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Doing the North Shore drive with wife and kids tomorrow. Best clam shack !!!

I Have done them all. Woodman's, the Village, Clam box, I have not been to any of these places within the last five years. If you had to pick a place for lunch where would you go. We will have a three and five year old in tow. Looking for best quality and best price. I still freak out when I see a small clam side order costs $ 30.00. Reminder, looking for places past Burger King on Rt.128 North. My wife will want to go there.

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  1. I like Farnhams for clams and The Village for more of waiter service seafood restaurant. Both in Essex.

    1. Clam Box hand down. Farnhams uses Cains mayo for their tarter sauce which I find to be too sweet. Woodmans has way too many flys and The Village's tasted unseasoned and bland the last time I was there. I also find the atmosphere at the Village to be depressing when it's a beautiful day outside.

      13 Replies
      1. re: catsmeow

        Essex has flies, too. How do they keep 'em away from the Clam Box? I haven't been to the Clam Box in a couple of years, 'cause the lines are always so long.

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            Nope. As an old friend says, "It's your mind; only you can change it." Much to my surprise, with regards to fried clams, I have become a Choate Bridge Pub convert. Choate and Clam Box both do an excellent job with their coating,with the cleanliness of their frying fat, and with using sweet and fresh local clams. For me, the difference is that Choate must use a vegetable oil, and Clam Box must use a tallow/ beef fat. The fat affects the taste but mostly the mouthfeel, both during your meal and after you've eaten, as the tallow lingers on. ymmv.

              1. re: justbeingpolite

                nope. see above. Science Chick recently called them and they use a combo of veg oil and beef fat.

                1. re: Madrid

                  Yup I saw that after I'd posted. My bad, I thought I'd read a few places how they changed their vegetable oil regularly, and read that it was just veggie oil. Wrong, if we can trust Science Chick, and whoever she spoke to.

                  1. re: justbeingpolite

                    I see no reason not to trust Science Chick or the employee she spoke with at Clam Box. In addition, if you do a thorough google search for Clam Box, you will find several (or more) articles that do specifically mention the vegetable oil/beef tallow mix at Clam Box. It's always best to confirm with the restaurant itself, given that practices often change over time.

                      1. re: Science Chick

                        As a creationist, I'm having a problem with it.

                        1. re: justbeingpolite

                          ???Huh? Perhaps your posts would be better served if they reflected your nom de plume a bit more closely

                          1. re: Science Chick

                            Just joshing you, SC.
                            No harm meant, in fact, I'm usually a big fan.

                            Also, I was a paleo-anthropology major as an undergrad, many years ago.

                            and i loves me a batch of lard cooked clams!!!

                            1. re: justbeingpolite

                              You are therefore cordially welcome to eat my share! ;)

                              Actually, I am totally bummed because I have wanted for a long time to suck it up and wait in line for those much acclaimed Clam Box clams. Sigh....it is not to be!

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                Grins..not to worry, SC...there are other choices!

                                While I do have my own personal preference for the type of oil used, I can tell those talking about an "off-taste" that 90% of the time it is either in the Age of the Oil being used or the type of breading. Also, the heat level of the oil, but that is more about sogginess

                                The choices for me (in order) are:

                                1. The choice of Clam (way out in Front!)
                                2. The age of the oil
                                3. The type and amount of breading
                                4. The heat of the oil..A bit on Clams.....deadly on Onion rings!
                                5. The type of oil

          2. Gotta say, I'm still a fan of Essex Seafood. You'll see it on the left on 113, before you get to Farnhams or Woodmans. When the lines are out the door and down the street at either of those two, you can walk in and be one or two from the counter at Essex Seafood. A real plus with small kids getting ready to melt down. When they're on, the clams are as good as anyones (i think they still fry 'em in lard, yum!) The decor is not the best, but is classic clam shack. I think they've upped their tartar sauce this year as well.

            1. You can call ahead and order at the Clam Box which might come in very handy with small children. If you call about 20 to 30 minutes before you got there your order will be waiting and you can skip the line.

              If you haven't been in five years don't get too hung up on the prices and just enjoy the food. Life is short.

