Best Clam Chowder in Boston: Find Out at Chowdafest!
We Bostonians love our chowdah. (IN AH TROUSAHS!) Clam chowder is Boston’s most famous regional dish, and you can find dozens of varieties throughout the Boston area.
Traditional New England clam chowder is white (never red!) with huge chunks of clams, potatoes and onions in a milk-based broth flavored with bacon and sherry. But chowders within vary widely, from consistency of the broth to unusual ingredients added.
So, where do you find the best clam chowder in Boston? Legal Sea Foods.
Legal Sea Foods is a Boston landmark, and their chowder is as classic as it gets — a perfect balance of all the aforementioned ingredients, thick, creamy and delicious. (Oh, and don’t try their reduced calorie version. That’s an insult.) If you ever visit Boston, you must drop by Legal’s for a cup of chowder!
Every year around the Fourth of July, Boston puts on Harborfest, a week of festivals around the city. One of the events is Chowderfest — or Chowdafest — where different restaurants compete to win the title of best clam chowder in Boston. (Of course, since only a handful of restaurants compete each year, the survey is far from accurate!)
Believe me, nothing says summer in Boston like drinking hot soup on a 98-degree day! Back in 2003, it was so hot that we actually ate our chowder while walking through the misting tent.
For $10, you can enter and sample as many chowders as you’d like. They get served in tiny cups.
Below are my thoughts on each competing chowder. Each can be summed up in one word:
Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern: Bacon. This was the closest to classic clam chowder, and it was made with Irish bacon.
Yankee Lobster Fish Market: Smoke. Very smoky flavor to this chowder. To remember that, I imagined Yankee Stadium on fire.
Anthem Kitchen & Bar: Cream. Like drinking a carton of heavy cream. One girl actually asked me if I had any Lactaid on me!
Fish Pier Restaurant and Market: Onions. Tons of onions in this chowder — interesting flavor.
Oceana at the Marriott Long Wharf: Vegetables. This chowder had quite a bit of peas and carrots mixed in.
Farmer Brown’s: Potatoes. I love potatoes, but these tasted almost raw. They had skins, too, which is unusual.
Parker’s Restaurant, Omni Parker House Hotel: Sherry. This chowder was boozing it up, big time!
Also exhibiting, though not competing (as they’ve won too many times) was the Chart House, with a wonderful, complex chowder filled with so many flavors!
While most of the competing chowders were delicious, none of them could compare to Legal’s. I voted for Mr. Dooley’s by default, since I’m a purist.
Turns out that Anthem won — and I was shocked! It tasted like they took million-calorie, butter-stuffed vanilla ice cream, melted it down, added a few clams and no potatoes, and threw it in a crock-pot. Not good at all.
No wonder this country’s so obese.
I’m telling you — if you want Boston’s best clam chowder, make sure you stop by Legal Sea Foods. And if you’re in Boston for the Fourth of July, Chowdafest is a must!