While we appreciate the artful composition (and contents) of Saltie Girl’s tinned fish spreads, we love the stripped-down simplicity of the fried, whole-belly Ipswich Clams, which arrive in a metal bucket that can barely contain them. Served alongside are the only accompaniments needed: two sizable lemon wedges and a mini-bucket of tartar sauce.
Where to Get Fried Clams in Boston This Summer
The Silkiest Soft Serve Ice Cream to Try This Summer in Boston
The Best Cups of Vietnamese Iced Coffee Around Boston
Much like a New England summer, fried clams are hot, worth waiting for, and always gone to soon. Here are few local seafood standards that sell standout fried clams—most made with local bivalves harvested in nearby Ipswich.
Sullivan's Castle Island
In their purest form, fried clams are beach concession fare, and this classic Southie spot is where to find such a sweet treat. Sullivan’s Castle Island is situated on a historic peninsula that’s now a state park with beaches on Pleasant Bay. Sully’s clean, crisp, and juicy Fried Clam Bellies packaged in takeout cardboard boxes are quite pleasant, too.
Not that we’d expect otherwise, but Barbara Lynch’s South End seafood restaurant B&G Oyster does a spot-on version of the local classic. The Fried Ipswich Clams are substantial and crispy without being chewy. A house-made tartar sauce is the perfect creamy, zingy foil to the crunch of the deep-fried seafood (and to the French fries served alongside it).
It may feel sacrilegious to order anything but the famous Maine Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster, but we recommend giving the Fried Ipswich Clams a shot (backup plan: order both). These breaded bivalves have just the right amount of batter, enough to keep them crispy without weighing them down or sacrificing any fresh, briny flavor.
This Boston-born mini-empire might be built on oysters (it’s named for a proprietary variety grown at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, after all), but Row 34—with locations in Fort Point, Burlington, and Portsmouth, N.H.—serves so much more. It boasts one of the best draft lists around, and also fries up a stellar pile of Fried Clams. You know what pairs well with fried clams? Beer.
Courthouse Seafood Restaurant
Courthouse Seafood has provided fresh seafood and Portuguese imports in East Cambridge since 1912. The market expanded in 1987 with a restaurant next door, featuring the most affordable, high-quality fried seafood dinners around (with excellent tartar sauce). A generous portion of Whole, Native Clams arrives with the friendly customer service that helps a local business survive for more than a century. (Note: Courthouse is taking a summer break and will be closed from June 28-July 12.)
Updated by Jacqueline Cain