              3 Replies
                1. re: Gabatta

                  They don't answer the phone when they are busy.


                  1. re: chuck s

                    I'm not sure what constitutes busy, but both times we have called on weekends (once this summer and once last) they answered and had the order ready. YMMV.

                2. The Causeway on 133 in Gloucester has really tasty fried clams at only $19 a plate. Full service restaurant and it's byob with a liquor store next door. Portions are huge and well worth the trip.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: drewinmrblhd

                    I haven't been to The Causeway myself but have always heard good things about it from friends living in the area. I've also been to Lobsterland a few times and have always enjoyed it.

                    1. re: drewinmrblhd

                      Still BYOB but the liquor store next door has closed.

                    2. Ok, we did not wind up eating but, this is what we witnessed. The kids were being lets just say were a bit unruly. Village, no line at all, Farnham's very small line, Woodman's large line but if we were going to stop we would have,Clam box line around the building. No way in Hell could we do that with two young children. Are the masses asses or are the waiting for a good reason? Will have to try later in the season on a week day. Thank you all for the information. We did not use it today but, we will in the future.

                      Thank you so much, Joe and family.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: josephlapusata

                        If you're on the North Shore, Clam Box is the best option: in this particular case, the wisdom of crowds is exactly correct.

                        Also: weekdays, particularly in the afternoon, are easier. Just don't go around 2:30 when they're changing the oil.

                        Although those who really want the best clams head south to Hingham Lobster Pound.

                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                          I'm with you on the Hingham Lobster Pound. I also love their lobster rolls. Been going there for many, many years. Hard to beat.

                          1. re: CocoDan

                            Me too! Since I was a kid with my parents.

                          2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                            Here here for the HLP, the clam roll (on a hamburger bun, but who's counting?) is really quite nice to!!! We go to Nantasket beach for a few hours then have some clam rolls before heading home....for the record, HLP is SOOOO much better than Jake's Seafood, a place that's gone downhill since I was a kid.

                            1. re: devilham

                              Today, I was down Nantasket and got a small clams at Jakes because I wasn't done with the beach yet. Surprisingly, they were really good. Not chewy and like elastic bands at all which is what I've gotten stuck with at several places this summer. I was surprised that they gave me prepackaged Kens tarter sauce. I would have thought they'd have their own.

                              1. re: catsmeow

                                happy you weren't dissapointed as I was when I went last year. Mind you I had fond memories of Jake's from childhood, one of the first places I tried real fried clams (as opposed to a, albeit guilty pleasure, HoJo's clam roll). Last time we hit Jake's we got sad food at to high a price, memory does make the heart grow fonder they say, maybe I just misremember it from my youth

                          3. re: josephlapusata

                            I'll second justbeingpolite on Essex Seafood. If you don't want to buck the crowd at Clambox give them as try. Always fresh and delicious and they have indoor seating and some outside tables as well. Very retro and New Englandy. The Village isn't the place for kids although a friend and I really enjoyed our meal on the patio this Saturday.

                            1. re: mtm7654

                              I've only been to Essex once, but it was a really bad experience. Incredibly long wait for food after order, and everything had a really bad, old oil taste. Greasy....yuck! We threw more than half of everything away, which I *never* do!

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                That's a shame. Maybe we're usually there earlier in the day when everything is fresh but I've never experienced that.

                                1. re: Science Chick

                                  keep going up 128 ,and Lobsta Land is right on the highway, in Gloucester.

                                  Personally i think fish should be left in the ocean and i can keep the 100 dollars i am going to pay for a lunch in which the leftovers are actually disgusting, but never mind that now! My Brother in law is a huge fan and its the only place i have eaten with him in several years.

                                  Full bar, competent fry job, ok views, different things for fish haters,( chicken piccata, decent burger, competent salads)

                                  Multiple rooms so kids can be out of the fray.

                                  multiple kids? i said Full bar, right?

                              2. re: josephlapusata

                                If you decide to go to CB, you can call your order in ahead and yes there is a reason for the long lines, it's the food! BTW - the line are longer at 2pm, that's when they change their oil.

