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Jun 16, 2010 12:54 AM

Clam Chowder Recommendations?

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

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  1. Neptune Oyster does my favorite version in Boston.

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      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. 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

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

      2. 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

          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

            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

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


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                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. 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.

          Turner Fisheries Bar
          10 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

          8 Replies
          1. re: CocoDan

            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

              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.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                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

                  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

                    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

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

                  1. re: trufflehound

                    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.

                3. 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.