I’m not from Massachusetts originally, so the veritable local obsession with fried clams is a little bit beyond me. Of course, I appreciate the allure of all things fried — have I already mentioned my absolute love of salty French fries dredged in mayonnaise? It wasn’t until Keith, a Reading boy, took me to Gloucester years and years ago to have my first meal at a fish shack that I began to understand precisely why New Englanders wax poetic about something as simple as fried fish.
But how simple is a fried fish? It’s almost as easy to find an awful one as it is the delicious, but that small truth doesn’t change the fact that a perfectly fried golden scallop is a wonderful thing: crunchy on the outside, soft and white on the inside, with the slightest bit of saltiness from the sea. I could eat a pile of such scallops both easily and happily.
Keith has been wanting to go to Ipswich’s Clam Box for weeks now, eager to have his first clams of the year. Finally, this past Sunday, we made the drive north to Essex County with our friend Melissa. My favorite part of the Clam Box actually isn’t the food, which is very good, but rather the outside; the Clam Box was designed to look like exactly that — a take-out box of clams. Though the food now comes in ubiquitous red and white checkered paper trays, I still love structure’s tapered base, and how it flares out, into the petals of a tall box. Just imagine the sheer quantity of clams needed to fill the building!
The three of us shared a ridiculous amount of food — two large boxes of clam strips ($12.75 each), a mini-meal of oysters and onion rings ($9.25), and a large box of French fries ($4.25) — all of which were delightfully fried. The oysters were a bit disappointing, with their soft underbellies, but the clams were perfect: crunch and chewy, all at once.
Ipswich may not be the most convenient of places, if you’re hankering to satisfy the craving for some clams, but it’s more than worth the trip up from the city. It’s a nice drive, and an extremely relaxing way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Keith has already mentioned making a few more trips up the the Clam Box before the summer hits, in order to avoid the crowds. In the high season, the line can wrap around the building and down the street, and the only way to bypass it is to call ahead. Or to have your clams in the early spring.
The Clam Box
246 High Street
Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938