During my entire week in Massachusetts there was one food that remained on the top of my list, fried clams with bellies. I had to schedule this treat so I could properly appreciate their goodness and not be overstuffed from other meals, so I made the Clam Box in Ipswich the last stop of my Mass Retro Roadmap tour.
Buily in 1938, the Clam Box is a mecca for roadside enthusiasts, with it’s vintage “programmatic architecture” – aka built to resemble something – like a duck, or a barrel or a basket. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that the Clam Box was built to look like a clam box!
The clam box is the holy grail of foodies and regular folks alike, who drive for miles for a taste of the delicious seafood and clams of Ipswich. On my own personal pyramid of favorite foods, fried clams with bellies are up there at the very top- as you can see from this sign I have hanging in our kitchen:
The Retro Roadmap gods were on my side during my visit to the Clam Box, that is for sure:
- Rain Rain Go Away! As I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Clam Box the pouring rain suddenly let up. The Clam Box is small and infamous for long slow lines that snake around the building, so the fact that it wasn’t raining made my wait in line much more tolerable.
- Change Yer Oil, ma’am? The other thing that the Clam Box is infamous for is that they change the oil in the fryers every day “around 2:30″. (8/2011 – I’ve since been told that they filter it, not change it- good to know!) I was in fact the last person to get an order in before the oil change, saving me another 20+ minutes of waiting in line- thanks Retro Roadgods!
Some folks like to be the first in line to get the freshest fried, but I’m no purist in that respect, and knowing I was on the North Shore at 2:25 and wanted to get to Rehoboth Beach Delaware for last call, I needed to save all the time I could.
So yes, you wait in long slow moving line, you order at the window and wait for them to call your number. There is a small dining room just past the windows, and the friendly hostess enforces the “please don’t claim a table ’til you’ve placed your order” rule while pleasantly assisting folks who have ordered find a seat.
As you wait on the bench inside you can reviewat the positive press tacked up on the walls, conveying the history of the place and it’s local and international fame. Jane and Michael Stern, authors and stars of the Roadfood website, have given the Clam Box their blessing calling them the “best fried clams in the universe” and I am not one to argue with that.
My order arrived quickly compared to the wait in line and my luck held out as the rain started to pour down AFTER I got into my car. What did I care what was going on outside? I was about to partake of a meal meant for the gods- the Retro Roadgods that is!
As I ripped open my brown paper bag of hot fried goodness I saw that my wait was worth it. My fried clams with bellies were hot, crunchy, briney and delicate all at the same time. I delighted in devouring each one.
As a nod to the research portion of the trip, I opted for the combo plate that had onion rings. While they were good, I think everything pales in comparison to the glorious fried clam. It was probably a good thing I didn’t get an entire order of just clams (though I might in the future), as I didn’t need to get a case of fried clam belly on 8 hour drive to Delaware.
As I got out of the car to get rid of my trash I noticed that they had picnic tables under the trees for days that weren’t so dreary, but use at your own risk!
Doing one more loop around the building for photos I commented to the folks in line that they must be regulars, as everyone had their giant golf umbrellas open. Despite the rain they were patiently waiting in line for the glorious fried clams from the Clam Box. I don’t blame ‘em.
The rain started coming down harder then, and as I pulled out of the parking lot, snapping one last photo from my car, I knew that was the Retro Roadmap gods letting me know that the fun was over, and it was time head south.
246 High St
Ipswich, MA 01938
Oh and P.S. – cash only!
View MA – Massachusetts Retro RoadMAP in a larger map