The North Shore section of Massachusetts owns two of the best clam shacks in New England -- the Clam Box (246 High St., Ipswich, MA, Tel. 978 356-9707) and Woodman's (Route 133, Main St., Essex, M., Tel. (978) 768-6057). Woodman's get most of the glory as it is arguably the first clam shack in the country, and keeps it reputation alive by serving wonderfully greasy fried clams, but The Clam Box might be a tad better -- the clams have less grease and a better taste. The Clam Box - Woodman's debate is sot of like a regionalized "Taste great-less filling" conversation (remember the Miller beer commercial), with no clear-cut winner. We recommend flipping a coin, and then going to the Clam Box (which is architecturally and masterfully shaped like a clam box).
Boston has many fine seafood restaurants, some legendary but perhaps the finest -- along with Legal Sea Foods, is the Daily Catch. We dined at the North End location (323 Hanover St. Boston, MA. Tel. 617-523-8567), which is tiny, has no atmosphere and offers wonderfully fresh, always hot favorites such as calamari, seafood pasta dishes, schrod that is actually flavorful, and a knack for using the correct amount of garlic in many of its dishes. It's a bit cramped and uncomfortable in there, but don't let it faze you if it's great seafood you're looking for.
For a more upscale experience, the Palm (1 International Place, Boston, MA. Tel. 617-867-9292) is a logical choice. Although the Palm is not a seafood restaurant (they specialize in very large steaks), the lobster is highly recommended. It's a bit expensive, but the size of the lobsters will outdo the size of virtually anyone's appetite. The Palm's decor is elegant, but not intimidating with its low-lighting, white tablecloths, and HGTV-caliber window, ceiling and floor flourishes. Service is top-notch, perhaps the best found in Boston. Overall, the Palm is a grand Boston dining experience, guaranteed to satisfy the appetite and fill the senses as part of a great night out in New England's best city.
Natick, MA, is a nice western Boston suburban town, but somehow having one of the best seafood restaurants -- The Dolphin (12 Washington St., 508-655-0669)-- in New England doesn't quite add up. Natick is not on the seacoast. Natick is a place of many shoe stores. People live in Natick to be comfortable as most homes have more than one bath. Some of the worst Boston drivers go to Speen Street to cast their ugly reputation on unsuspecting and decent people. So, what's a great seafood place doing in a suburban setting like this? We don't know. What we know, however, is that this offshoot of the original Cambridge, MA, location, represents New England seafood at its best. From Chilean bass to a sumptuous lobster pie, the Dolphin never disappoints, except for not being on the seacoast.
The Mill Wharf Restaurant in Scituate, MA, on the South Shore (150 Front St., 781-545-3999), offers one of the best harbor views we've experienced at a New England restaurant and seafood that is about as good as its gets in New England The lobster stew is undeniably top-notch, a savory mix of abundant lobster chunks and a splendid cream base. The broiled scallops are perfectly prepared and a recent special, the shrimp risotto with an Asian sauce, validated the chef's ambitious and intuitive nature -- a dish that wanted you coming back for more. Of course, there's lobster, cod, and haddock -- all expertly prepared. The atmosphere at night, with its large dimly lit dining room with great hardwood floors and the lovely Scituate Harbor sunsets, make for one of the grandest overall dining experiences in the northeast.
Wood’s Seafood at
Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass. (5 Town Pier, 508-746-0261) is
terrific as a budget-friendly seafood shack with informal dining room
water views and a market on the premises. It's also easily and
conveniently walkable to attractions like Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower
II and the Pilgrim Hall Museum. Wood’s mostly catches its own fish, so
cutting out the middleman keeps the prices down. The seafood quality is
almost always top-notch and, at this writing, a fish and chips plate
goes for $8.95, broiled salmon $11.95, filet of fish sandwich for
$5.95, and huge seafood platter for $21.95 (could serve two people).
The lobster, lobster roll and fried clams are priced daily, but
generally a reasonable value, too, and certainly better than most
tourist seafood places you’ll find on nearby Cape Cod. Wood’s was once
voted Editor’s Choice for Massachusetts by Yankee Magazine’s Travel
Guide to New England, based on insider recommendations.
There are many fine Cape Cod seafood restaurants, but a personal favorite is the Lobster Claw in peaceful Orleans, MA (Route 6A, Tel. 508-255-1800). The Lobster Claw is synonymous with family dining and is one of my fondest childhood memories. The cartoon-like fonts spelling the restaurant's name on the front of a red-colored structure that looks more like a pancake house provides a welcoming introduction to the fresh seafood and also cartoon-like nautical decor. The lobster is as good as it gets in New England, and the overwhelming presence of french fries and cole slaw reminds us of a more traditional era. The broiled fisherman's platter is gigantic, full of fish, scallops, shrimp and cherrystones. More fun can be experienced with the clambake which includes a pound and a quarter lobster, steamed clams, corn on the cob, potato and, yes, cole slaw.
The live fishing village of Galilee, R.I. (part of Narragansett) offers an authentic perspective of working class with George's of Galilee (250 Sand Hill Cove Rd., Narragansett RI, Tel 401-783-2306) leading the way in seafood dining. The ultimate seafood shack, George's offers oceanside indoor (year-round) and outdoor dining (not year-round because it's New England). Local bands entertain in the lounge section, while families dine downstairs in a seemingly soundproof room that blocks out cover songs of Journey and Foreigner. After eating the delicious fried, broiled or baked seafood dishes, step outside onto Salty Brine State Beach. Named after the late WPRO-AM (Providence, RI,) broadcasting legend, the beach is a pleasant and convenient place to experience swimming and sunbathing at a very nice part of the Atlantic Ocean. George's is part of a great New England vacation day that can be spent at the beach, watching the fishermen do their hard work, taking a ferry to beautiful Block Island or visiting the myriad shops in this South County gem of a village. Champlin's (256 Great Island Rd, Narragansett, RI, Tel. (401) 783-3152) is virtually across the street from George's and every bit as good in regards to food and view. The feel is a bit more authentic with its order-at-the-window service, ample outdoor seating with panoramic water and fishing boat views, lobster, clam and other classic New England seafood selections and a seafood market on the premises. As an added benefit, Champlin's has an ice cream stand!
Evelyn’s Nanaquaket Drive-In (2335 Main Rd., Tiverton, R.I. 401-624-3100), about a mile from Tiverton’s central district, serves local Rhode Island culinary gems like Rhode Island clam chowder, “Stuffies” (local quahogs halved and filled with spicy blend of chopped clams and seasonings) and clam cakes. Its most famous dish, however, is the unlikely but delicious lobster chow mein with five ounces of lobster atop a hot chow mein gravy and crispy noodles. Evelyn’s evokes that classic seasonal, roadside seafood shack look and features a beautiful outdoor dining area overlooking the water.
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