Mom taught me a passion for great fried clams. They are never doughy, and they are never clam strips. The frozen ones, such as the ol’ Howard Johnsons fried clams do not come close to the real deal. Great big monster ones with massive bellies were harvested way too late. Great fried clams are small and delicate, lightly dusted, and flash-fried to salty seafood perfection.
Being raised in New Hampshire, I got to eat fried clams more often than I might have in other sections of the country. A favorite was at Spiller’s in York, Maine… sadly no longer a restaurant. Other classic places are also distant memories… from Willie’s toward the north end of Hampton Beach in New Hampshire and Armand’s in the Pinardville section of Goffstown, where I spent my childhood.
Blessedly, Cremeland in Manchester still delivers perfect fried clams in true takeout fashion. Makris in Concord and Shibley’s on the Pier in Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee also come pretty darn close to awesome. (Sorry Pop’s Drive-In fans… consistently wayyyy to doughy and greasy there.)
If you “snowbird” to Florida in the winter, you can grab some great fried clams at the Clam Bake in Fort Myers… the owners/chef are originally from New England. However you like fried clams, if you can get ‘em, eat ‘em. I’ll take mine piping hot, salted, with both tartar sauce and cocktail sauce… and some perfect onion rings on the side, please. Ooooooh, yeahhhhhh!