Clam Castle

Review by: Michael Stern

This Clam Castle is in fact a clam shack, and we mean that in the nicest possible way. A breezy roadside eatery with a pleasant dining room adjacent to the order windows and picnic tables set back from Route One, it has been a significant shoreline source of fried clams and clam chowder for more than half a century.

What to eat at Clam Castle

The whole-belly fried clams are plump, juicy and sweet with vividly seasoned crust that is brittle but virtually melts on the tongue when you crunch into it. For those who like only a hint of clam flavor as part of the fried-food package, the Castle also offers clam strips. While not the bivalve connoisseur’s choice, these strips are in fact quite tasty … reminding us of the fried clams that originally helped make Howard Johnson’s famous.

There’s a full array of other fried seafood, as well as seafood salads, burgers and hot dogs for the fry-basket-frowner; but in our book there are two non-fried things that must be eaten. First, chowder: a brisk, oceany brew typical of the southern New England shoreline, bright with clam flavor and ballasted by the starchy goodness of potatoes.

Second, the lobster roll! A striking Connecticut beauty, it is loaded with immense, butter-glistening pieces of meat, many of them two- or three-bite size (no shreds or stringy stuff here!) Barely holding them all is a split-top Yankee bun, so fresh and soft inside that it absorbs massive amounts of butter-lobster flavor and is impossible to stop eating even after the big hunks of lobster are gone. Its outside has been brushed with butter and grilled to a golden crisp.

The food is better than ever, and service has gone a bit upscale since the Clam Castle formally became Donahue’s Clam Castle several years back. You still place your order and pay at the counter, but now a member of the waitstaff will bring it to you at the table. Everything is presented on or in disposable dishware.

What To Eat

fried clams

DISH
Lobster Roll

DISH

Clam Castle Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Clam Castle?

2 Responses to “Clam Castle”

Wayne Johnson

April 22nd, 2023

I have been going to Donahue’s Clam Castle for years now. It isn’t owned by the same man anymore though. The new food is just HORRIBLE! The three of us ordered the very popular and excellent Golden Fried Seafood Combo. The name of that item has been changed. We thought well, okay, as long as it was the same.

It was not.

Then, we noticed the price has jumped by $19.00!!! Originally, the meal was $25.00 and that price jumped to $30.00 during the pandemic. We all understood and willingly paid it because the food was so good. So, we reluctantly paid the new price of $49.00 (almost DOUBLE from what we paid 3 years ago) and waited for our food to be brought out to the car. The new, young owner came to the car and apologized for any confusion.

We usually bring the food to the nearby beach and eat it while looking out over Long Island Sound.

We all opened our containers and just stared at the food, hoping it was at least as good as it was before. IT WAS NOT!

The onions rings were overly oily and terribly greasy and were placed on the French fries that not only smaller than they used to be but, there weren’t very many of them and what there was were oily and greasy.

Everything that made the original meal so good was gone. The scallops were tiny. The used to be huge and excellent.

The original French fries were coated with the best coating in Connecticut —- hands down! The same excellent coating was used on the clams, scallops, and shrimp. The fries used to be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The way fries are supposed to be. THEY WERE EXCELLENT!

The clams used to be big, expertly coated and cooked, and were delicious. The new ones are small and terribly greasy. The new coating is horrible. The only part of the meal that seemed to be the same is the piece of cod fish but, even that has changed. When we cut into it, we all noticed that the meat was strangely falling apart into dicey pieces that were hard to eat.

I think that the new owner who bought the place thought he could just cheapen the menu, raise the prices and, no one would notice or care —- thinking that he would become rich overnight.

Well, I’ve got news for him. Most of Donahue’s clientele are return customers. Most ate there because the food was the best and was reasonably priced. In the Summer, sometimes people waited two hours for their food because the food was worth it. No one complained.

All of that will change. I predict that unless the original menu is returned and the prices lowered, the restaurant will go out of business within 5 years.

What a shame. One of the best shoreline seafood restaurants went from being number one to being in last place for quality and pricing.

Not only will we not be returning but, my company won’t be returning and won’t be going there next month to celebrate a family member’s birthday as had been planned.

The new owner managed to lose three loyal customers and 4 potential new customers after being in business for just two days. Good job!

Reply

Sam Porter

August 30th, 2010

Roadside fried seafood shacks can be dicey and, mostly, worthy of avoidance. Thusly, I have been successful in avoiding them, but the review for the Clam Castle drew me in since I was in the area visiting family and looking for something casual and good.

While I am not a connoisseur of fried food in general and less so of fried seafood, the Clam Castle’s food exceeded what I imagine the best fried seafood should be. We were 4 adults in total sampling the menu and everything was excellent. The food tasted fresh and was satisfyingly crispy without being too heavy. Some fried food comes off in oil that has been used too many times, leaving the food tasting icky, but maybe metallic is more accurate. And then, with seafood in general, time is everything where leaving the seafood on the heat too long leaves the meat tough and rubbery. All of the fried seafood we ate suffered from either mistake. There were plenty of the appropriate condiments: malted vinegar, tartar sauce, hot sauce etc. The service was very pleasant and helpful and, in ordering, the person taking orders at the counter was very patient with us indecisive fried seafood newbies. The décor and food presentation was as would be expected and I don’t know that you would want anything else as it appropriately sets the mood for what fresh fried seafood should be, casual.

We all agreed that we would definitely return again.

Reply

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