The Best Places to Get Fried Seafood Around Boston
It's summer in New England. Clam strips and fried lobster are calling your name. Answer.
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A Boston summer isn’t complete until you’ve eaten your weight in fried clam strips during a sweltering day in the city, or after a gorgeous afternoon on a nearby beach. So get cracking with a visit to these favorite fried-seafood spots located in town and—for your weekend day-tripping enjoyment—a few coastal suburbs, too.
The Barking Crab
The Barking Crab’s circus-like, red-and-yellow-striped tent is to the now-glitzy Seaport what the Citgo sign is to modern Kenmore Square: a gaudy, anachronistic landmark we wouldn’t want any other way. Swing by, grab a patio seat at the 1994-founded stalwart, and devour some fried whole-belly clams, fried fish tacos, and other staples—as per Boston summertime tradition.
88 Sleeper St., Boston, 617-426-2722, barkingcrab.com.
Belle Isle Seafood
As with a few entries on this list (see also: Yankee Lobster), Belle Isle is maybe best known for its superlative lobster roll. But don’t let that distract you from the wide selection of fried-seafood dinners: Smelts, crab cakes, fish cakes, and scallops, among other options, are all served with French fries, onion rings, and coleslaw. Dive in on the waterside patio, which offers some pretty cool views of takeoffs and landings at Logan airport across the harbor.
1 Main St., Winthrop, 617-567-1619, belleisleseafood.net.
The Clam Box
Every summer on the South Shore, the 1968-founded Clam Box is the go-to place to unwind after a day at Wollaston Beach. Better yet, mosey over in between suntanning rounds to grab some deep-fried seafood—popcorn shrimp, clam cakes, calamari, and more—and bring it back to your sandy plot. (Want to channel a spicier beach scene? Hit up the Baja Box, a neighbor-sibling serving Mexican-inspired battered fish tacos, street corn, nachos, and more.)
789 Quincy Shore Dr., Quincy, 617-773-6677, clamboxquincy.com.
The verdict is in: when it comes to excellent selection and really reasonable prices, this longtime, family-owned Portuguese fish market and restaurant is where to go for fresh catch from Boston-area docks (as well as imported Iberian sardines and stickleback). Just as tempting, though, are the to-go fried seafood dinners, which cover sole, smelt, squid, and salmon, besides the usual suspects like clam strips and crab cakes. Everything comes with French fries and coleslaw, too.
498 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-491-1213, courthouseseafood.com.
The Clam Box
No, we’re not repeating ourselves. Ipswich is also home to a (totally unrelated) Clam Box restaurant, a 1938-built North Shore landmark. It’s hard to miss: Just look for the building that’s actually shaped like a red-and-grey clam box, with opened “flaps” on the roof. Inside, the kitchen is frying up combo meals like the Fisherman’s Platter, loaded with scallops, oysters, and more—as well as brown paper-lined boxes of fried clam strips, of course.
246 High St., Ipswich, 978-356-9707, clamboxipswich.com.
It’s outshone by other spots in the Seaport, mainly because Drydock Cafe is hard to find: It’s tucked into the ground floor of an unglamorous office building near the entrance to an industrial park. The place is about as fancy as that would lead you to believe—but then again, fine appointments are not the point here. You’re coming because you’ve heard about the bountiful portions of comparatively inexpensive fried seafood, including clams, calamari, shrimp, and scallops. Those last two can be served Buffalo style, if you’d like to add even more heat to a steamy summer day.
7 Drydock Ave., Boston, 617-951-2999.
Hingham Lobster Pound
Located right on Hingham Harbor, this local favorite normally includes a fish market selling live or steamed lobster, as well as the option to pick up fried seafood to go—from fish cakes to clam strips. On the sweet, non-seafood front, banana fritters are a perennial hit, while deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies have been known to make an appearance, too.
