In my snit fit from earlier in the week regarding “trimming the fat.” I said I could do it and this review will be proof I am capable. Review A is a typical Pav styled review with all the fixins. Review B is pretty much the bare bones version at less one third the size of A. I’d be interested to hear know what you think…for those in a hurry, skip to B and maybe come back and let me know what you thought of A.
P.S~ Pictures at the bottom
THE CLAM BOX (Review A)
Growing up in New Hampshire and spending weekends and vacations on the Maine coast, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of clams. I’ve eaten them just about every way you possibly can, from raw to stuffed and everything in between.
My favorite way to have them is sautéed with a bit of white wine, shallots and butter, then finished with some freshly chopped parsley and cream. A close second that brings back memories of everything from the beach with my family to being kicked off nearly every ride at Old Orchard Beach, is fried clams.
I was at the Todd Farm antique show and flea market last weekend in Rowley, Massachusetts. I went there because it’s supposed to be a pretty big deal with antique dealers and seekers of fine garbage.
I myself am not an antique dealer. I’m guessing the oldest thing I probably possess is a can of Spam I pilfered from my mother’s pantry when I moved away from home. Not sure why I purloined it as I don’t like Spam, it seemed like a good idea at the time as protein rarely gets top billing on the typical eighteen year olds shopping list.
I guess the reason I went to the antique show was because it was going to be sunny and in the low eighties, and I needed to get my first sunburn of the season out of the way so I could settle into my natural mid-summer color of something between dark freckled and pink. Besides, I couldn’t come up with an excuse not to go.
I met a friend of mine there who told me I would see or find just about anything an antique person could ever want. He said this as we started to walk down a dirt pathway between the vendors when I noticed he was sporting a pair of Gucci driving mocs.
As I don’t own a pair of Gucci anything and was dressed somewhere between professional Frisbee golfer and “Dude” Lebowski, I was in for a fun couple of hours. The next two hours were Felliniesque to say the least. I never actually saw anything I wanted and even if I had the vendors skeeve me out.
They have this look of, oh my sweet biscuits n gravy, you’re not really gonna pay what I was asking for that are you?! I enjoy haggling with these people the same way I’d probably enjoy being circumcised with a chainsaw which is to say, not at all.
The other thing about flea markets and antique shops that give me pause are half of the things are only as old as me and I or my parents had a set of at one time or another, and the other half are things I had to help bring to the dump when my grandparents passed away…so I hardly see value in such things aside from nostalgia or a deep appreciation for the smell of mothballs.
But my friend seemed happy enough as he got to try on a buckskin coat a la Daniel Boone which looked positively comical with his Gucci mocs, and he was able to purchase a Native American blanket for thirty bucks that had a hole in it. He theorized the blanket would make excellent seat covers for a couple of chairs he was “redoing”. I’ll have to take his word for it…
It was getting on towards noon and aside from becoming covered in dust and sunburn, I was also getting hungry. I suggested a hot dog at the snack bar and after his blank stare and dissertation as to what he thought about hot dogs, he suggested I go to The Clam Box just down the street.
“The fried clams are fabulous, and the onion rings are to die for!” His words, not mine, but as my friend is a worldly man and a man of finer things I took his suggestion to heart and we parted ways…
Apparently he had a date with a couple of Queen Anne style ladder backs. Not sure what breed of dog that is, but I’ll make a date with fried clams and onion rings over a dog any day. (Yes people, I know they’re chairs…self-deprecating dolt seemed funnier)
So I arrived at the restaurant not long after noon, and this not being tourist season yet I expected it to be slow. I arrived to see a line of ten or so people standing outside the door. This is always the sign of a good seafood joint, and I just wished I was born with the gift of patience. After standing in line for some thirty minutes I finally got to just inside the door where the menu board was visible.
It wasn’t a very large menu which is good because too big a menu makes for a roulette wheel styled game of …”what fish isn’t selling fast enough?” The grand prize for winning this game is a two day supply of Imodium and hallucinations of your Cat holding keggers and driving your car…I could have sworn I had a full tank!
The menu didn’t matter because I was getting clams. Any new seafood shack in New England, the benchmark for all their fried food is set by how well they do their clams. Since this place was called The Clam Box (there since 1935) and everyone from The New York Times to USA Today had given this place accolades, I knew the clams should be amazing.
