What To Eat in Massachusetts
Fried clams are a specialty of the North Shore, where chowder, oysters, and lobster also are menu highlights. Be on the lookout for roast beef sandwiches – a local obsession – that are veritable red-meat bouquets. The Boston area is rightfully famous for its world-class ice cream, as well as for superb old-world pizza; and the southern shore, around Fall River, has an Italian/Portuguese cuisine all its own. In western Massachusetts, look for sugar shacks, farm stands, and a bevy of good hot dog joints.
The best clams for deep-frying – steamers large enough to pack a salty savor – are hand-raked at low tide from beds in the Essex River on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Breaded in cornmeal and fried in oil that traditionally is at least half lard, a fried clam is a crusty, pale gold nugget big enough to be one greedy mouthful, a heavy piece of food that resembles a bulbous cartoon ring (the neck) set with a giant stone (the belly). On the very finest fried clam platters, the bellies vary in size, making each and every piece a unique eating experience.
Roast beef sandwiches are not unique to Massachusetts, but the passion for them north of Boston is without compare. Dozens of sandwich shops vie to serve rosy, freshly-cut beef that is the tenderest in buns that are the freshest dressed with sauces that are the brightest. There's nothing complicated about the recipes; the combination of ingredients can be transcendent.
The chow mein sandwich, a strange specialty of drive-ins, diners, and cafes on the south coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island east of Narragansett Bay, exists because Frederick Wong started the Oriental Chow Mein Company in 1936. Genuine chow mein sandwiches are built with noodles the family still makes at the old building in Fall River. These spectacularly delicious noodles are crunchy, not soft as in chow mein elsewhere; and traditional chow mein sandwiches are meatless: simply noodles topped with sauced sprouts all on a plate along with a hamburger bun.
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The Knack is a fresh take on the Cape Cod roadside stand, offering appealing updates to traditional clam shack and drive-in fare.
Cape Cod's Lobster Trap serves well-executed New England seafood in a bustling restaurant or on a tranquil patio.
Marion's is a Cape Cod bakery in a cute old house with an encyclopedic pie menu and excellent regional baked goods for breakfast.
Ray Moore is a little boardwalk dive that is one of the longest running and best lobster steamers on the New England Coast.
Salem Lowe, at the end of Salem Willows Park, serves a curiously regional chop suey sandwich as well as more typical Chinese-American snacks.
A Cape Cod legend, Arnold's is a theme diner that's become a family fun center with some of the best battered seafood anywhere.
Casey's of Natick, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest and smallest New England dining cars. You want a frankfurter “all around.” Better make it two.
Bread baked on site forms the base for unique and memorable sandwiches at Virgilio's of Gloucester. The bakery's desserts are also a must-try.
Captain Parker's is a nautically themed bar and fish house that has won chowder competitions so often that it has been forced to retire from entry.