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Consider the Maine Clam

In a state where seafood talk is often dominated by the world-class lobster and the insurgent oyster, you’d think the humble bivalve would be overlooked.

You’d be wrong.

Mainers love their clams. Check Maine’s beaches and coastlines at low tide and watch as Mainers patiently dig for clams. Once they have enough, they stir them into chowder (New England-style, not Manhattan-style, thank you very much). They deep-fry them, either in batter or covered in crumbs. They steam them by the bucketload. They grill them. They eat them raw.

How do you get in on the action? A great place to start is at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, held each July in the southern Maine town of Yarmouth. It features the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest (professional and amateur heats) and at least three tons of clams (fried in batter and steamed).

Maine clams can be found in tiny clam shacks and more upscale cafes. Many spots are on the coast, close to the source. Here are a few places to consider.

In southern Maine:

  • Bob’s Clam Hut (locations in Kittery and Portland) was chosen best clam shack in New England by Boston magazine. Check out the chowder and fried clams.
  • Fisherman’s Catch in Wells was named a “Best Catch” by Yankee magazine. They pull out the stops with chowder, steamers, clam rolls, fried clam strips and whole clams.
  • The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport was voted by Epicurious.com as one of America’s Top-Ten Seafood Shacks. Come for the fried clams, steamers and chowder.
  • Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is on the water in Kittery and offers clams in the raw bar and steamers.
  • Ken’s Place in Scarborough has been open for more than 90 years and is very popular for its fried clams.

Farther north:

  • McLoons Lobster on Spruce Head Island in South Thomaston has grill-roasted clams.
  • Cook’s Lobster and Ale House a Bailey Island institution, serves up clams on the raw bar, steamers and fried clams.
  • Lobster Pound in Lincolnville offers up chowder, steamers, fried clams and clam rolls.
  • Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown has steamers and fried clams right on the water.
  • The Red Barn, an inland restaurant in Augusta, has breaded and deep-fried whole clams, clam strips and – if you want a bit of everything – very popular seafood chowder.

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