The price was daunting $24.95 for a large Clam Box (That’s whole bellied clams, not the bastardized little pieces of rubber bands known as clam strips) and $6.95 for a large Onion Ring, but any place given this much praise is bound to be a bit “proud” of their food.
It only took ten minutes until they called my number. The staff was friendly and handed me my food, extra condiments, and napkins. It was crowded inside so I went outside to an empty picnic area to get my feed on. The first thing I had to try was the onion rings, which were done in a typical fish fry manner meaning coating rather than batter. This makes for a crisp light onion ring with no discernible oiliness.
They were good but at $6.95 I guess I was expecting something to set them apart. I dug into the clams and they were as good as the place I normally go to get clams. Aside from being ever so slightly less coated, there was little difference.
I barely managed to finish my clams. The onion rings, well the onion rings I only ate a third before I hit the wall. The thing about fried seafood is, no matter how hungry you think you are the half cup of coating is going to kick your ass every time.
I could have easily had the small clam box and small onion ring and would have only felt partially humiliated and used. The latter option would have resulted in the loss of twenty four bucks and change without a drink, and that’s just too much to swallow.
I’m not sure what got all the reviewers so jazzed up about this place, but I sure wasn’t seeing it. Could it be they had never had a fried clam before? Maybe they were slightly confused while writing their notes all strung out on fish fry and carbs, too sleepy to write clearly.
Or was it just a pile on of others wanting to say, “oh me too…yeah, I loved this place just like the others did…isn’t it fun to stand in line forever for ok fried seafood?…Oh gosh and it’s soooooo pricey, that’s how ya know it’s good….weeeeeeee”…. I suspect this was probably the case.
The place is quirky (the building is in the shape of a clam box, or I guess what a clam box used to look like before companies like Sysco started selling disposable paper goods) and it’s quaint, and if you have money to burn and there aren’t more than two or three people standing outside waiting to get in…go ahead and stop there.
Otherwise keep driving until you see a place with a sizeable dining area and a reasonably priced menu and save yourself some time, money and sanity. The downside is you won’t be able to be an uppity little snit of a human being to your friends in a Thurston Howell III voice, “Oh sure…Lovey and I always go to The Clam Box.”
The upside…. You’ll save enough time and money to go home and play with those adorable little Queen Anne ladder backs…if you still want to feel good and pretentious…name them Beau and Buffy.
The Clam Box
246 High Street Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938
THE CLAM BOX (Review B)
Growing up in New Hampshire and having vacationed on the Maine coast, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of clams. I’ve eaten them raw to stuffed and everything in between. My favorite way is sautéed with a bit of white wine, shallots, butter, cream and parsley. A close second, is fried.
So when a friend suggested I go for fried clams and onion rings at a place I hadn’t been to, I went for it. I arrived at the restaurant about noon, and expected it to be slow. I arrived to see a line of ten or so people in line. This is the sign of good seafood joint. After some thirty minutes I got to see the menu.
Anytime I step foot into a new seafood shack in New England, the benchmark for all their fried food is set by how they do their clams. Since this place was called The Clam Box (here since 1935) and everyone from The New York Times to USA Today had given this place accolades, the clams should be amazing. The price was a daunting $24.95 for a large clam box and $6.95 for a large onion ring.
I ordered at the counter then waited ten minutes. Noticing how packed it was inside. I picked up my food from the friendly counter staff and proceeded outside. The onion rings were done in a typical fish fry coating. They were crisp and light with no oiliness. They were good but for $6.95 was expecting better. The clams were as good as the place I normally go. Aside from being ever so slightly less coated there was little difference.
I barely managed to finish my clams. The onion rings, well the onion rings I only ate a third of those. The thing about fried seafood, no matter how hungry you think you are the coating is going to win. I could have easily had the small clam box and small onion ring which would have cost twenty four bucks without a drink, for me that’s just too much.
So if you have to be part of the, “yeah I’ve eaten there too” crowd, and don’t mind paying a lot for good fried seafood The Clam Box is fine. If you don’t mind driving another fifteen minutes across the New Hampshire border to Seabrook, you’ll find reasonable prices with lots of seating and the same seafood.
The Clam Box
246 High Street Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938