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8 Must-Try New England Clam Shacks

No summer road trip is complete without a stop at one – or all – of these iconic seafood destinations.

clam shacks

A sampling of the delicious offerings at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine. (Photo: Jennifer Bakos)

What’s the best recipe for a summer meal? Take one part fresh-off-the-boat seafood, one part sunshine, add a dash of ocean breeze, a squeeze of lemon and voila! Here are some of our favorite New England clam shacks. Share yours in the poll below.

Champlin’s Seafood Deck

Narragansett, R.I.

Located just steps off the docks of Point Judith, where all of the fishing boats full of that delicious calamari come in, is Champlin’s. The first floor is a seafood market where you can pick out your own lobster. The second floor is the Seafood Deck, where you can have it cooked. Champlin’s serves clam cakes, white, red and clear chowder, and all of the traditional clam shack fare. There’s also a shucked-to-order raw bar and an outdoor bar serving up killer mudslides.

Jim’s Dock

South Kingstown, R.I.

Jim’s Dock is closer to Champlin’s by sea than by land. Even though it’s in a different town, it’s a stone’s throw across Galilee Salt Pond Harbor to Point Judith. This BYOB restaurant is as casual as they come, and people regularly roll in from a day at the beach in their bathing suits and shorts. Don’t miss the interesting variations on calamari, and the Point Judith “stuffie” or stuffed quahog clam, a Rhode Island staple.

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The Clam Shack

Kennebunkport, Maine

The line can be long at The Clam Shack, which sits right on the bridge over the Kennebunkport River. That’s because a lot of people have tried the legendary fried clams in the over 50 years that the restaurant’s been open, and most come back for more. Order at the window and eat at one of the restaurant’s picnic tables or take it to a spot along the main thoroughfare of this idyllic Maine town. Don’t miss the signature lobster roll served on fresh bread.

Bob’s Clam Hut

Kittery, Maine

Bob’s Clam Hut has been feeding hungry crowds in southern Maine since 1956 and is so popular that the restaurant recently opened another location in Portland. Here, the whole belly clams come Bob’s style (breaded then fried) or Lillian’s style (dipped in egg wash, then breaded and fried, so they come out with a lighter texture and consistency), on a roll or as a dinner plate with fries and coleslaw. Combo platters, where you can combine clams with shrimp, scallops, fish or oysters, are where it’s really at. Instead of keeping tips left behind in tip cups, Bob’s donates that money to worthy causes; there’s even a form on its website to apply as a beneficiary.

Clam Box of Ipswich

Ipswich, Mass.

This North Shore food destination has been lining up crowds since 1935, and for good reason: Clam Box dishes out some of the best seafood in all of the Bay State. Choose from clams, scallops, shrimp, haddock, calamari or oysters – and in a nice change from tradition, you can pick onion rings in place of your fries or your coleslaw. Smaller “mini meals” are a nice choice, especially if you decide to add a seafood-only “box” or two for the table.

Larsen’s Fish Market

Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Larsen’s, in the tiny fishing village of Menemsha, isn’t really all that close to the ferry landings at Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Menemsha is part of Chilmark, which is almost as far west on the island as you can get. But the trip out to Larsen’s is worth it, especially at the end of the day, when the sunsets from the picnic tables are spectacular. The menu is small – lobsters, chowder, stuffed clams and scallops, steamers and mussels – but it’s as fresh as seafood comes and really makes the case for life’s simple pleasures.

Costello’s Clam Shack

Noank, Conn.

While you’ll get clam cakes in Rhode Island, you’ll get clam fritters in Connecticut. And if you order them at Costello’s, you’ll get to eat them right on the docks of the Mystic River and look out at views of three states at once. This BYOB restaurant is so close to the shore it offers directions by land and by water. The menu is slightly bigger than your average clam shack – it also has items like fish and shrimp tacos, and several salads – but if you don’t get some Noank-style clear chowder and some fritters for dipping, you’re missing out.

clam shacks

Lobster Landing

Clinton, Conn.

