Try the Clams Two Ways Plate when visiting Bob’s Clam Hut.Photo Credit : Mike Urban
Though best known for its lobsters, Maine is no slouch when it comes to whole-belly fried clams. Numerous clam beds thrive in the state’s coastal flats, and there is an amazing variety of fried clam styles and types. Food and travel writer Mike Urban, author of Clam Shacks (Cider Mill Press, 2011) and most recently The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2016), has combed Maine’s culinary coast frequently over the past several years. Here are his picks for the 10 best fried clams in Maine, starting near the southern border and wrapping up in Downeast Maine.
Some of the best fried clams in Maine are the easiest to find. Bob’s is the first major clam shack you encounter when entering Maine from the south on I-95. Just over the border in the outlet-crazy town of Kittery, Bob’s has been serving up excellent fried fare since the mid-1950s. You may have your fried clams done either in Bob’s original recipe—breaded and fried to a crisp, golden crunch—or you may have them done “Lillian’s way” (the clams dipped in a wash before breading). Or you may have the best of both worlds and order the Clams Two Ways Plate, which features both versions. Kittery, ME. 207-439-4233; bobsclamhut.com
LEARN MORE!Bob’s Clam Hut | Local Flavor
Ken’s is one of those rare places that serves its fried clams in both breaded and battered forms. You may have them either way. Owner Dave Wilcox is a tireless advocate of super-fresh seafood, and it shows in these delectable clam morsels. He gets his main ingredient from local clammers, and he cooks them to order in the numerous deep fryers in his large, bustling kitchen space. Scarborough, ME. 207-883-6611
Don’t be fooled by the diner moniker of this famed establishment. It serves up some of the best, freshest seafood in the Pine Tree State. Of particular note are the golden, sweet, briny, fried whole-belly clams, which are harvested from local clam beds, making them all that much fresher. Treat yourself to a clam roll or, better yet, an entire platter of these deep-fried beauties. Wells, ME. 207-646-4441; mainediner.com
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Perched on a rocky promontory in beautiful Cape Elizabeth, Lobster Shack Two Lights has one of the best ocean views in the state. It also serves superb fried clams to the tens of thousands of visitors who come here each year. At the peak of the season, Two Lights cooks up some sixty gallons of shucked, breaded whole-belly clams each week, a testament to their quality and popularity. Cape Elizabeth, ME. 207-799-1677; lobstershacktwolights.com
How could this place not have some of the best fried clams in Maine? Though it’s best known for its amazing lobster roll, the fried clams really don’t play second fiddle, as any fried clam aficionado will tell you. The whole bellies here are Maine-sourced, very lightly breaded, and cooked in super-clean, frequently changed cooking oil for a sweet, crunchy taste. Pair these with an order of onion rings, and you’ll be in fried clam heaven. Kennebunk, ME. 207-967-3321; theclamshack.net
LEARN MORE!The Clam Shack | Kennebunk, Maine
This clean, well-lighted seafood shack serves up some excellent fried clams that are perfectly breaded and lightly fried for a satisfying crunchy texture with each bite. Using what they call a “convection” style of deep frying, the outer portions of the clams are quickly seared at a high temperature, preventing them from absorbing the cooking oil. The end result is crispy, puffy fried clam perfection. Wiscasset, ME. (207) 882-6581; seabasket.com
Here’s another lobster shack that really rocks it when it comes to fried clams. The locally procured clams are hand-breaded and fried until lightly crispy; the oil is changed frequently at the shack’s Love Nest Grill, where the deep-fried foods are prepared. Enjoy your repast on the town dock where the shack resides, while taking in one of the most picturesque seascape views in Mid-Coast Maine. Georgetown, ME. 207-371-2990; fiveislandslobster.com
This remote outpost next to the reversing falls on Blue Hill peninsula has been frying up seafood in lobster territory since the 1940s, and it shows in their perfectly cooked, locally sourced fried clams. Bagaduce (pronounced bag-uh-DOOS) is a third-generation operation currently owned by Judy and Mike Astbury. Their daughter helps Judy upfront at the order windows, while Mike tends to the deep fryers in shack’s kitchen. They must be doing something right—in 2008, Bagaduce Lunch won a James Beard Foundation America’s Classics award. That has to earn you a place on a list of the best fried clams in Maine, right? Ask to see the plaque while you’re there. Brooksville, ME. 207-326-4197
On U.S. 1 as you head to Downeast Maine sits a multi-building seafood shack and ice cream stand that really delivers some excellent fried clams for an inland operation. Jordan’s is highly popular with the Ellsworth locals, and seafood lovers rave about the shack’s small, crispy, perfectly fried whole belly clams and Jordan’s lightning-fast service. Country music issues from speakers situated around the grounds, giving the place a honky-tonk feel, but it’s the clams that Jordan’s is deservedly best known for. Ellsworth, ME 207-667-2174; jordanssnackbar.com
This busy, two-story seafood emporium sits in the midst of colorful New Harbor, a charming commercial fishing enclave on the Pemaquid peninsula. Shaw’s tendersweet clams fry up puffy, crunchy, and flavorful, and are great on a roll or in a basket with fries and cole slaw. The upper level deck offers wonderful views of the working harbor and of Muscongus Bay in the distance. New Harbor, ME. 207-677-2200; shaws-wharf.com
Where do you go for the best fried clams in Maine? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.