Some background: Raised in southeastern Massachusetts, I loved fried clams. I believe that I ingested the best fried clams I have ever eaten at Macray’s, a clam and clam cake shack that was on Route 6 in MA. Westport’s Macray’s was launched in 1957 and closed in 1992. I fondly remember those clams as slightly crunchy, nutty tasting, and all under a very light batter. The place was take-out only, with people standing in line for up to a half hour to eat them. My dad and mom took my brother Roy and me there during the summer, often on the way back from Horseneck Beach. To this day, Roy and I are both in the habit of ordering friend clams on a regular basis at seafood restaurants. Unfortunately I have never yet had a fried clam that have matched my sensory memory of a McCray’s product.
Thankfully, I’m in Maine now, which also celebrates the fried clam. I’ve dug them, I’ve tried to fry them, and I learned it ain’t easy to do home-made with a clam. This summer I plan to locate a plate of clams that matches Macray’s.
Moody’s: The clam roll is $9, with a clam plate for $14.59. It was lunch, and I was going to get the roll, and also potato and cole slaw, but those added $3 to the cost, so I ended up with the plate instead.
Here’s what I got:
I have been avoiding french fries lately, and opted for the potato salad, which was excellent. You also get a huge, delicious fresh yeast roll with your clams. The fourteen clams were only fair-a bit too rubbery, and with a batter coating that was too heavy for my liking. One aside- Twenty years ago I heard a Moody’s waitress describing the fried clam to a couple of inquiring customers from away. She told them, in a matter-of-fact voice, “Yeahh, the clam got the bellies here, but if they are too big, the cook squeezes them out some so they are not too squishy.” That same waitress waited on me this week . Before she finished my order I asked her if they still squeeze out the clam bellies. She told me, “ Nope. They used to, but no more. Too bad.”
Andy’s Brew Pub: The home-town choice was next, after a few recommendations from locals. The Lobster Pound has been at the beach since the 1920s, and has re-opened this season in conjunction with Andy’s Brew Pub, featuring Lincolnville’s Andrew’s Brewing products, with a separate pub menu on the Andy’s side. Fortunately, you can sit in the Brew pub side, order a fresh pint of Andrew’s, and they’ll bring over your Lobster Pound fried clams, as both establishments share the same kitchen.
Here’s the story:
The clam roll is $9 and the plate is $16. It was dinner time, and Marcia and were graced with being seated at the best little table in the place, right in the corner, facing the stormy, thrashing waters of Penobscot Bay. I chose cole slaw with mashed potatoes, which were buttery and fresh. I passed on the hand cut fries. The 10 clams were lightly battered, and were not as dark as the clams I had at Moody’s. They also tasted better.
Bottom line: In Week 1, Andy’s trumps Moody’s.
Next up may be Chez Michel, right across the street from the Lobster Pound/Andy’s Brew Pub. I have had two recommendations to go there. However, I may well start that assignment back to this Andy’s Pub, specifically along their 35-foot handmade slab bar with a pint of Andy’s English Red Ale (6.5% ABV), a new Andrew’s Brewing ale that’s not yet available in bottles. Then I’ll walk to Chez Michel, across Route 1 to put another plate of fried clams to the test. It’s a tough job, and I blame all of it on Macray’s.
[Disclaimer-I live in Lincolnville, next door to the Andy Hazen family, where I regularly buy beer.]