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Best Sea Food "Shack" CT

hey chowhounders! I'm located in south eastern NY very close to Danbury, CT...what are the best casual "authentic" seafood joints that arent way way far of a drive. Thanks all!

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    1. re: brookerme

      I guess it's always a case of when you go and what you order, but the whole clams we got were dry -- almost burnt, and the lobster in the roll, really dry and chewy. We were really expecting better after reading the Stearns recommendation. Burgers, dogs and fries are nothing special. While for us it's pretty close by, there are still enough alternatives for lunch around that I'm not inclined to go back.

    2. Demmo's in Southbury is good. I have been there a couple of times. Westfair in Westport is also good but it is really more of a fish market. My favorite is Lenny & Joe's in Madison but that is not near Danbury. Jay

      1. I really think "The Clam Castle" in Madison is the type of place you would picture in your mind when someone mentions a clam/seafood shack. The fried seafood is some of the best I've ever had, fresh, light and crispy. Its my go to place when I want fried seafood.
        Not all that close to you but well worth the trip on a summer day and its only minutes from Hammonasset Beach State Park.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefstu

          My number one choice for more than 40 years

        2. Stowe's in West Haven or Lenny and Joe's in New Haven (new addition to their group but the food is the same. Both are right on the water. Stowe's is cash only, I think.

          43 Replies
          1. re: JenJeninCT

            Stowe's is cash only, in fact we're lunchiunbg there today.
            I have given terrible reviews to Lenny and Joe's in New Haven on this board. AND the New Haven location is in NO WAY a shack. There is no shack ambience, and the OP specifically asked for a JOINT.

            1. re: bagelman01

              Lenny and Joe's has served me the best fried scallops I have ever had. Period. Service is courteous, friendly and efficient. While I agree there is no "shack ambiance", it is nothing if not casual, and an outside table by the water eliminates any need I might have ever had for an authentic atmosphere- especially if it's 7:30 and Stowe's closed at 7.

              1. re: JenJeninCT

                Agree wholeheartedly, JenJen! I love the fried scallops at Lenny & Joe's, too. Haven't been to the new location, but stand by your recommendation. Here's a pic from a few years back, accompanied by the cole slaw I also love so much. :)

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  we had lunch at Stowe's today (1pm) they were jammed. MIL had the whole belly clams, excellent, wife had strips, also wonderful. I had the oysters-Superb, and NOT available at Lenny and Joe's (not on the menu).
                  We were downton New Haven visiting my mother first and had to pass New Haven branch of Lenny and Joe's. Wife asked aloud if we wanted to eat there and MIL and I immediately cried out NO. MIL likes the Madison location, but has given the New Haven Lenny and Joe's 3 tries and they struck out. I gave up on them after my first visit.

                  This season's pricing at Stowe's for fried seafood boats (including fries or slaw is $10 including tax

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    When did they stop serving oysters at L&J's? I have no love for oysters, but my mom used to get them all the time.

                    1. re: kattyeyes

                      Oysters- raw and fried- are on the menu at 2 of the 3 L & J's, Including the new one in New Haven (old Leon's site". Although oysters in all incarnations are one of my favorite foods, I'm not a fan of L & J's fried. They just don't taste like anything at all. But, the scallops are always excellent, as is the catfish- and I am a big fan of their coleslaw, too. My DH appreciates that they have a full bar, and sometimes we both appreciate that they take cc's. Certainly I can love both Stowe's and L & J's?

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        they haven't had them in Madison for ages, and when we were at the New Haven location they were on menu but not available.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          We usually go to Westbrook. That must be the diff.

                          Me, I need to get down there and have myself a scallop roll.

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            The Glenwood in Hamden is not known primarily as a seafood shack, but I plan a full frontal assault on their lobster rolls and whole belly fried Ipswich clams soon, for a week or so.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              You should probably give them some sort of heads up! "ATTENTION GLENWOOD DRIVE-IN! INCOMING! INCOMING!" :)

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Best whole bellies (Glenwood) I've had this side of Five Island Lobster in Georgetown, ME.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Breakfast>Eggs at the Brownstone
                                  Lunch>Lobster Roll at Glenwood
                                  4PM snack> White Clam Apizza at Pepe's
                                  8:30 Supper> Whole Belly Clams at Glenwood.......