Lobster Landing sits on Clinton Harbor, squarely in the center of Connecticut’s coast, and overlooks the Long Island Sound. The small menu is written on a white board inside the photo-worthy seaside shack, and the owners welcome customers to bring anything they don’t serve. So while you should definitely order some steamers and the restaurant’s specialty hot lobster roll, you could, theoretically, bring a cooler with a dessert tucked inside. Just a suggestion.

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Which clam shack completes your summer? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Comments
  • MARIE G.

    I am very happy my favorite was not included in this list. It’s crowded enough already!

    Reply
    • Riley’s by the Seawall in Lordship, Stratford, Ct.
      Best Fish & Chips on the East Coast.

      Reply
  • GABRIELLE C.

    styrofoam and plastic are the two reasons I never go to Champlins. George’s is across the car park from them and serve delicious chowder in paper bowls. Responsibly run businesses earn my patronage.

    Reply
  • STEPHEN C.

    We love the Lobster Pot in Buzzards Bay, MA. Not on the water but great steamer, clams and lobsters. Also, Eastwind Seafood, just down the road on RTE 28 is fantastic. located on Buttermilk Bay, Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, MA

    Reply
    • Donna M.

      Lobster Pot in Buzzards Bay is my favorite also. I don’t feel like it’s truly Summer until I get my Steamers and Chowder from there. My favorite for 50+ years.

      Reply
    • Definitely one of my favorite seafood restaurants! Everything my spouse & I have had is divine.

      Reply
    • jean g.

      Bigelow’s on Long Island is the best! Written up numerous times as top rated!

      Reply
  • PAUL M.

    You can’t talk about Fried Clams without mentioning Woodman’s in Ipswich. It is a great place and they were the first to ever make Fried Clams way back in 1916.

    Reply
      • Well, before 1819, Paul would have been correct. Before that, Essex was Chebacco Parish in Ipswich. Rumors that the first European settler of the town was named Han Solo are just that – rumors.

        Reply
    • Woodman’s in Essex is THE most over rated lobster/clam shack ever!

      Reply
  • wendell_wooten@bose.com

    My wife & her girl pal went to Woodman’s & they said the claims were not good.

    Reply
  • jkolb54@verizon.net

    What about Westfair Fish and Chips in Westport Ct? Like a true New England clam shack close to NY!

    Reply
  • your a.

    Lobster Landing was a huge disappointment! Sullen staff serves expensive and unremarkable lobster rolls that are tasteless and soggy. Waited while others were served, needed to remind them we were waiting – then we were chased in the parking lot by a suddenly alert server who thought we didn’t pay. Skip this one – not a single amenity to speak of.

    Reply
  • STEVE W.

    Woodman’s is in Essex. And can be a disappointment when crowded. Sometimes orders will sit for a while in the confusion. It’s seafood in the rough for sure, and a fun dining experience if patronage is manageable.
    And I’m afraid the Clam Box in Ipswich is popular mostly from longevity and history. I suggest heading just about a half-mile further up Rte 1A and look for the Clam Bake on your left. Owned by one of the Woodman’s and food is always top-notch. Just make sure to ask for tartar sauce, it used to be self serve and they sometimes forget if you don’t ask

    Reply
  • CHARLES W.

    I still think The Village Restaurant in Essex, beats them all. Friendly environment, comfortable seating, family style top quality food (the chowder to die for). I have more praise but I’m getting hungry,…. see you there.. Charlie from Rockport. ????????

    Reply
    • Deb H.

      The village restaurant is the best all around. Relaxing atmosphere. Places like the clam box are tourist traps

      Reply
    • I’d rather go to Farnham’s in Ipswich or Causeway in Gloucester. Large amounts of food and soooo good for reasonable money. We have been going to both these favorites for decades. We have gone to The Village too but it’s not a “clam shack” and ok for a more “formal” lunch or dinner. Been disappointed with Woodman’s. I grew up on the Northshore and still live there. We know good seafood and used to fish off the piers in Gloucester when I was young. We have been to Martha’s Vineyard and Larson’s is excellent as many on the island are too. So many good seafood restaurants in our area, we are soooo lucky! You really can’t go wrong with the local area ones mentioned.

