The 14 Best Places to Find Fried Seafood Around Boston
It's the height of a New England summer. 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. That’s especially true during COVID times, when nostalgia for simpler days and pleasures reigns. So swing by, grab a socially distanced 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.
Bobby Fish Market
This somewhat under-the-radar, neighborhood gem is first and foremost a fishmonger—you can stop by to pick up bluefish, catfish, and red perch by the pound. But there’s also an extensive menu of grab-and-go eats, including tons of generously portioned fried offerings. The fried fish sandwich with cheese, in particular, is a popular order. You may also want to branch out to some other (non-seafood) fried fare: frog legs and alligator. “Why Not Try It?” the menu challenges. Take the bait.
312 Bowdoin St., Dorchester, 617-506-1566.
The Clam Box
In normal summers, the Clam Box is the go-to place to unwind after a day at Wollaston Beach—though right now, alas, the 1968-founded favorite is open for takeout only. Nonetheless, the deep-fried seafood tastes just as good if you bring it back to your sandy plot across the street, so retrieve some popcorn shrimp, clam cakes, calamari, and more in between suntanning rounds. (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 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.
The Daily Catch
The new “Calamari Café,” a covered outdoor-seating area in front of the Daily Catch’s original North End location, is nicknamed for the Sicilian seafood restaurant’s signature offering: fried calamari that many would say is the city’s best. But whether you head to the North End flagship, the Daily Catch’s just-opened waterfront location on nearby Atlantic Ave., or the Brookline outpost, you’ll also find a handful of other lightly-breaded fried fish—including the fritto misto, a mixed selection of bite-sized shrimps, scallops, calamari and daily-changing local catch.
323 Hanover St., 617-523-8567, thedailycatch.com; additional locations.
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; that market is temporarily closed during the COVID pandemic, but you can still 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.
We recently pointed out the must-try clam chowder available at the Window, Row 34’s new, takeout-only concept recently debuted for the COVID era. But that’s not the only classic seafood-shack-style offering at this otherwise contemporary Seaport restaurant: You can also snag baskets of fried clams or oysters, plus beer-battered fish & chips (paired with to-go craft cans from Row 34’s Best of Boston-winning beer program). Want something a little cheffier? Get your claws into blue crab cakes with grilled corn salad and lemon pepper aioli.
383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900, row34.com.
The galley-like interior of this Back Bay modern-seafood restaurant is fairly intimate, so we were pumped that Saltie Girl recently took over the entire patio setup of neighboring sister restaurant, Met Back Bay. That means we have more space to spread our elbows over fried calamari with chorizo, pickled peppers, and yuzu aioli; panko and malt vinegar-crusted fish sticks; fried soft shell crab with summer succotash and pickled pearl onions; and the famous fried lobster, served (in lieu of chicken) with waffles and drizzled with sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup.
281 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 Cambridge location, Back Bay sibling, and 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, summershackrestaurant.com.
Woodman’s of Essex
Hey, movie geeks: We included this legendary North Shore restaurant on a recent 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 1916-opened eatery’s founder. (You can also bring home “Chubby’s Fried Clam Kit” for personal-poolside dining.) There’s also fried lobster tail and popcorn shrimp, among other plates for enjoying at picnic tables while the dining room remains temporarily closed.
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.