4 Broad Cove Rd., Hingham, 781-749-1984, hinghamlobster.net.
Perhaps a bit overshadowed by the aforementioned Clam Box in neighboring Ipswich, J.T. Farnham’s is less touristy but every bit as good—better, if you ask its most hardcore fans. Whether the justifiably “famous” fried clam plate trumps all others is a matter of personal opinion, of course, but here are a few things we do know: the pasta salad makes for a perfect side, the picnic tables offer stunning views of protected, flora- and fauna-filled marshlands; and the Fisherman’s Combo, a four-way plateful of fried fish, clams, shrimp, and scallop, is what to order when you’re feeling indecisive (and indulgent).
88 Eastern Ave., Essex, 978-768-6643, jtfarnhams.com.
Yes, the clam chowder is a must-try at Row 34, but that’s not the only classic seafood-shack-style offering at this otherwise contemporary restaurant: You can also snag baskets of fried clams or oysters, plus beer-battered fish & chips (paired with craft cans from Row 34’s Best of Boston-winning beer program). Want something a little cheffier? Get your claws into lobster fettuccine with braised short rib and English peas.
383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900; 300 District Ave., Burlington, 781-761-6500, row34.com.
If there’s any single scene-stealer at Saltie, it’s got to be the famous deep-fried lobster, served (in lieu of chicken) with waffles and drizzled with sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup. That said, you will not want for other compelling co-stars, such as fried calamari with chorizo, pickled peppers, and yuzu aioli; fried scallops with malt vinegar fries; or whole fried black bass, big enough to feed two, dressed with ginger, soy, and green onion.
279 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-267-0691, saltiegirl.com.
Sullivan’s Castle Island
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Strap on some running sneakers or rollerblades, go for a breezy, summery sprint down the Southie beachfront, and wind up at this seasonal, takeout-only icon on Castle Island. There, treat yourself to a platter of fried clams, shrimp, or scallops with French fries; a fish sandwich on a burger roll; or fish & chips. Enjoy by unlacing for a barefoot picnic on the grassy park shaded by Fort Independence.
2080 William J Day Blvd., South Boston, 617-268-5685, sullivanscastleisland.com.
It was a bold move when James Beard Award-winning chef Jasper White walked away from the fine-dining world to open his first Summer Shack in 2000. Twenty years later, as more and more lauded toques launch casual concepts, it’s clear he was ahead of his time. And Summer Shack? It’s still going strong at the original location in Cambridge (as well as a seasonal Harvard Square pop-up), a Back Bay sibling, and a Connecticut outpost at the Mohegan Sun casino. That’s because it hasn’t deviated from its down-home direction, which includes a “Fried Favorites” menu of whole-belly clams, Gulf Shrimp, Cape Cod sea scallops, and more.
50 Dalton St., Boston, 617 867-9955; 149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Cambridge, 617-520-9500; 1 Bennett St., Cambridge (Harvard Square), summershackrestaurant.com.
Woodman’s of Essex
Hey, movie geeks: We included this legendary North Shore restaurant on a roundup of Massachusetts filming locations, if you feel like taking a Hollywood East-inspired road trip. There’s no doubt, though, that Woodman’s has long been famous on the merits of its own classic New England seafood—including “Chubby’s Fried Clams,” named for the 1914-opened eatery’s founder. (You can also bring home “Chubby’s Fried Clam Kit” for personal-poolside dining.) The clams aren’t the only excellent options on offer, though: pop by for fried lobster tail and popcorn shrimp, among other plates.
119 Main St., Essex, 978-768-6057, woodmans.com.
A Boston-dining bucket list is not complete without a visit to this decades-spanning Seaport institution, a wholesaler to restaurants and walk-up market serving fresh and prepared fish. Yes, the classic, hot buttered lobster roll has a (deservedly) big reputation. But you can also indulge in a fried lobster roll, as well as other similarly crisped favorites: oysters, clams, scallops, and more.
300 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-345-9799, yankeelobstercompany.com.