                                  Makes a great homecoming

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    Bagelman, you're a mind reader. Thursday arrival includes the Pepe's clam pie stop for supper, Friday AM is 2 over easy with sausage links and dry rye toast at the Brownstone, whole belly clams for lunch at Glenwood, lobster roll and onion rings for supper. This pattern repeats.

                                2. re: kattyeyes

                                  Mission accomplished--still as good as ever and busy as ever, too!

                        2. re: JenJeninCT

                          we took our youngest to camp in Madison yesterday (can't belive she's old enough to be on staff, I started thre 48 years ago).
                          Oldest daughter insisted on supper at Lenny and Joe's Fish Tale. As you know I'm not a fan, but as today is the oldest's birthday I agreed.

                          Wife had the lobster roll. It looked perfect, lots of big claw meat, a nicely toasted roll, only $15.50 fir the roll.

                          Daughter had the Fish and chips dinner and was happy.

                          I ordered a side order of the scallops. They looked and tasted great, BUT when they are $13.75 for a side order I expect to get scallops. I bit into a small round fried piece and found an onion inside. Turns out that there were 7 round fried onion pieces in my side of scallops. I pushed them to the side and took the plate back to the counter and asked for an order that was all scallops. the reply: "the fried onions are a bonus, no one shorted you scallops."

                          Good food, stupid employee, I won't be going back no matter what the daughters ask,

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            Maybe they're onto you!!! No onions in my scallop roll, bagelmeister. ;)

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              gee, I was undercover. daughter placed, paid (with my cash) and picked up the order.
                              I did however go across to Clam Castle for dessert.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                You know I'm teasing you! I wonder if it's the diff between Madison and Westbrook. For DECADES, my mom and her boyfriend were L&J's regulars in the W'brook location. I never had a bad meal. Mind you, what this kat eats at a seafood restaurant is a short list, but still!

                                What was dessert at Clam Castle? More scallops?! Isn't that where everyone's friend Jacques is said to frequent?

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  Dessert was scallops and whole bellies, and yes Jacques id often spotted there.

                                  I think your comment about Madison vs. Westbrook is correct, just as one can't get oysters in Madison even if the month has an R in it.

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    And to put a cherry on top, coming out of New Haven tonight, I zigged when I shoulda zagged, wound up getting back on the highway near IKEA...and what to my wondering eyes..."Lenny & Joe's," the new New Haven locale. I smiled and thought of you. :) I like their signage. It reminds me of Jimmies of Savin Rock. That was probably intentional.

                                    Honestly, given my mom's love for Jacques, we really should make it a point to get to the Clam Castle sometime soon. Fried scallops there, by the way, you recommend, obviously...any other "don't miss" items?

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      The last time I was there the fried shrimp was some of the tastiest I've ever eaten, i'm also partial to the onion rings.

                                      1. re: chefstu

                                        Mmmm, onion rings! This is sweetening the deal for me! Thank you. I'll tell the seafood lover about the shrimp. :)

                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                          there is only one 'fish' item I don't like there and it's the chowder.

                                          I am partial to RI style. They serve a NE style NOT thickened with flour. Great taste, but when served it looks like a oil spill of butter laying atop a cream island. Just doesn't appeal to me.

                                          1. re: bagelman01

                                            Good to know--thanks! Conversely, I would probably love it. The only reason I ever ate oyster stew was for the butter and cream. ;) MOO.

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              That is exactly what it looks like........................

                                              BTW> off topic, had lunch with Veggo today at Pepe's He had a white clam apizza that looked and smelled wonderful. I had a New Haven Apizza-sauce and grated Romano cheese only. He'll have clams at Glenwood later today.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                Hope you two had a nice lunch--sounds great!

