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Jul 17, 2013 06:40 AM

Clam cakes and Johnnycakes in Maine?

Of all the various local seafood specialties I've tried during my visits to Maine, one that I've rarely come across has been the clam cake.

Is the clam cake not really something that local Mainers eat? Is it more of a Southern New England specialty that's only offered at tourist traps to appease visitors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts?

I ask because the very small handful of places I've seen it on the menu in Maine, such as Red's Eats and The Sea Basket in Wiscasset as well as Ken's Place in Scarborough, have been tourist magnets. But whenever I go to off-the-beaten-path eateries, it never seems to be available.

For that matter, the only place I've seen johnnycakes has been at Red's Eats. This is definitely more of a Rhode Island specialty, right?

Any thoughts on the best places to get clam cakes and johnnycakes in Maine? Or are these foods better saved for visits to RI and MA?

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  1. I am sure there may be places that make clam cakes and johnnycakes in ME, but its more of a south coast MA and RI thing. I love that there are many specialty items from that area that you don't see elsewhere much.

    Best clam cakes I have had were at a dumpy fry shack in Warwick RI called Seven Seas Chowder House. I didn't care for the red or white chowder (thickened with potato and tasted more like pork than clams), but those clam cakes made me realize why people get excited about a clam donut.

    Blount's Seafood in Fall River MA makes good ones too - and they have a chourico version. Red and white chowder is good too.

    Evelyn's in Tiverton RI has decent clam cakes, but you can get clear (no dairy products added) chowder there to go with them.

    5 Replies
    1. re: LStaff

      Thanks for the insight, LStaff. I'm not surprised that these dishes are more of a RI/MA specialty, but wanted to make sure.

      I also appreciate the clam cake leads in RI and coastal MA, which will come in handy the next time I'm in that area.

      1. re: italianices

        Among other reasons for the regional nature of the dish clam cakes/fritters are usually made with quahaugs, which are a lot more prevalent on the South Shore of Mass and into RI.

        Ditto the type of flint corn that it used to make uber-traditional jonnycake.

        1. re: qianning

          Didn't know that, thanks.

          Do you think that the few Maine eateries who make clam cakes would use quahogs as well, or is it possible that they'd break from tradition and use a different variant of clam that's more common locally?

          1. re: italianices

            I would guess some sort of hard shell clam. Soft shell clams (steamers) don't lend themselves to chowder or fritter preparations, the texture and body structure are wrong. They grow a lot of "mahogany" clams in Maine, perhaps those or sea clams, and by no means am I saying there are no quahaugs north of Boston, just that as the shore line starts to change so do the predominant species, and what's traditional has a tendency to be what was accessible back in the day.

            1. re: qianning

              Thanks, that was very informative! Appreciate your insight.

    2. Definitely a SEMA/RI thing; not Maine. Johnnycakes have a wider acceptance, but clam cakes and clam fritters are almost exclusively South County RI and some parts of MA near Newport. Growing up on Cape Cod, the only place I could get clam fritters was at the local drive-in movie. Surprisingly, they were pretty good.

      Maine is lobster and other seafoods. A few places make awesome Whole Belly Fried clams. ( add Bob's in Kittery and Captain Simeon to your list)..but for the rest, wait until you take a trip south

      Oh.and hearty second on Evelyn's.....great clams, lovely fun spot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        Thanks FriedClamFanatic, appreciate your feedback.

      2. I've been doing some more research on this topic, and it appears that Schutty's Seafood in West Bath makes clam cakes. All of their fried seafood is supposed to be excellent, with more than a few people on other food sites raving about their fried clams in particular, so I'm thinking that their clam cakes could be the real deal.

        1. Just to add my two cents: I'm an RI native, and I would not think to look for clamcakes or jonnycakes in Maine. Same for RI-style chowder and stuffies.

          Fried whole-belly clams, yes indeed. But not the other stuff.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Bob W

            As a fellow native RIer, I will chime in that, though I love clam cakes, there is not much clam to be found in most examples, at least in my experience. The most memorable ones for me have been purchased from a beach food shack around noon time and scarfed down immediately, preferably accompanied by competently fried French fries, both made by some college kid on summer break, and a big cup of Del's Frozen Lemonade.

            1. re: digga

              People are always amazed/surprised/dissappointed by how little clam is in real clamcakes. It's just little bits.

              A few years ago I flew to RI for a short visit. My first stop was Iggy's in Oakland Beach. Since I had a coupon, I got a dozen clamcakes. For myself. Big mistake. LOL

              1. re: Bob W

                I was warned off of Iggy's. Unfortunately, I ended up at Chelas whose 3 clam cakes(fritters) had about 1/2 tsp of clam among them.

                I'm with Digga....give me the seasonal, slightly unhygienic shack that will at least give you a decent meal.

          2. Another one to add to the list:

            Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster in Freeport apparently also serves clam cakes. Not surprisingly, this place is very touristy, just like the places mentioned in the first post of this thread.