As many food writers have noted, fried clams are to New England as barbecue is to the South. You’ll find this classic summer favorite served in small, roadside shacks in Maine’s coastal villages––and inland, too––often with long lines of fried-clam lovers waiting in anticipation.
So where do you go for great fried clams? That question is sure to start an argument if posed to seafood aficionados in Maine. Where indeed? It depends on whether you prefer your clams fried in crumbs or batter; whole (with bellies) or strips; with necks or without; served in buns or boxes…you get the idea. Basically, all fried clams begin the same: with soft-shell clams that are hand-harvested along Maine’s coast. They are shucked, dipped, coated, deep-fried and served with lemon and tarter sauce at humble clam shacks as well as fancy seafood restaurants. They are the classic, summer food––and everyone has a favorite spot.
A good place to sample different approaches to this iconic food is the Yarmouth Clam Festival, held on the third weekend in July in the Greater Portland village of Yarmouth. You can watch a clam-shucking contest while enjoying a freshly fried bucketful in crumbs or batter.
Or, you could make a summer pilgrimage along the coast to search out your own “great place to go for fried clams.” Here are a few places to start:
- Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery was chosen best clam shack in New England by Boston magazine
- Fisherman’s Catch in Wells, a Yankee magazine “Best Catch”
- Fosters Downeast Clambake in York was rated one of New England’s Best Seafood Restaurants and Clam Shacks by VisitingNewEngland.com
- The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport — voted by Epicurious.com as one of America’s Top-Ten Seafood Shacks
- Ken’s Place in Scarborough, a Pine Point landmark since 1927
- Cindy’s in Freeport, winner of the “Best Fried Clams on Earth” award in 2005 from United Clam Lovers of America