      Reply
      • Michael L.

        I agree that Farnhams is excellent (and a salt-marsh view to die for!) and you also mentioned my favorite – the Causeway Restaurant in Gloucester. Always excellent, super portions and fast service. Their Haddock Fish Chowder is sufficient to have alone for dinner. Really, really good.

        Reply
  • JOSEPH D.

    I grew up in Connecticut and have lived near Cape Ann on Boston’s North Shore for the past 33 years. In my opinion,
    Farnhams in Essex, MA has great fried clams and other summery fried seafood.
    You eat in the rough outside and have great views of the salt marsh.
    I think Woodmans and Clam Box are overrated and too crowded.

    Reply
    • Couldn’t agree more. My daughter grew up down the road in Hamilton and I always thought Farnham’s was better than Woodman’s. In one of the Robert B. Parker Spenser novels the P.I. eats at Farnham’s.

      Reply
      • Mike L.

        Been to both recently and Farnham’s is IMHO better. Clam Box always has a line and I’ve been there too. Not sure why folks think its great. It is good but usually quite crowded.

        Reply
  • Rick G.

    Mac’s Seafood in Chatham, MA has the best fried seafood on the Cape. The whole menu is gluten free. Fast service, great outside seating, and excellent drinks.

    Reply
      • Claus N.

        Been there, done that and Capt. Cass is as good as it can get, including location!

        Reply
  • Not a Clam Shack, but Tony’s Pub in Lynn, MA beats most Clam Shacks hands down !!!!

    Reply
  • Dan S.

    Woodman’s is only a short distance from The Clam Box, easy to think it’s in Ipswich. I like them both. Woodman’s had 3 ???? Roll sizes/prices last time I was there.

    Reply
  • Donna P.

    My husband I have traveled for years and by far the best is Essex seafood Essex mass. Peteys summertime shack rye nh is no. 2.

    Reply
    • I have heard from friends Essex Seafood is the best. Iam going to try it this summer !

      Reply
    • Darlene M.

      used to always go to Peteys in NH with my mother. Took my son and got the supposed world famous chowder. Had a couple of potatoes and there were no clams at all, must have been the bottom of the barrel. Fried clam plate-Clams were gritty. Never mind that prices are really high. Won’t go again.

      Reply
  • jane s.

    Flo’s Clam Shack in Middletown, RI, and Evelyn’s Drive-In, Tiverton, RI, are 2 favorites in the South Coast area of Rhode Island.

    Reply
    • Nancy K.

      Flo’s can be OK if you catch them on a good day. Evelyns is mediocre, and the waits are horrendous. Anthonys Seafood in Middletown is the best in the area.

      Reply
  • Captain John’s in Lowell Ma. is as good as any fried clams ever and their onion rings can’t be beat either

    Reply
  • Jean T.

    Jeannie T Delicious seafood no waiting for a table with a party of 8 is unheard of in Massachusetts!!! But not in Maine.

    Reply
  • Wayne M.

    Farnham’s in Essex is the queen of the fleet in my opinion. Just down the road from Woodman’s – better food, prices and view. Been going here, Clam Box and Woodman’s for over 60 years and Farnham’s is my favorite.

    Reply
  • anthony

    the best for fried clams and everything ia a real hidden gem called the choate bridge pub in Ipswich ma puts all others to shame… and a real bargain

    Reply
    • And don’t forget to check out the hand-carved bar. No place better on a rainy day!

      Reply
    • David O.

      This place has the best clam or scallop plate on the North Shore. The downside of this venue is the owners refuse to do a combo plate resulting in having to buy 2 delicious plates which increases your bill.

      Reply
  • BOBBY C.

    I LOVE ARNOLD’S ON RT.6 IN EASTHAM MA. ON THE CAPE !! THEIR SEAFOOD IS AMAZING PLUS THEIR CLAM CHOWDER , AMAZING ONION RINGS HAS MY FAMILY RAVING FOR OVER 20 YEARS. YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED UNLESS YOU BRING A CREDIT CARD OR A CHECKBOOK BECAUSE THEY ONLY ACCEPT CASH !! ATM IS AVAILABLE THOUGH ????????????

