The fried clam was first created at Woodman’s in Essex Massachusetts in 1916. “Chubby” and Bessie Woodman opened their roadside clam shack on the causeway in Essex, MA in 1914. The fried clam hadn’t been invented. The made fresh fried potato chips. Business was slow and one day a customer jokingly suggested they throw a clam in the batter to pick up sales. They actually tried it and the fried clam was born.
A year after the Woodman’s experiment a Boston fish market advertised that it was "now equipped to serve the new taste treat—fried clams." And Howard Johnson—owner of a chain of restaurants that at one time had 100 spots across the East Coast—came himself to learn how to fry clams from "Chubby." Here is the rest of the story from the Woodmans’ site. Below is a Woodman’s fried clam strip plate with rings.
Woodman’s continues to offer fried clams and I go there whenever I am in Essex. It is located at 121 Main Street, Route 133, Essex, MA 01929. 978-768-6057. Their main rival for the area is Farnham’s. It is located at 88 Eastern Ave., Essex, MA 01929 (978) 768-6643. I tired them a few weeks ago for the first time. Here is their clam strip plate.
While Farnham’s was excellent, I continue to prefer Woodman’s especially for the onion rings. They have a unique way of doing them with more batter than the Farnham’s style but not too much as you sometimes find. Farnham’s is usually less crowded and has a nice place to sit outside and view of the salt marsh. Now that I have had both I will go back to Woodman’s on the basis of the food.
Here is a clam strip plate with rings from Marc Anthony’s in Onset MA. It is in the style of Farnham’s, especially the rings. I actually found it fresher than Farnham’s but still consider Woodman’s tops. Marc Anthony’s is at 190 Ocean Ave, Onset MA 508-295-5956.
If you get to Rhode Island, here is the place for fried clams - Evelyn's Drive In. What are your favorite fried clam places?