The quaint and quiet town of Ipswich, Massachusetts is located on the northeast coast of Massachusetts. Folks from all over the east coast visit Ipswich for its abundance of historic 18th century homes, miles of beautiful shoreline and beaches, and America’s oldest working farm, Appleton Farms. But, if you ask David Ratner, a citizen of Long Island, New York, Ipswich’s prized possession is “The Box”. Built in 1938, the Clam Box is known far and wide for its fried clams. It’s a common sight to see a 50 yard line of people, old and young, tailing out the door of the Clam Box on a hot summer day; however, although the lines are always impressively long and the clams are impressively good, are they the best in all of Ipswich?
The Clam Box is not the only top contender. The Ipswich ClamBake on High Street and The Choate Bridge Pub on Main Street rank high in the hearts of Ipswich citizens. Jack Wile, a resident of Ipswich states, “I don’t necessarily like the Clam Box because it’s a tourist trap. If you ask Ipswich residents, they only go there once in awhile. Plus, the line is always wicked long.”
Ratner, however, has a very different opinion than Wile. We asked David, “Is the long line really worth it?” He responds, “There is nothing more exhilarating than getting off of the 95 North exit to 133 and seeing the Nantucket red glow of ‘the Box’ shimmering in the haze of the smoky grease exhaust. I could always clock the wait time as I pass the line by checking my odometer, but regardless I am always turning right to get my fix. Wait times vary by the season, but for me the most worthwhile and satisfying wait is for the first drop hour long wait at noon as the bellies come out of the fry basket, unadulterated from any cornmeal laggards. Was it worth it? Absolutely, I have the T-shirt on my back to prove it.” Despite the utmost praise from out-of-stater David Ratner, the locals agree to disagree.
“It’s just a tourist trap. Anyone who lives here knows that. The pub is where it’s at,” says Tucker, an Ipswich local. Along with Tucker, Jack Wile’s favorite is also the pub. “The pub is my favorite because I support my boy Angus (the owner), I also like the pub because it is the center of town and is easily accessible with a large variety of food.”
Co-Author, Alex Yanikakis, also known as Flexi, decided to test Tucker’s theory and made his stop at the pub for research. When giving his review, Flexi said “The clams were amazing and had a perfect crunch. The clams are so much bigger than the other competitors which makes the pub just blow the competition out of the water. There is a great atmosphere and it’s just an overall great place to bring friends and family.” However, when we crunched the numbers, we noticed that the Choate Bridge Pub had a significantly higher price for a fried clams plate than the Clam Box or the Clambake. A “fried clam plate” at the pub is $26 for a large handful of fried clams, side of onion rings and french fries, and of course tartar sauce. At the Clam Box a “strip clam plate” is $13.25 for about three handfuls of clams, fries, onion rings, and coleslaw. So to speak, if you care for quantity over quality, the Clam Box seems like the obvious choice.
Despite the Clam Box being a fan favorite, Wile would disagree that the Box has the best value. “For the best value, the ClamBake is the winner because I just feel like they give you so much more for around the same price.” Again, Flexi had to see for himself so he decided to test Jack’s claim that ClamBake has the best value. At the ClamBake, you can get about two handfuls of fried clams with a side of onion rings for $10.50. According to Flexi, the fried clams themselves have a “great crunch and a great taste. The only bad thing is there is not a great atmosphere.” So, it seems that at the ClamBake you receive an average amount of clams but only one side for the lowest price.
In conclusion, we leave it up to you in the end, it is all about personal preference. Do you value quantity over quality? Crisp over crunch? Tenderness over taste? There’s only one way to find out.