Sea Swirl

Review by: Michael Stern

A former Carvel stand on Route One east of Mystic, Sea Swirl might seem like an unlikely place to find four-star food. But for decades now, it has sustained a deserved reputation as one of the finest places this side of Ipswich to eat fried clams, especially the whole-belly variety. They are ocean-sweet with a salty snap to the meat inside their brittle crust. With a side of fries and a soft drink, they are a fine summer meal. Beyond clams, Sea Swirl serves a full roster of expertly-fried seafood, including scallops, shrimps, and oysters. For the fish frowner, there are fine 10-inch hot dogs, 1/3-pound hamburgers, even veggie burgers.

Some locals think of Sea Swirl as an ice cream place first, and there is a full menu of ice cream desserts, from cones to jumbo sundaes. It isn’t gourmet ice cream, but it has an ingenuous cheap-eats charm perfectly in keeping with the democratic spirit of Sea Swirl.

As for atmosphere, it is quite literal, for you can smell the ocean and flood tide to the side and back of the restaurant. The view from some picnic tables also includes a good perspective on whatever automobiles are cruising back and forth along Route One, which can be an inspiring sight on weekend evenings. Among your dining companions will be seagulls who apparently can find nothing good to scavenge at Mystic Seaport and so hover in the air above Sea Swirl, hoping to dive-bomb for any unattended French fries or pieces of fried clam.

What To Eat

Fried Clam Plate

Clam Strip Roll


Sea Swirl Recipes


What do you think of Sea Swirl?

3 Responses to “Sea Swirl”

Sean Murray

March 15th, 2006

My family and I went to the Sea Swirl looking for an alternative to Abbott’s in Noank. We chose the Swirl based on the reviews from this site. The food was good, but not good enough to justify the prices. For the four of us, we spent almost $50. For fried food.

My wife got the clam roll, I had the fish and chips, the boy had a hot dog, and my daughter got the fish and chips as well. The clam roll was very good. The fish and chips? Not so good – they were soggy and uninspired. I’ve had better at Tinker’s in West Hartford, and City Fish in Wethersfield. The hot dog was a hot dog. I can do better in my back yard.

This review can also be applied to Abbott’s, but the bill would be much higher, and I don’t remember if they sell hot dogs. As for the “Sea” in the name? That’s down the road a bit. The only water in the area is a stinky inlet off the harbor.

I may have been there on a bad day (for either me, or the Swirl), but I don’t feel that it stands up to Mr. Stern’s usually right on review. I would not go back.


Billy Lalor

March 8th, 2006

As a former local, getting over the Sea Swirl hasn’t been an easy task. The roadside throwback bases its reputation on fried clams, and also serves a hugely underrated, and heaping, lobster roll, but the real art lies elsewhere on the menu.

New London County may not have a big time rep for its local seafood (maybe it’s the proximity to nuclear submarines?), but anyone – native or transplant – who’s lived there will tell you, once you’ve left Southeastern Connecticut, it’s those Stonington scallops which haunt your food-addled dreams. There are any number of classier joints doing the local product justice, and some of the best preparations never leave the home cook’s galley but, for value on the dollar, the Sea Swirl’s fried scallops are beyond unbeatable. They are the gold standard.

Even if the ice cream’s a decided letdown and you’re more likely to smell exhaust than ocean air, the Sea Swirl will always be my first choice when it comes to eating out in the Mystic area.


Rob Neistein

August 25th, 2004

They boast about their “whole belly clams”, and they are excellent. The real secret here is the fried scallops. The fresh Sea Scallops are lightly dusted with a seasoned flour mix before they are deep-fried. The Scallop Dinner comes with Cole slaw, tarter sauce and fries. Each large Sea Scallop is fried to perfection, plump and tasty. These are the Best I have had anywhere. Now I find myself comparing the fried scallops in all of the area restaurants to the Sea Swirl. While there are many excellent seafood shacks and restaurants in the area, the Sea Swirl scallops win every time.


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