                                    2. re: bagelman01

                                      We went last week. My mom said--wait for it--she liked her lobster roll EVEN BETTER THAN Lobster Landing, which has been her favorite for a few years running now, with Lenny & Joe's a close second

                                      I joked they must go in on cole slaw and split with Lenny & Joe's as it both looks and tastes EXACTLY the same--and that's a compliment. :)

                                      I had a scallop roll. It was quite tasty. Admittedly, hard to compare when you're not tasting on the same day. I certainly had no complaint about my scallop roll. Is it that I'm accustomed to having them at L&J's, so I give the nod to them? It's too unfair to compare, so I'll just say it's certainly at least as good as L&J's.

                                      Neither of us cared for the onion rings--maybe we just hit an off day on those.

                                      Oh, and we tried the lobster bisque--which for me, the non-lobster lover who just loves cream--very creamy, not much lobster. We've had better at Johnny Ad's in OS.

                                      Service--gotta say, L&J's outshines the Clam Castle by far. People smile and greet you from the time you put your name in for a table, till you're served at Lenny & Joe's. At the Clam Castle, you order and they wander about trying to figure out whose order they're trying to deliver. They don't even give you a number so you can wave and let 'em know, "That's us!"

                                      Overall, I'm sure the lobster lover will be back. And I wouldn't have any issue tagging along. :)

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        Going to Madison this afternoon to bring daughter home for a day off from working at camp. She asked to stop at Stowes on the way home for supper. Wife saw your post and pix and now insists we stop at CC before camp for a lobster roll snack. Stowe's for supper @8.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          :) All right! :) A great day for lunch and dinner out, that's for sure! Stay cool, bagelpeople!

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            I saw those pics and boy am I hungry. I'm heading up to the beach as soon as I finish work in the city this afternoon and I think I will drive a bit further and go to CC. Thanks for the reminder. Have not been there in a while.

                                            1. re: Bkeats

                                              :) Bummer you have to work today.
                                              For comparison's sake, here's a photo of the L&J's scallop roll:

                                              I still think they were probably equally tasty, but even visually, this one looks better to me.

                                            2. re: kattyeyes

                                              So, the best laid plans of mice and men....................

                                              Daughter called and said they wouldn't let her leave work until 7:30PM, so no way to be at Stowe's in West Haven before they close at 8.
                                              I-95 was backed up from Branford to Milford and there was no way I'd get in the middle of that, so no CC before getting to camp.
                                              I went up the parkway to Hamden, caught I-91 south to RT 80 and took 80 all the way to camp in North Madison. By 7:45 daughter and three bags of dirty laundry were loaded in the car (along with wife, MIL and me). Daughter asks for Lenny and Joes in Madison for supper. I groan and complain, but the ladies win (again). Standing room only at Lenny and Joe's.
                                              I place the order for wife, daughter and self with a 20 something male at a register: 2 lobster rolls, NO! I don't want a combo with lobster bisque it's 93 degrees in here, a side order of scallops and an order of onion rings, 2 diet cokes. The kid says it's cheaper if you get the scallop dinner than the 2 sides, so I agree. He tells me it will be $70.83 and I pay.
                                              I am waiting for the order and look at the receipt and see I've been charged for TWO scallop dinners, so I get back on line to see the same cashier. he calls the manager and says I did it again, got to make another refund.

                                              10 minutes later number is called and the lobster rolls are on the tray and a scallop dinner with fries. I say it's wrong, I ordered onion rings. OK we'll fix it. takes another 10 minutes to get onion rings and I insist on fresh lobster rolls, at $15.50 plus tax each no one wants cold lobeter roills. Takes another 10 minutes to get the total correct order. The lobster rolls and onion rings were very good, the scallops were over-fried and almost burnt--Blech!!! Lenny and Joes never fails to disappoint.
                                              We drove out of the lot and wife asked why I was turning left away from New Haven, I said we're going across the street to Clam Castle for good food. No crowd, accurate service. Lobster roll was $13.99 and moister than Lenny and Joes. Whole belly clams were perfect.
                                              Wife and daughter agreed to NEVER force me to go to Lenny and Joe's again, MIL did not concur. Told my wife next time your mother wants Lenny and Joes make it a ladies day out.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                You really ought to try the Westbrook location. After all this, I know you won't, and it's that much farther from home base for you. But we never have the issues you described. EVER. And my mom and her beau went faithfully just about every week since I was in HIGH SCHOOL (a.k.a. a LONG time ago). Serious biz...sorry to hear you had such a crappy time. Almost feels like you have some negative aura when you go to L&J's...and you draw this upon yourself. Only half kidding! ;P Like Pigpen, but with bad vibes instead of dirt. HA HA HA! You know I like to give you a hard time.

