Your AAA Network

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 vacation meal? Take one part fresh-off-the-boat seafood and one part sunshine. Add a dash of ocean breeze and a squeeze of lemon. Voila. The perfect summer meal. Here are some of New England’s best, most delicious clam shacks.

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 – literally – 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, which is a Rhode Island delicacy.

Discover more can’t-miss Rhode Island foods.

food guide text ad

The Tastiest Northeast Food Destinations

When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.

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 50 years that the restaurant’s been open. Order at the window – don’t miss the signature lobster rolls served on fresh bread – and eat at picnic tables, or as you stroll around the main thoroughfare of this idyllic Maine town.

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 just opened a new location last year in Portland. There, 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. But the combo platters, where you can combine them 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

Ispwich, 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.

clam shacks

The catch of the day at Larsen’s Fish Market. (Photo: Travis Droz)

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 water 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 Atlantic beyond. 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.

Check out our list of 15 can’t-miss Cape Cod restaurants or search for more top-rated eateries at AAA.com/Diamonds

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

Comments
  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Your Aaa R.

    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.

  • 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

Leave a Reply

You must log in to post a comment.


Enter Your Log In Credentials
Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend