Topic: Places to Eat

Best New England Food | Where to Go

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fried clams

yankee pot roast

cheddar cheese

whoopie pies

All photos/art by Rayne Beaudoin

Video: See Yankee food editor Annie B. Copps discuss some of these best food places on NECN’s “TV Diner”.

Since New England is the birthplace of this young nation of ours, it makes sense that it’s also the origin of some of our favorite foods, from turkey dinners to blueberry pancakes.

Some of the dishes that are most strongly associated with the region — Grape-Nut pudding, clam cakes, and whoopie pies, for example — are actually hard to find elsewhere. Still others, such as quahog chowder and stuffed lobsters, are linked to their New England-harvested ingredients.

Coastal communities are of course the best places to seek out seafood meals, while inland regions, including the Berkshire Hills, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains, offer dependably good apple and pumpkin desserts, fresh-pressed ciders, and homestead cheeses. And even though you’d expect to find the best wild blueberry and red raspberry pies in berry-carpeted Maine, you might prefer the batter that enfolds those fruits, as in muffins and pancakes, in a non-Maine locale.

It’s a given that New Englanders — lured by memories of family gatherings or by the whole seasonal gestalt (an outside deck in summertime, a crackling fireplace in winter) more than the quality of the food itself — are loath to budge from their local preferences. Although we did track down many of the suggestions made by Yankee readers during our search for traditional favorites, we relied less on sentiment and more on the palate-pleasing sensation of true homemade dishes and the bright taste of fresh ingredients. In keeping with the latter, we looked for Maine shrimp in early spring, steamed fiddlehead ferns in early summer, blueberry pie in late summer, apple and pumpkin pies in late fall, and lobsters and clams pretty much all year long.

We sought out down-home diners, family-owned restaurants, long-established orchards, colorful farm stands, summer food festivals, county fairs, farmer’s markets, small-town bakeries, old-fashioned country stores, and historic New England inns, clam shacks, and lobster pounds. We ate in “old faithful” institutions and in newer, but just as faithfully frequented, eateries. In Rhode Island, we ate jonnycakes and baked beans at diner brunches and fruit pies at May breakfasts, and we dosed our French fries with vinegar.

Certainly a list of 25 foods at 25 places doesn’t do justice to the scores of fabulous eateries all over New England that still serve old-timey foods. What follows is intended to jump-start your own expeditions — to give New England’s newcomers an idea of what to look for and to prod longtime residents into appreciating the great dishes right under their noses.

Now tell us where YOU go for the best of these New England treats by leaving us a comment!

BONUS: Most of our “bests” won’t share their recipes, but there are some who did — nos. 7, 10, 17, and 25.


  • The Best Burgers and Classic homemade Diner Food can be had at Victoria’s Diner, 1024 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston – which has been a Boston Landmark since 1949. Voted Best Diner 2011 by Improper Bostonian Magazine and featured on Phantom Gourmet as a favorite for their delicious burgers. As of 2012 – there is new ownership, and a new chef. Victoria’s offers excellent homemade food at great prices, exceptional customer service in a very clean, family-friendly environment. Victoria’s Diner, an American tradition, a Boston Landmark, where you can have breakfast all day, every day! Open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed. Offering wine, beer, and cordials for the adults!

  • Raymond

    As a relocated Rhode Islander, I have to note the omission of New York System hot wieners and Del’s Lemonade. No trip back to RI is complete without them.

  • whoppies pies at my house in easthampton mass. have not found any better anywhere , my husband makes a great whoppie pie cake also . yummy.

  • As a former New Englander, the food I miss most is Frozen Pudding Ice Cream.

  • Andrea

    I’m sorry to have to post this comment, BUT, when you chose Legal Seafoods over Anthony’s Pier Four for the stuffed lobster, you lost me as a avid fan of your opinions for food. I also find JT Farnum’s very good for clams, but, I prefer The Clam Box in Ipswich. (Thanks for the rest of the information.)

