“I’ll Have Fried Clams, Thank You!”

— Dip your French fries in tartar sauce, pretend they’re clams!

Fresh whole-bellied fried clams are delightfully addicting!

Raised at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, I grew up on big-bellied fried clams. The next town over was Seabrook. Before they put the nuke plant in, Seabrook was where the best clam diggers lived. This pocket community even spoke their own special kind of language of old English bubba, their families having lived there since the beginning of America.

Interestingly, in the effort to convince Seabrook’s three-person board of selectmen to approve the nuke plant, the original town meeting minutes show the power company describing how there’d be a slight degree of radio-activity (sic) — yep, that’s how they spelled it! — in the surrounding water. It would warm the bay and therefore the clams would grow bigger! What a scam!

My whole life I’ve been eating fried clams. From coastal Maine and New Hampshire, in Massachusetts including Ipswich, Essex, Revere Beach, Boston, the South Shore down to the Cape. When eating out, I never use a menu. Automatically, I order fried clams wherever they can be found.

Let’s now point-blank set the record straight. Based on my own extensive consumption and experiential research, it is Ipswich and Essex big-bellied fried clams that are the best anywhere on Planet Earth! There is no debate. Anyone telling you smaller clams or clam strips are more tasty is pulling on your leg and definitely trying to fool you as much as the power brokers once did the Seabrookers!

I’ll never forget: “Next time, we’ll go to Woodman’s!”
I’ll never forget: “Next time, we’ll go to the Clam Box!”

I lived in Boston/Cambridge for 20 years. Over past decades, one of Boston’s best places for authentic fried clam identity and consumption was the now-closed No-Name Restaurant, located on a wharf in the recently-created Seaside District.

The famous No Name always had a long line of seafood adherents. However, you could get your clams quicker, and beat the long line, by telling the door host you’d be eating at the bar — it always worked!

In the Metro Boston, the old Kelly’s Landing at the end of L Street in Southie, Kelly’s Roast Beef at Revere Beach and and Kelly’s Landing in Weymouth were always reliable. As were Tony’s and The Clam Box at Wollaston Beach. In my humble opinion, great fried clams remain within the domain of working people … except they now cost an arm and a leg!

Legal Sea Foods, though corporate, has always been renown for excellent fried clams. And, for sure, upscale places like Jimmy’s, The Haborside and esteemed lobster-eating establishments had great clams also. But here is what I think about all that:

Did you know there were Blue Laws in Maine and Massachusetts that you couldn’t feed slaves or inmates lobster more than twice a week? Funny how it goes, eh?

Contemporary Fried Clams South of Boston

Having grown up at Hampton Beach, when I hit age 50 I moved to Nantasket Beach (Hull, Massachusetts) in order to become ‘a kid again.’ I left desk jobs, driving cabs and playing street music behind and began doing manual labor, mostly as a painter of beach houses.

I’d spend my hard-earned money buying fried clams at the local beach establishments. In the early going the clams were pretty good at most places, but eventually they declined becoming smaller, stringier, belly deficient and lesser in quantity — this coupled to higher pricing! It got to a point whereby in the mid 2010’s only The Beachfront had great fried clams. Lobster Express on Steamboat Wharf had giant-sized clams. But it took ‘em a long time to finally get their batter mixed right. Shortly after accomplishing this? They sadly closed.

But there was always Kelly’s Landing in Weymouth. But they also closed. To me, the only reliable non-corporate place to get fresh wholesome big-bellied fried clams are Tony’s and The Clam Box in Wollaston.

Me? I like to eat them outside on a rock, along the beach, on a seawall or on a picnic table with a bay or ocean view. Now way-older, it’d be great if really great fried clams could be delivered? Sadly, the fried clam opportunities are becoming thinner and thinner each passing day.

Right now, my go-to fried clam place is Tony’s where I buy a quart of them when I can. living on a fixed income due to medical disabilities, what was once going to a rock club to hear a great original band perform has now morphed into me getting a rare opportunity visit to Tony’s. Each time I go, I insist they open a fried clam outlet at Nantasket Beach.

I’ll close on a bright note. Last time I went to Tony’s the line was extremely long on a mid-Saturday afternoon and the wait would have been too long for the person who was driving me. So, alternatively, we went to the Hingham Lobster Pound. I was impressed at both the quality and price, much better than it had been in previous visits.

PS: The tyrannosaurus-rex who graces the cover of my tobacco-rolling box, as you can tell by the below photo, also enjoys fried clams!

T-Rex Enjoying a Fried Clam from Tony’s!

Founder of Climate Change Band; former NH State Rep; Supporter of Bernie Sanders & Standing Rock!