Often maligned by clam belly aficionados, clam strips really deserve more respect in the deep-fried-seafood world. The strips are cut from large sea clams, then breaded and fried in super-hot oil to crispy, sweet perfection. Yankee contributor and seafood expert Mike Urban, author of Clam Shacks (Cider Mill Press), went on a journey to rediscover the simple joys of eating clam strips. Here are the 10 places he thinks serve up the best fried clam strips in New England.
As with its whole-belly clams, the Clam Box’s deep-fried clam strips can rightly be considered New England’s best. The breading is light and flaky, and the strips are super-sweet — always a good indicator of superior clam strips. The Clam Box changes the oil in its fryers twice per day, which guarantees top-notch deep-fried seafood.
This oversize shack sits astride the tidal Blackwater River not far from the ocean in southeastern New Hampshire, and it’s a great place to grab some clam strips before or after hitting the beach. The strips at Markey’s have a light, almost buttery flavor. They’re small and thin, with flaky breading that adheres nicely to the tartar sauce.
Located on the “Clam Highway” (Route 133), Farnham’s offers a fine plate of fried clam strips, generous in its portion size and nicely cooked in clean canola oil. The tender strips are studded with a crispy breading, and the homemade tartar sauce rounds out this wholly satisfying dining experience.
This sister shack to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough is a double-deck establishment with great views of Noank Harbor and the Mystic River. The clam strips here come piping hot from the deep fryer and are nicely puffed up with tasty breading and the distinct flavor of having been cooked in clean oil. Order the platter, which comes with equally satisfying shoestring fries and homemade coleslaw.
The secret behind the excellent taste of Woodman’s clam strips (as well as its other fried seafood) is what it uses in its deep fryers: lard. This animal-derived cooking oil scores high on the flavor front. Plus, Woodman’s may have the largest serving size of clam strips to be found anywhere. The strips are pleasantly chewy and imbued with a smoky flavor that can no doubt be traced to the cooking oil.
This iconic clam shack is a must-stop for lovers of clam strips. Soft, chewy, and nicely breaded, these strips come in plentiful amounts — whether you order a half-pint, a pint, or a quart; a clam strip basket; or a dinner with all the trimmings. (Note: There is a second location in Portland, Maine.)
Before indulging in Iggy’s namesake sugary treat, try a plate of the heavenly clam strips, which come crusted with crispy breading and bursting with sweet clam goodness. Order the clam strip platter, and you’ll get fries, slaw, and your choice of one of three chowders (Manhattan, New England, or Rhode Island). (Note: There is a second location in Narragansett, Rhode Island.)
Strategically located just outside Hammonasset Beach State Park, this longtime favorite recently came under new ownership, but the seafood is still as tasty as ever. The clam strips stand out for their quantity and quality. You get a large basketful, along with crispy french fries and homemade tartar sauce. Onion strings are a popular substitute for the fries, with a slight upcharge. This is a great place to stop after a long day at the beach.
Known for its award-winning lobster roll and top-shelf whole-belly clams, the Clam Shack is no slouch when it comes to clam strips. Purchased fresh almost daily (the only way to go), these strips are skinny, generously breaded, fried in clean oil, and sweet-tasting, the way clam strips should be. A half-pint of strips makes for a satisfying meal, but feel free to upsize to a “lunch box,” which includes fries and coleslaw.
Located on a Martha’s Vineyard ferry dock at the base of Cape Cod, this tiny shack (formerly The Clam Shack) really delivers on its fried clams, and the clam strips are no exception.
Where do you go for the best fried clam strips in New England? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.