I am not a native New Englander, but my love of clam chowder started at a very early age… in Las Vegas. Yes, you read that right. I spent part of my childhood growing up in a suburb of Vegas. My dad was great about introducing me to new foods, and he would always scoop himself a hot bowl of chowder at cliched all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffets. He would return to the table with a classic white ceramic cup of chowder, the steam still rising from it. Before my dad could enjoy his first bite, I would quickly ask if I could mooch a hearty spoonful from him.
Oh, and don’t forget the oyster crackers, please and thank you.
We moved back to my home state of Texas when I was 8, and I carried my love of clam chowder with me. When our family would visit Galveston Island on the Gulf of Mexico, I would make sure to order a bowl if the restaurant served it. It’s sadly true that not all seaside restaurants in other parts of the country have chowdah on the menu! You are so lucky, New England. Thankfully, I could always get my fix at the Red Lobster chain of restaurants.
Fast forward to 2012, and my soon-to-be-husband and I made our first visit to the Northeast. This trip would open our eyes to a lot, including a new standard for clam chowder. We had not been off the plane at Boston Logan even three hours before I was dipping my spoon into a hot bowl of creamy goodness at a locally recommended restaurant in Plymouth (grainy 4th-generation iPhone photo featured above). My future husband watched my face as I took the first bite of TRUE New England clam chowder.
My eyes grew big, and a smile took over my face as I exclaimed, “It’s better than Red Lobster!”
He looked horrified and quickly shooshed me while looking around to make sure no Massachusetts locals had heard my egregious comparison. We both laughed until we couldn’t breathe. I did my best to devour a bowl of chowder with every single meal on that trip, opting to live in denial about the wedding dress I needed to fit into a month later.
Now having lived in the Boston area for two and a half years, I feel so spoiled to be able to indulge in real-deal clam chowder whenever I please. Not all chowders are created equally, though. Some broths are thinner, others thicker. Some include bacon or a variety of veggies while others stick to the basics of cream, butter, potatoes, and clams. Chowders can be served in a ceramic bowl, styrofoam, or a hollowed-out bread bowl. Some are peppery, others saltier. A view of the ocean is not mandatory, but it’s a definite advantage to feel a soft sea breeze and know the clams you are eating are fresh from the boat. A gritty chowder is no good — better clean the sand off those clams thoroughly. And do not get me started on Manhattan clam chowder; we are only discussing the superior New England clam chowder.
For my fellow enthusiasts, here are our favorite chowdahs in the Greater Boston area.
Bostonia Public House :: Boston
James Hook & Co :: Boston
The Barnacle Restaurant :: Marblehead
Legal Sea Foods :: Multiple Locations
Turner’s Seafood :: Multiple Locations
Cabby Shack :: Plymouth
Wood’s Seafood :: Plymouth
Rocco’s Restaurant :: Wilmington
Whether you are visiting Boston or live here full-time, I hope you will give one of these fabulous restaurants a try!