The 15 Best Bowls of Clam Chowder in Boston
From the iconic recipes to chefs' reverent riffs on the New England classic.
Boston is far from the culinary “chowder town” it once was, but even as our dining scene expands and evolves, a classic, creamy cup of seafood soup will always be one of our signature dishes. And for good reason: New England clam chowder is the perfect balance of briny broth and sweet dairy, savory herbs and salty pork. Whether it’s an iconic recipe served up for 100 years or a hotshot chef’s reverent riff on traditional chowder, these are the 15 bowls of clam chowder every Bostonian must eat.
Atlantic Fish Co.
Served up for decades near the Boston Marathon Finish Line in the Back Bay, this classic recipe is also available daily in a bread bowl.
761 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-267-4000, atlanticfish.com.
Unctuous bacon lardons and croutons with a subtle kick are the new traditions acclaimed chef and South Boston native Barbara Lynch brings to the table at this South End neighborhood spot.
550 Tremont St., South End, Boston, 617-423-0550, bandgoysters.com.
The Barking Crab
A party deck full of nautical tchotchkes, cold beer, and fried seafood is a beacon for tourists, sure, but it’s also just what we want sometimes—especially with a starter of clam chowder. This longtime favorite cup continues to impress with depth of flavor, achieved by executive chef Jose Reyes sautéing fresh quahogs, then poaching them in white wine and aromatics.
88 Sleeper St., Boston, 617-426-2722, barkingcrab.com.
Belle Isle Seafood
Another low-frills, Boston-area clam box, the atmosphere here is nevertheless unique thanks to Logan Airport, Boston skyline, and harbor views. The chowder, meanwhile, is well-seasoned and perfectly creamy.
1 Main St., Winthrop, 617-567-1619, belleisleseafood.net.
This modern New England seafood counter presents a brothy cup of soup flavored with kombu (an edible seaweed) and smoked butter, full of large clams and pieces of salt pork. We expect nothing less from the James Beard award-winning chefs who gave New England a Maine lobster roll-style bao bun.
1321 Boylston St., Fenway/Kenmore, Boston, 617-545-1060, eventideoysterco.com.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
A chef helping to redefine modern New England cuisine, Jeremy Sewall spins traditional dishes into recognizable and comforting innovations. His clam chowder, a menu staple, is a great example, with smokiness amped up by house-cured bacon, and buttermilk biscuit-croutons for savoring all the stew.
500 Commonwealth Ave., Fenway/Kenmore, Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
Legal Sea Foods
Thick and richly flavored with salt pork and herbs, this perennial favorite is as delicious as it is iconic. The recipe developed in Cambridge has been on the seafood company’s menus since 1981. It’s ladeled into cups at Fenway Park, and it’s even been served at the past six presidential inaugurations.
26 Park Plaza, Boston, 617-426-4444, and other locations, legalseafoods.com.
This New York-born counter-service chain takes pride in using seafood from the cofounder’s hometown port in Maine, and other sustainable sources—so you can feel even better about adding on a cup of this creamy, flavorful soup to your lobster-roll combo order.
75 Exeter St., Back Bay, 857-350-4626; 290 Washington St., Downtown Crossing, 857-317-4843; 53 Northern Ave., Seaport, Boston, 617-848-0911, lukeslobster.com.
Indeed, you can do much worse than this Quincy Market Irish pub (and nighttime club) for an authentic taste of New England clam chowder. The slightly sweet, almost buttery bowl is a Hall of Fame chowder for good reason.
1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, 617-248-8800, neddevinesboston.com.
Oak & Rowan
Though refined in presentation—the silky broth is poured tableside—chef Justin Shoults keeps this menu staple fun and approachable with house-made potato chips.
321 A St., Boston, 857-284-7742, oakandrowan.com.
Mooncusser Fish House
Carolyn Johnson, best-known as chef of Concord’s destination 80 Thoreau, is making a splash in Boston with her team’s latest, Mooncusser. Her seafood chowder features in-the-shell clams along with smoky scallops and skate, plus pretty and crunchy half-moon oyster crackers. Bonus: You can also order this chowder at the more casual Moon Bar, and from the attached takeout window.
304 Stuart St., Boston, 617-917-5193, mooncusserfishhouse.com.
A reliable prepared food option at Boston Public Market, this local seafood wholesaler loads their New England clam chowder with local clams.
Boston Public Market, 100 Hanover St., Haymarket, Boston, 857-930-4831, redsbest.com.
The Sail Loft
This North End institution has been serving up waterfront views and overflowing mugs of dill-flecked chowder since 1984, and it’s still one of the best cups in the city.
80 Atlantic Ave., North End, Boston, 617-227-7280, thebostonsailloft.com.
At his self-titled waterfront restaurant in the 1980s, chef Jasper White became a leader of a Boston’s culinary revolution. His seafood skills are still on the scene at a couple locations of Summer Shack, which serves this beloved bowl of medium-thick chowder with cherrystones and chives.
149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Cambridge, 617-520-9500, 50 Dalton St., Boston, 617-867-9955, summershackrestaurant.com.
Union Oyster House
Still rich, clam-packed, and satisfyingly salty, this soup has been a menu mainstay since the 1800s.
41 Union St., Boston, 617-227-2750, unionoysterhouse.com.