  • Daniel

    I just think all of “our foods bring us TOGETHER”,one nattion under God!!

  • What you are taught in school is not always correct. It also depends upon what you mean by ?birthplace.? If you mean what gave rise to the establishment of America, then Jamestown is the answer. If you mean where the seeds of discontent with British laws were first voiced, then the answer is London. If you mean where actions set the tone for the Revolutionary War, then Boston is the answer. If you mean what established America as an independent nation, then Philadelphia is the answer. How about we just agree that there are different answers depending upon how you interpret the question. I mean, is it really that important? And can’t we just enjoy the food aspect of this article instead of bringing regional politics into it?

  • Elizabeth

    When my husband was alive, we always went through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Mass every year on vacation for at least 15 years – our favorite was Lindsey’s – we always stopped there on our way back home – the food was always excellent – i remember the Cod Fish Cakes and the Lobster seafood dish/soup – i really miss the great wait staff and bartenders because i cannot get there anymore – WISH I COULD GET THEIR TWO RECIPES FOR THE ABOVE

  • I am mad for Cranberry pancakes…they are the best and the only place I have found them is in Yarmouth, Ma. A must for anyone to try!!!

  • Marjoleine

    When in the White Mountains we like to spoil ourselves with the homemade fudge from The Brick Store, in Bath, New Hampshire.

  • The York Beach Fish Market is my favorite for both New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Roll!!

  • Robert

    I live in western MA and when I think of cheese, I would normally think of VT. However, I’ve found a local cheddar cheese that is exceptional. It is buttery in flavor and has a nice feel in your mouth. When it’s put out with crackers when friends gather, it is quickly gone!

    It is made by The Granville Country Store, PO Box 143, Granville, MA. It can be purchased in local Big Y markets, or at the store itself on Rte. 57, or it It can be purchased by anyone by calling 1-800-356-3141.

  • As a former Onset resident and seafood lover, my family and I have enjoyed Lindsey’s forever! Not only are the Codfish Cakes great, but the entire menu is full of delicious seafood and down-home dinners to delight the tastebuds! Further, the service is excellent; the entire staff is always eager to please each and every customer! Smiling faces, a warm atmosphere, delicious food and great prices are awaiting everyone who visits Lindsey’s! We highly recommend Lindsey’s to everyone who visits Cape Cod! Congratulations to Cheri Lindsey and the entire staff on 60 years of Excellence! When you’re at the Gateway to Cape Cod, make sure you stop at Lindsey’s for the BEST DOWN-HOME SEAFOOD you’ll ever enjoy!

  • I recommend the Paperback Cafe in Old Saybrook CT for their fantastic Fenwick French Toast. The rest of their menu items are very good too but this is the one that is a “must have” whenever I am in Old Saybrook.

  • Jenifer

    For anyone who doubts that New England is the birthplace of our country, I suggest they refresh their memories of what they learned about the American Revolution. It is not about which area was settled by white Europeans first, but where the journey for nationhood began: Boston.

  • Barbara

    I would love to try some of these, but it seems like most of them forgot to put the recipes on the site. Were are the recipes? So far the only one I could find is the Boston Creme Pie!! I guess they really don’t want people to try their recipes after all.

  • Anonymous

    New England=birthplace of the county? Hello-o! Hear of Jamestown? 1607? By the time Plymouth Rock happened the English in Jamestown had settled, farmed, exported back to England, did a PR tour to England to talk up the area, and formed the House of Burgesses, the seeds of democracy. Sort of makes New England the kindergarden of the country, right?

    I know New England has a very positive self-image, and it is a lovely part of the country, but as someone who has lived most of her life outside of this wonderful region I hate to see the advances that were made in other parts of this country appropriated by New England as its own.

  • When visiting family in Vermont we always seem to end up going to the wayside resturant in Berlin. When we go to Maine for a few day our favorite resturant there is Billys Chowder house on mile road, in Wells.


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