                              3. Next time, you may want to check out the Lobster Pool on the outskirts of Rockport. It's a casual 'eat in the rough' kind of place, and kids have fun climbing the rocks along the cove.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: gracenote

                                  I ordered the lobster pie last time I was at the Lobster Pool a couple of weeks ago. A bit light on the lobster but I liked it anyhow. Bits of picked lobster meat with a crumbly layer of crumbles (if that makes sense). I liked that it came with a cuke and tomato Greek-like salad on the side.

                                  1. re: digga

                                    Best thing is the view, great for the kids to run around on the grounds. If you're there an a Thurs evening they have a Smores party.

                                2. We have been liking Bob Lobster in Newbury across from the airport on the way to Plum Island.

                                  Their clam roll is outstanding and huge. Not greasy and very light batter.

                                  19 Replies
                                  1. re: marilu

                                    Enthusiastic second on Bob Lobster. We ate there three times in the last two weeks. Had lobster, fried clams, and fried scallops - which are like candy. These are probably my favorite (second only to The Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich) for fried clams. It boggles me mind to see people standing in line at The Clam Box. All Ipswich natives know that The Choate Bridge is the place to go for clams. If you want to go a little further North to Bob's then you will be just as pleased. (Although on weekends around 5-6pm there is a bit of a line - doesn't wrap around the building however - probably about 10 people deep.)

                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                        I guess then you don't go! :)

                                        Bob Lobster is not a pub, however. Choate Bridge is a pub on one side and a dining room on the other.

                                        1. re: Small Plates

                                          I agree about Choate Bridge. One of our favorites. Their clam roll is amazing. Although we don't always go their for that item, we just generally like the place.

                                          1. re: marilu

                                            I think Choate Bridge is cool but the one time I went, the tartar sauce came out of a packet and that's just wrong. Do they still do that? You also have to want to be in a dark bar as opposed to the more sunny clam shack feeling.

                                            While I too think Clam Box is the best, I've had good stuff at Farnham's and Essex Seafood but want to throw a never mentioned place into the mix: Ipswich Clambake. CB had a 30-45 min wait last weekend so we started driving toward Farnham's and figured we'd give this place just down the road a try. It was really good. Order at the front, one of the young gals brings your food. Lots of non fried choices that sounded good and were very reasonably priced.

                                            We got a small clam plate w/ 1 side for about $13.95, plus $3. Is everywhere charging extra for clams now? I hadn't heard of a problem but Ip Clambake did and Dube's in Salem added $2, which they say was posted but we never saw it. At least IC had it posted everywhere and told you when you ordered. Anyway, good fry job, medium sized bellies, decent amount for the smaller sized plate and we got the cucumber salad side. Also split a lobster roll which had no lettuce or celery on a grilled roll (no butter) with a side of great onion rings. Seats about 24 with a few tables outside, cramped parking lot in the back. Worth a shot for sure.

                                            1. re: total13

                                              Tartar sauce in the packet is a thing of the past. It has been at least 5-6 years since I have seen that.

                                              1. re: Small Plates

                                                As of a few months ago, they definitely serve pre-made tarter sauce. Ken's in a little round plastic thing w a cover.

                                                1. re: mohotta

                                                  That's the same crap that's served at Causeway.

                                                  1. re: treb

                                                    I'm willing to bet that most clam shacks serve a commercial tartar sauce of some sort. The only differences are whether they give you an individual branded container like that, or use a large bottle of tartar to either fill a large pump bottle for self-service, or fill up those small plastic cups they give you.

                                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                                      Well I eat mine either naked (the clams that is.not me) or with a spritz of lemon so tartar sauce never made a difference to me

                                              2. re: total13

                                                Don't understand the surcharge for clams, there's been no red tide this year and there's no shortage.

                                          2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            Choate is a great place but, not for kids. The OP has kids in tow.

                                            1. re: treb

                                              Not necessarily. We have been going with the entire family of my 5 brothers and sisters and our six nieces and nephews for years. We'd take over half the dining room - 4 booths, 4 in each. Wonderful memories from when our mom was alive - it was her favorite excursion. Bonus is the free popcorn from the popcorn machine. Highly recommend for families!! And service is wonderful too!

