Although I’ve never met a fried clam I didn’t like, I prefer fried soft-shell clams (i.e., those with bellies) rather than clam strips as the latter always tastes more processed, even if sourced from fresh, high-quality bivalves. On family vacations to various spots along coastal New England, seafood shacks that served fried clams were almost as ubiquitous as Dunkin’ Donuts, so I was fortunate enough to develop a keen appreciation for the unrivaled bliss that comes from biting down on mollusks cloaked in crisp batter in pursuit of its buttery-soft, briny interior. If the big shots at Kentucky Fried Chicken got wind of New Englanders’ obsession with this food, they would open a sister line of restaurants serving only fried clams and they wouldn’t even have to change their corporate acronym.
When I saw that Mainely Sandwiches offered not just strips but also soft-shell clams, I was ecstatic. The prices, $16 and $26 for à la carte small and large servings, respectively, put only a slight damper on my spirits, since I recognized that procuring fresh soft-shell clams from the East Coast probably came at a significant cost to Mainely Sandwiches.
But buoyed by past satisfaction after paying a hefty amount for other items on their menu, I was more than hopeful that the fried clams would be worth the extra, well, clams. Unfortunately, I did not get what I paid for, which was, if you’ve been paying attention to the subject of this article, whole fried soft-shell clams.
My “large” serving (quotes to denote Mainely’s debatable use of this descriptor) comprised roughly 75 percent strip-like pieces that were a bit tough but with decent flavor and 25 percent the real deal, clams in toto that had that crunchy-soft textural contrast I sought. Although Mainely did a wicked good batter-and-fry job on those suckers, their disproportionate presence in my serving left me chagrined over the significant charge.
Guess a trip to the Cape this summer is the only way to curb my craving.