Part European-style boîte, part raw bar, with a little dash of clam shack, Saltie Girl specializes in all kinds of seafood. While we appreciate the artful composition (and contents) of tinned fish spreads and crudo, we love the stripped-down simplicity of the fried Ipswich Clams. These whole-belly delectables arrive in a metal bucket that can barely contain them, with the only accompaniments needed: two sizable lemon wedges and a mini-bucket of tartar sauce. It’s pure summer nostalgia served up on one of the hottest patios around Newbury Street.
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Much like a New England summer, fried clams are hot, worth waiting for, and always gone too soon. They are a staple of vacations on the North or South Shores, but you don't need to travel to enjoy this seasonal specialty. Here are few local seafood restaurants that sell standout fried clams around Boston, most made with bivalves harvested locally in Ipswich.
The South End seafood restaurant B&G Oysters is inspired by chef Barbara Lynch’s childhood trips to North Shore icons like Woodman’s of Essex and the Clam Box. Not that we’d expect otherwise from the James Beard Award-winner and Relais & Châteaux Grand chef, but she does a spot-on version Fried Ipswich Clams. Substantial and crispy without being chewy, these clams come with a house-made tartar sauce as a creamy, zingy foil to the crunch of the deep-fried seafood and French fries.
The Galway House
The Galway House in Jamaica Plain is an old-school spot: The kind of pub and restaurant where a long, always-full bar runs parallel to the vinyl booths, vintage ephemera decorates the walls, and the longtime servers call everyone “honey.” But there’s nothing tired about the seafood selection: It’s fresh and plentiful, served with your choice of two sides and an appetizer. The Fried Native Clams are a particularly good catch, featuring sweet, plump whole-belly clams with a crisp breading. Start with a cup of complimentary clam chowder and thank us later.
It may feel sacrilegious to order anything but the famous Maine Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster, but take the leap and you will not be disappointed. The Neptune Johnnycake and Acadian Redfish and Chips are must-tries sometime, but we recommend giving the Fried Ipswich Clams a shot ASAP. 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. Invented in Massachusetts in 1916 by Henry “Chubby” Woodman, this rendition of fried clams would do Chubby proud.
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 20-July 4.)
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, Portsmouth, N.H., and one coming soon to Cambridge—serves so much more. In fact, Shoestring Fries are one of our favorite things here, especially when piled high with a stellar sampling of Fried Clams. Row 34 also boasts one of the best beer lists in Boston, and you know what pairs well with fried clams? Beer.
Nightshade Clam Shack
With French-Vietnamese-influenced, chef’s-choice tasting menus, Lynn chef Rachel Miller is doing something totally unique at Nightshade Noodle Bar. From in-season sourcing of exotic percebes (gooseneck barnacles) to creating bites like Coconut Sticky Rice Pops with brown-butter tamarind pork floss, dinner here is a delicious adventure. Yet count us among the masses who lost our minds over her simple Fried Clams. Along with a famous Lemongrass Lobster Roll, these juicy, crunchy morsels—served up with coconut-ranch and spicy tamarind dips—are a cornerstone of the summertime, lunch-only, patio and takeout menu, Nightshade Clam Shack.
Updated by Jacqueline Cain