                                              1. re: treb

                                                If you don't sit in the bar area at the Choate I would think it would be fine for kids. Even in the bar I have never seen any issues although late night might be different, but I don't think a family with kids would be going late night.

                                                1. re: marilu

                                                  IMHO, a pub is not an appropriate atmosphere for kids.

                                                  1. re: treb

                                                    Not really a chowish issue, though, is it?

                                                    1. re: justbeingpolite

                                                      Maybe, ask the OP. Anywho, the OP asked for clam shacks, Chaote is not a clam shack.

                                                    2. re: treb

                                                      Well, while the word "pub" is in the name of the place - it is indeed a family restaurant with booths in a well-lit dining room, lovely service, and crayons for the kids. I would call that appropriate for family and children. There are two entrances as well (so one need not ever see the heathens drinking [gasp] in the bar)! It is not Chucky Cheese - so if that is what you are looking for, then yeah, it doesn't fill the bill.

                                                      1. re: treb

                                                        My son has been going to Pubs since he was 4. But not after 7pm.

                                            2. After reading CH raves for many years, we finally made it to Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich Center.Boy did we luck out w/ this waitress, Lisa, who was everything you would want a waitress to be. I love to think of visitors getting her to welcome them because she would make them feel so comfortable. Food was really good on the most part. Caesar salad just fine (dressing was surprisingly good for a bottled product (I'm guessing.)
                                              My fried clam plate had clams as good as any i've had at The Clam Shack (equal to the best i've ever had); sweet, not huge,lightly coated, very clean fry job w/ no greasy aftertaste.
                                              Their clams come from Ipswich Seafood and are dug only in Ipswich, fwiw. (Lisa said some clam places get theirs from VA and ME.)
                                              Onion strings were very good for battered onions, but i much prefer dredged onions.Potato salad was just weird- a bowl of BIG red skin potato chunks coated w/ mayo and onion.I brought it home to doctor. My Love enjoyed his cole slaw and lobster roll (cold; unfortunately they don't do warm w/n butter)but said it was nothing memorable.

                                              The only bad thing i tasted was a sampling of the horrifically awful clam chowder. Have you ever seen clam chowder hold its own shape?!Put a spoon in and it would not fall over. It looked as awful as it tasted. Maybe it came out of a package. A wicked thick blob of potatoes and clams; it reminded me of a
                                              painful memory of chipped beef in white sauce in Home Ec class long ago. The milk part of the chowder had a really off-putting taste like powdered reconstituted milk. (Lisa said the fish and seafood chowders, offered on other days, were good.)

                                              I know we will be returning there for the c

                                              lams. It was great having a comfortable sit down place to enjoy such fantastic fried clams, with china and cutlery. A fun and funky retro spot.
                                              p.s. Cash only.

                                              28 Replies
                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                Yes, I am one of the Choate Bridge ravers. I haven't had better. How was the tartar sauce? They went to packets for a while - then switched to a fabulous version - not sure if house made or not - but a really good version nonetheless!

                                                1. re: Small Plates

                                                  Love, love, love Choate Bridge. Dining room is family friendly and have never seen any bad behavior in the bar area, but have only been there during lunch.

                                                  1. re: Small Plates

                                                    no idea. never eat that stuff, only lemon, lots of lemon!

                                                  2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                    We found ourselves at the Clam Box today for 4pm lunch and I admit it feels funny to say this, but , as of today,similar to that new expression "___ is the new ____" (Orange is the new Black, etc)Choate Bridge Pub is the new Clam Box. I preferred the dredge on the Clam Box onion rings, compared to the batter on those at Choate, but the clams were a different story. Those at Clam Box are obviously fried in a medium that includes tallow/ beef fat, and it leaves a coating, a textural residue in your mouth. But the clams at Choate (equally sweet and tender) are clean through and through. No oftertaste or mouthfeel, so i'm guessing all-vegetable oil is used. Beautiful. So thx again CHs; 2 new converts!

                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                      Thanks, OC....as someone who doesn't eat meat, but does eat a little fish/seafood occasionally, I am happy to know about the possibility of Clam Box using beef fat/tallow.

                                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                                        Our you just contact the restaurant itself rather than taking the word of someone who may well have no idea what she's talking about.