                                                I'm glad you consoled yourself at Castle du Clam. :) It' s also cool you were able to do a same-day comparison of lobster rolls. Clam Castle--the lobster roll winner for the CT shoreline!!!

                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                  Next week we're taking 25 yo daughter to Mystic. Bought her the Belufa Encounter for her birthday. Will give the Westbrook location a try. It already has one redeeming factor, oysters.
                                                  My opinion is the L&J Madison can get away with bad service, mistakes, mediocre food because they are the closest food to Hammonasset. I've never once had a good experience there.
                                                  When I finally got the tray last night with the fresh lobster rolls and the scallops with the onion rings, I asked the counter girl what happened to my lemon. She nastilly replied, "you have to ask for it" I told the little B*tch "it was already on the plate you took back to get the onion rings I ordered" Total incompetency, making money in spite of themselves.

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    What a great birthday present! I send good vibes for a much better meal in Westbrook. And yes, my mom loves the fried oysters there.

                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                      When my wife told me that she thought a Beluga encounter would be a great birthday gift for our now 25 year old, I responded:

                                                      "I know she loves vodka, but I didn't think she ate caviar."

                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                          Made it to Clam Castle on Saturday. Hot hot day. Scallops and onion rings for me, bellys and strips for the rest of the family. It was so good. Stayed inside at the table right in front of the ac that was blowing mildly cooler air on us. Only thing I would have liked to have was a cold beer. Thanks kattyeyes for reminding me about CC.

                                                          Bagelman, I'm with kattyeyes on preferring the Westbrook location of L&J to the Madison one. Madison is always a zoo. Only reason to go to L&J over CC is to get oysters and a beer. Otherwise CC has both beat on the fried scallops and clams.

                                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                                            as I've posted repeatedly the ONLY reason I go to L&J at all is to honor the request(s) of the female members of the family (I'm the sole male).
                                                            Friday nite, after a disaster at L&J, I had great food at CC.
                                                            Today, wife and I will lunch at Stowe's.
                                                            I have jury duty this week, which should be a great waste of time. Lawyers in CT are not exempt, but when they call me to the first panel and the judge sees me and knows I practice before him/her I'll get sent right home. BUT I'll take the rest of the day off and promised wife a day on the east shore, so we'll try Westbrook L&J, as oysters are also her seafood of choice.

                                                            As to the cold beer, L&J in Madison is a BYOB place, I saw a number of bottles of wine on tables. At CC when I eat outside, I have often supplied my own beer from a cooler in the car.......................

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              I also prefer the Westbrook L&J over Madison. Had their Lobster mac&cheese for the first time a few weeks ago. Not bad, but took the boiled potatoes home to prevent starch overload. Grandkids didn't eat their cole slaw, which was a shame, its good, so I got to take those home as well.

                                                              1. re: DonShirer

                                                                :) Extra cole slaw to take home is a bonus! And, whoever cares, I like to eat on the "porch"--the screened-in area. It's got that whole summer shack feel to it.

                                                                1. re: DonShirer

                                                                  Was in New Haven at lunchtime with the grandkids and the females voted for Lenny & Joes shoreline location. Had a very enthusiastic waitress who seated us next to the windows. They had fish, I had the scallop and clam strip special. Everyone very satisfied and pronounced it as good as the Westbrook location. Of course the view was much better very un-shack-like.

                                                                  1. re: DonShirer

                                                                    What a beautiful day for it, Don. :D Definitely a nicer view. And to even things out, we went to SS&S Co. :D Nice to hear a good review for New Haven. It's a shame we don't have more waterfront dining here given our rather long coast!