    Reply
    • Arnold’s in Eastham (Cape Cod) is consistently excellent and worth the wait. They move the line fast, the food is excellent good choice of microbrews. Takeout is a great option too, call ahead walk past the line and take your delicious food to the nearby beaches!

      Reply
  • Sharon L.

    WOODMAN’S IN ESSEX, MA…Where the 1st Clam was fried by Bessie Woodman!
    How Lucky for US!!!

    Reply
  • Michelle G.

    Blount’s Clam Shack in Warren, RI. Not only great clams, chowder, and “stuffies”, but great lobster rolls, too (esp. the Giant.)

    Reply
  • Karl P.

    Park Lunch in Newburyport serves delicious whole belly Ipswich fried clams but is tight on space. Worth the wait. ????????

    Reply
  • Diane N.

    Jimmies of Savin Rock in West Haven, CT serves great fried seafood belly clams and my new fav oysters fresh and succulent!

    Reply
  • Jean H.

    The Village in Essex is the best around. I’ve never been disappointed.

    Reply
  • Clausen T.

    What are their prices on a given day? I’ve seen fried clam plates from $18 to $34, lobster rolls from $15 to $52. I look for quality, quantity, price and location in that order. A lot of these places are seasonal gouges to which I avoid. The best places aren’t even mentioned for a local reason.

    Reply
  • Aunt M.

    Inland yes, but what about SS Lobster in Fitchburg, MA? Moved here from Los Angeles 15 years ago and was AMAZED by this place. Whenever visitors come to see us we take them to SS Lobster and they love it. As do we. Whenever my husband and I have special occasions, that’s usually where we go. Yes, it’s a dive but it’s a DELICIOUS dive. Fabulous lobster, clams, oysters, calamari, EVERYTHING! YUMS!

    Reply
  • Joan B.

    McLaughlins lobster shack In Lincolnville Maine
    Clean, picturesque and on small intimate beach❤️

    Reply
  • Yes, SS Lobster in Fitchburg. I grew up in the area and always gone there with family and friends. Never disappointed. They have an off spring in nearby Westminster, MA Kay’s Dairy. Good ice cream there too.

    Reply
  • Paul A.

    How can you can talk about Fried Clams without talking about J.T. Farnhams in Essex. It is a notch or two above all others !! Try it out and see for yourself !!

    Reply
  • Donna D.

    Cobie’s in Brewster, Mass. has always been a Cape favorite of mine.

    Reply
  • Gary S.

    I have a few favorites, The Lobster Claw in North Reading MA on rt.28 is a gem, They have excellent fried clams. The Kream N Kone in Dennis MA has excellent fried seafood, big portions for reasonable money. Also Jimmy Jones Locker in Rochester NH is a hidden gem. The wait is short, great fried seafood at good prices.

    Reply
  • Dave C.

    We always go to Seafood Sam’s in Sandwich Ma. Food is average priced for the area, but always consistent and great quality. They have the best Lobster Bisque I’ve had.

    Reply
    • Yes, on the mainland nothing is better, votednumber 1 in Cape Cod monthly, that tells you something ! Owner is a great guy too….

      Reply
  • Bill’s Seafood on Boston Post Road in Westbrook, CT. Great fried Seafood platters etc. Outside deck on the river too.
    By the “singing bridge on RT 1.

    Reply
  • Claus N.

    Been there, done that and Capt. Cass is as good as it can get, including location!

    Reply
  • The best of all is Seafood Sam’s in falmouth. Not just me but Cape and Islands magazine, and Best of Cape Cod magazine! Absolutely the best !

    Reply
  • The best food, drink and atmosphere is Nancy’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard , nothing tops this place !

    Reply
  • Brothers Seafood Restaurant, 6 Olney St, Seekonk, MA 02771
    Best fried clams and other seafood, small place but will satisfy big appetites!

    Reply

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