                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                          Agreed, Jenny....funny, I never considered that places still used animal-based fats in their fryers. I foolishly assumed that everyone these days uses vegetable oil. With that in mind, I *DID* call Clam Box in Ipswich and, sure enough, they do use a mixture of vegetable oil and meat-based fat.

                                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                                            Yeah, it's actually pretty well documented that they use both, although I agree that it should be made plainer still for situations such as yours. (I seem to recall that McDonald's got into huge trouble in India for using tallow, for obvious reasons.)

                                                            Of course, claiming, as someone has done, that the use of a beef/vegetable mix automatically makes an inferior product absent personal reasons for not wanting to consume beef fat is a bit silly, but that's where a "there can be only one" mindset leads, I'm afraid.

                                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                              That's why there are different place for different tastes. A few years back, we tried Essex Seafood and felt really "ill" after eating there, in a way we couldn't define (not out-n-out sick...I'm not suggesting food poisoning or anything at all...just off somehow). Maybe they use tallow as well and it didn't set with our veggie tummies??!!

                                                              1. re: Science Chick

                                                                Not necessarily. Could also be that the thermostat was out of whack that day and frying at slightly too low a temperature, which leads to more oil in the food. Whenever I eat something too oily, I definitely get pretty queasy shortly afterwards.

                                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                  We actually detected a "taste" that was off-putting to us...at the time we attributed it to oil that needed changing. It was more of that ilk vs. the too-greasy-low-temp-oily vibe. Believe me, I know that one too....my Israeli husband makes a mean homemade falafel and we are fanatical about the oil temp for that very reason! ;)

                                                                  1. re: Science Chick

                                                                    so, is Choate Bridge def veggie oil? And is the coating light or with crunchy bits that my teeth don't like?
                                                                    Also, to Science Chick, wondering what clams you have had and liked that have neither meat oil or made you feel sick? Also sny other fish recs north of boston that you like?
                                                                    Also, I have found most clams lately even if tasty and well done, to have mushy-ish or mealy bellies, but memory recalls bellies being more squirty/juicy? What causes the difference and which are Choates?
                                                                    A couple people I know just recommended Blue Marlin..Don't even know if they have clams, and also Windward. Any recs from here?

                                                                    1. re: chompie

                                                                      she who chomps, excuse me for stepping in, but i don't think Scchick has eaten at Choate; I was the one who revived this thread because i wanted to laud Choate. Light coating, no hard bits IME.Also bellies not mealy, just regular (my word) but not squirty. I'm guessing you'd have to ask a clammer your stomach texture question.Without being a marine biologist, I would offer that the texture of the tummies must have to do directly with what the little fellas eat; and weather/season must be a big part of that. Choate buys from Ipswich Shellfish and the clams are local. I found them very fresh, and sweet.Choate will be our go-to place now. We might also just try the recommended clams at Agawam Diner too(if they use veg. oil); i liked their coconut cream pie v much, and their friendly waitresses, when we got take out CCP there this week. I've also always wanted to try Farnhams because of the lovely view onto the marshes, but there were, as i recall, enough CH 'nays' to keep me from trying it.

                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                        Try Farnham's- I'd rank them in the high second tier- just below Clam Box and Choate, as you say. They are way better than Woodman's, Essex Seafood, and the Village. I know, not a great level of comparison there.

                                                                        At certain times of the year they have cod cheeks, which seem to be a prized delicacy.

                                                                        1. re: gracenote

                                                                          Farnhams clams are good...not as good as the Clam box. They are a bit soggier...not as crisp. The biggest problem i have there is that they use Cains mayo in their tarter sauce, and I don't like Cains mayo.

                                                                          1. re: catsmeow

                                                                            Agree, their tartar sauce is terrible.