                          2. So this weekend we went to the boat show at the marina in Westbrook. Wanted to get fried clams. Drove by Clam Castle and sadly it hasn't opened yet.

                            So we went to Fishtails. Gaak. Have not been there in forever and we were reminded very starkly why. The fry job was done so poorly that the crust was falling off and there was a puddle of oil on the bottom of my plate. Not a grease film, but a literal puddle of oil that was oozing out of my food. None of us finished the food. Large portions of unappealing fried seafood. At least they had beer. Can't wait for CC to open for the season.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Bkeats

                              HA! Funny coincidence. We went to the (Westbrook) Lenny & Joe's last night, too. Scallop roll for me (always EXCELLENT); oyster roll without the roll for my mom. If you can't get to CC next time, try a scallop roll. You won't be disappointed. I've had them at CC and L&J's and they're equally good. Oh, and birch beer, too, how often is that on the menu? NOM NOM.

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                Katty, you inspired us. On Thursday we went to Lenny's for lunch. I had your mom's special, and likewise skipped the roll. The oysters were small, sweet and exquisite. My sister had a clam roll that was so overflowing that I also got about a third of those -- also very good but not as tender, sweet and juicy as the fried oysters. (We actually skipped our regular WW meeting to go there with my sister and b-in-l so it was doubly enjoyable).

                                1. re: junescook

                                  HA, I love your story even more to think you skipped your meeting to go to Lenny & Joe's instead! :D

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Lenny's on Indian Neck actually, their favorite, though L&J's is high on my list too, all the kind of places we don't have here in Litchfield County. I'll have to conjure up an Ikea shopping list to rationalize that trip next time.

                            2. i wonder what these "shacks" are doing about menu prices? Raw material has gotten to all time highs.Genuine dry sea scallops are close to $25.00 a lb, retail, whole belly clams are always very expensive.and shrimp have doubled in price in the last year due to diseases in the ponds. Either they're raising menu prices, cutting portion sizes or buying lower quality seafood.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: zackly

                                Prices have gone up. A plate of fried clams/shrimp/scallops isn't a quick cheap meal just because you get it at a "shack". Still a relative bargain in my mind, but dinner for 4 can quickly approach triple digits. It ain't Red Lobster.

                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  There is a partial solution to the price increases, it's called lunch.

                                  Wife and MIL are partial to Chowder Pot in Branford. They go about 2:30 on an afternoon for a late luncheon.
                                  The fried oyster, whole belly clam or shrimp platters with salad or cole slaw and full waitress service at a nice table are substantially less than the paper plate serve your self at L&Js, and the food is better in their opinion. The current price for lobster rolls is $2 less than L&J as well.
                                  If they go dinner time the prices for the same portion is about $4 more. I don't know about Sundays, but the luncheon menu is available on Saturdays as well as M-F

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    This is curious. At a nearby restaurant here in FL, the 2 crab cake, hush puppies, and 2 veggie lunch is $2 less than the same items on the dinner menu. Same everything.

                              2. Pizza Palace in Old Saybrook,Ct is a place we found last year.It has the best fried clam platters I have ever had.Big portions with french fries,and thin delicious onion rings.
                                I mean BIG PORTIONS!!.
                                I love whole belly clams,and my girlfriend loves the strips.I have been to the other"famous?" places along the coast.They don't compare,and are usually overpriced because of their following.
                                Try this place.
                                You wouldn't think it as you pull in the driveway,but trust me,you won't regret it.Very nice owners too.

                                1. Ordered lobster rolls at City Fish in Wethersfield a few weeks ago and they were $25 a piece!! Good but not $25 good!

                                  1. The Crab Shack on the Hartford/West Hartford line (right next to O'Porto's...it's the old Tinkers seafood shop). The irony of decent prices inland (the shore generally caters and prices themselves to the city suckers that pay premium for cutsie park picnic table shoreline seafood). Seafood chowder (kitchen sink with traditional cream base) and the fried stuff is all outstanding. Seafood market as well.

                                    Also good but a little pricier is the City Fish market in Wethersfield on the Silas Dean Hwy. Great market as well..they supply a lot of the eateries around Hartford.