Woodman’s of Essex

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

Woodman’s claims to be the place where the fried clam was invented — on Independence Day weekend in 1916. The story is that Lawrence Woodman tried to drum up business by tossing clams into the deep fryer along with the Saratoga chips he was selling at his clam bar. Who knows if the story is true? Who cares? The fact is that Woodman’s is today the Big Kahuna of North Shore clam shacks.

Located in the heart of the clam belt, where towns have bivavular names like Ipswich and Little Neck, Woodman’s defines a whole style of informal Yankee gastronomy. It is called “eat in the rough” around here, which means you stand at a counter, yell your order through the commotion, then wait for your number to be called. The food is served on cardboard plates with plastic forks. Carry it to a table … and pray that you can find a table that is not occupied. In the summer especially, Woodman’s can be insanely crowded.

If your experience eating fried seafood means a vaguely ocean-flavored morsel of food inside a thick gob of breading, Woodman’s clams (and all its fried shellfish) will be a shock. The crust on a Woodman’s clam is lush and crunchy, but it exists only to play harmony to the sweet, soft lode of marine goodness it contains. Although Woodman’s clams are available by the pint, or on a bun (known as a clam roll), the preferred way to enjoy them is as a platter, which means accompanied by both French fries and onion rings. It’s a deep-fried pig-out beyond any nutritional law or reason!

Directions & Hours

11am - 8pm
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM

What To Eat

Fried Clams

DISH
Clam Fritters

DISH
Lobster

DISH

Woodman’s of Essex Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Woodman’s of Essex?

One Response to “Woodman’s of Essex”

Joel Barmann

January 29th, 2004

For those who love good fried clams, Woodman’s is the real deal. In terms of ambiance, it is surely lacking. However, the true afficianado of the fried clam can look beyond this, due to the great quality of the food.

The clams are exceptionally fresh, the portions are quite ample, and the taste is outstanding. The portion of french fries was ample also, and although they were not the best that I have had, they were definitely good.

Woodman’s was recommended to me by a merchant in Rockport, which is several miles away. I had asked for the best place in the area for fried clams, and the proprietress told me that Woodman’s was clearly the best in the Cape Ann region. As Cape Ann is noted for the quality of its clams, that is high praise, indeed. Woodman’s lived up to her recommendation and to my expectations. Strongly recommended!

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