include, at no charge, the insult of being weak and diluted). But I do recommend trying the chowder with a glass of wine on a Sunday.

                                                1. p
                                                  paulcooks RE: The Food Buster Oct 16, 2010 05:12 AM

                                                  I'm surprised no one has mentioned Jasper White's Summer Shack. Their chowder is amazing.

                                                  http://www.summershackrestaurant.com/...

                                                  -----
                                                  Summer Shack
                                                  310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                                  1. p
                                                    phatchris RE: The Food Buster Oct 16, 2010 05:28 AM

                                                    For a quick takeout fix, J Pace in the North End has a thin, milky clam chowder similar to Kelly's on Fridays for $5.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: phatchris
                                                      t
                                                      twentyoystahs RE: phatchris Oct 16, 2010 04:12 PM

                                                      mmmm that is good to know. thanks for the tip!

                                                    2. opinionatedchef RE: The Food Buster Oct 31, 2010 10:48 PM

                                                      My particular practice before ordering any soup- is to ask for a taste/spoonful. In so doing I have been saved many a disappointing experience and also been surprised and delighted. I was indeed surprised when Town Diner in Watertown- delivered to me a very tasty non-roux, non-cornstarch, authentic tasty clam chowder. I really enjoyed mine but next time i'll bring a pinch of thyme to add(an essential component for me.) Their soup changes every day, btw.

                                                      -----
                                                      Town Diner
                                                      627 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                                                      Show Hidden Posts