                                                                        2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          ye who opinions, I expected you to step in.. it was kind of an 8 part question, in which I knew you had answers for many of them.. Thanks, we will have to try them soon! We've been eating more locally with car issues lately, so we usually go to Lobster Claw in N Reading for fried. Love their fried haddock, rings, shrimp and onionish tartar sauce.. Just had the clams and they were tender and tasty, just not quite juicy enough, and the scallops were a bit dense and bland but I find them the most reliable fried around here..Last time we tried Farnhams were disappointed.. Not as we had remembered it from years ago. Very surprisingly, we tried fried scallops at Dockside in Wakefield and have been consistently delicious. They taste like I remember fried scallops from childhood, Very light coating, probably just flour, melds with the scallop, not crispy, and very sweet and scallop tasting, and perfect density and big but not too big..And they have a nice salmon with bruschetta topping and good butternut squash and mashed...

                                                                        3. re: chompie

                                                                          Hey Chomps, last time I was at Choate, I believe the clams were done in veg oil. Also, Perwinkles in Essex has very good clams as well with a great view. Crisp light batter and good belly texture. I still prefer Clam Box over them all, those long lines aren't there for nothing. Best onion rings anywhere.

                                                                          1. re: treb

                                                                            thanks treb, so what style are the onion rings? do you think they have beef fat too?. Periwinkles sounds promising.. surprised I don't see the name around her much..Have you tried Blue Marlin?

                                                                            1. re: chompie

                                                                              Onion rings are a nice light batter, probably fried the same as their other seafood. Love Clam Box offerings as well as their fried scallops, which I enjoy. Haven't be to Blue Marlin in some time but, enjoyed it. Nice old school place. I liked Periwinkles, surprisingly light batter on their clams, really crisp. The clams were a good size, medium belly's, I'd say. The clam dinner was about 25, a generous portion of clams, they also have a clam app at about 20. Great views, free.

                                                                              1. re: treb

                                                                                Sub-par service with an attitude - also free. ;)

                                                                                1. re: Small Plates

                                                                                  I've never experienced such service. Possibly also not the thousands that return regularly.

                                                                                  1. re: treb

                                                                                    I am sure you and those thousands have had wonderful service - and for that I am truly envious - because the view is indeed nonpareil. However, we have had 4 abysmal experiences with service - in a row. My experience is what it is - sub-par service with an attitude. Maybe some day we will hit it right - we still must dine there because my sister lives a quarter mile down the road and it is the easiest go-to spot.

                                                                                    1. re: Small Plates

                                                                                      Did you let the manager know about your experience, they should know about your sub par service. I was just there a few weeks ago, everything was excellent.

                                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                                        No, I did not. I just attribute it to the way things are and have always been consistently with me - kinda' like going to Union Oyster House - my expectations are in the bucket because I have never had a reason to expect they would be otherwise and are managed thusly.

                                                                          2. re: chompie

                                                                            I think Bob Lobster in Newburyport does a fairly consistent job, and I also like Farnham;s and the Village as well. But when we REALLY want to feast, we keep going up to Wells, ME to Fisherman's Catch, where the fry job is spot on every time and the fish is always right-out-of-the-ocean fresh. All that said, I really can't comment on oil types, as I haven't ever inquired. So I could very well have been enjoying fry jobs done in animal fat for all I know. However, I will be investigating from now on and will report in whenever I learn something new.

                                                                      2. re: Science Chick

                                                                        What I've read is that only Woodman's and Essex Seafood still use ALL lard to fry their clams. Some others, apparently including the Clam Box, use a mix, while others (Farnham's) use all vegetable oil

                                                                  2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                    hey, thx for the benefit of the doubt, jo.
                                                                    I learned my fat attribution from a long CH thread on tallow and fried clams in MA.- that I read a few years ago.

                                                                    I don't know where you are coming up with your 'inferior' comment; in my 2 recent posts about Choate and CB, i never used a negative qualitative adjective to describe the CB product; i simply said we were new converts to Choate. Both put out top notch FrClams, but I have learned that I prefer a non tallow frying medium.
                                                                    Silly me.....

                                                            2. BTW..........those of you out and about this fall on the search for the almighty fried clam ( BLESS YOU), it is also apple time and I seem to remember some good cider and another delight, Homemade apple cider Donuts, are in the area! Think there is a thread on the donuts here on CH somewhere. Pick up your drink and dessert first before indulging in those fried mollusks!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                yes, lots of places offering cider donuts, apple picking and hayrides.