- INSIDER’s Herrine Ro and Emily Christian travelled to Boston to find the best clam chowder.
- They visited Atlantic Fish Co., Boston Sail Loft, Anthem, and Union Oyster House.
- After seeing how some of them are made and trying all four chowders, they picked their favourite one.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Emily: Oh, I f—— love it.
Herrine: Hi, guys, I’m Herrine!
Emily: Hey, I’m Emily!
Herrine: Tomorrow we are hopping on a train to Boston on a mission to find the best clam chowder.
Emily: Now, clam chowder is one of those foods that’s closely associated with Boston and the New England area.
Herrine: So we picked four places, and all of these places have won awards of some sort for their chowder, and the criteria that we will be looking for are the freshness and the chunkiness of the clams, the creaminess of the chowder soup, and the hearty bits of potato and vegetables in the soup.
Emily: I have a complicated relationship with dairy to say the least, so this will definitely be an adventure for the both of us, but I’m really excited.
Herrine: We should all take a second to pray for Emily, and we will see you in Boston.
Emily: See you in Boston!
Emily: Our first stop: Atlantic Fish Company.
Joe Battafarano: So Atlantic Fish Company has been a staple at the Back Bay since the late ’70s. Fresh seafood, fresh oysters, lots of clam chowder.
Herrine: The chowder here is so popular, last summer they sold over 21,000 bowls.
David M: Well, I come here because this feels really fresh and clean even though it’s kind of that rich, heavy, creamy one. I think it’s not as kind of pasty and heavy as, like, Legal Sea Foods or something like that, which, they’re all, they’re all pretty good in my book, but this is a little less dense. That’s why I always come here when I want my fix.
Herrine: The chowder’s rich flavour starts with fat from salt pork. Onions and celery are cooked just enough to sweat. Then, liquid gold, aka clarified butter, is poured in. Is there anything in your clam chowder that makes it different from all the other ones?
Danny Levesque: Probably this here. Most people use clam bases, but this is a very labour-intensive process to poach the clams, reduce the broth, take the clam meat, and chop it up. You have to squeeze out the innards so your chowder stays nice and white. It’s a very labour-intensive thing. When you have passion for the chowder, it’s worth it.
Emily: The clams used here are quahogs. The restaurant plates the chowder in a cup or bread bowl.
Herrine: And it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t choose the bread bowl.
Joe: Our chowder has won Chowderfest, ranked one of USA Today’s top 10 chowders in all of Massachusetts, as well as best chowder in Boston. I think we have the perfect balance, and then when you put it inside a bread bowl, there’s nothing better than that for New England comfort food.
Herrine: I think the clam chowder here is textbook, like, beautiful clam chowder. That’s good stuff. The brininess of the clam still comes through in this chowder, and I think the reason why that is is because they make the clam broth in-house. I can definitely get behind that.
Emily: Mmm! Oh yeah. That is perfect. You can taste the freshness. It’s like you instantly know these clams came from this area. I love my job. Mmm!
Herrine: If you’re paying for a bowl of clam chowder, it shouldn’t be more of a potato chowder. It should have a lot of clams. And for this, you are getting a lot of clams in your chowder, so the money is worth it. A lot of the times, it’s like after a few bites you kind of don’t feel good. For this, I’m halfway in, and I feel great.
Emily: Ooh! Is there Tabasco? Is there hot sauce? Hot sauce really, truly makes everything better, like, let’s just. It’s fine. Oh, there it is. That’s the stuff.
Emily: For our next stop, we visited Boston Sail Loft. Looking over the Commercial Wharf, this restaurant is equipped with a view.
Neil Denenburg: I’ve been coming here for only 28 years. There’s no better chowder in the country than the clam chowder here, absolutely.
Lawrence Goldstein: I’ve been coming here since I was a child. It’s the traditional New England clam chowder, and if you want the real taste of New England, that’s about as close as it gets.
Meredith Tipping: The Sail Loft opened in 1984. It was my father, my uncle, and one of their very good friends. Now, 35 years later, my dad’s running the show, and I’m here with him full time, and it’s been family-owned and operated all along. The chowder recipe has been the same since the day we opened. Our not-so-secret secret ingredient is dill. We can’t make it a secret because you can see it the minute we pour it.
Emily: This restaurant is known for its generous pour of chowder.
Meredith: We just won Boston Magazine, Best of Boston chowder for 2018. Last summer, we were featured on the “Today Show with Al Roker.” In our busy season, we can serve up to 300 cups of chowder a day.
Herrine: The smell of the dill isn’t too overpowering. The consistency is so thick that your spoon will literally just stand up by itself, which I think is so fun and so interesting, and I see already some sizeable chunks of clam. So these are all very good first impressions.
Emily: Already off the bat, I love the smell of dill. My grandma cooked it for me all the time when I was a kid. Everything had dill in it. So to me, this smells like home. It already has a place in my heart, and I haven’t even eaten it yet.
Herrine: My body hurts right now, but I’m doing this for y’all. I know, I want to say this is very preemptive, but I know that when Emily has a spoonful of this, this will probably be her favourite.
Emily: Wow! That’s like ice cream. Oh yeah. Oh, my God, that’s delicious.
Herrine: Not only are the green flecks just very pretty to look at, I think that it’s very crucial to the overall chowder in the way that it breaks down or cuts through a lot of the richness.
Emily: It’s just velvety and smooth in every way. It still has that nice just melt-in-your-mouth texture. The consistency of it is my absolute favourite part of this as well as that dill cutting through the creaminess to make it still light and airy.
Herrine: I‘m not getting too much of, like, like a seafood-y taste though. Like, I’m not getting like a full-on clam stock kind of taste. But so, so good.
Emily: Little Hern Hern Hern, Hern Hern He Hern. Little Hern Hern Hern… It’s so cold!
Emily: We chilly!
Emily: Next up, Anthem Kitchen & Bar.
Hugo Pereira: Anthem is a little bit of a mix of American with a little twist. As you see, we are located in one of the corners of the very famous Faneuil Hall, which is a very tourist destination.
Gary W.: I’ve been coming to this restaurant for about 15 years. Why is the chowder here so great? It’s consistent.
Hugo: Our chowder has been a two-time award [winner] in Boston Chowderfest. Just this last summer, we went over 6,000 bowls.
Herrine: The key difference in Anthem’s clam chowder recipe is the clams they use.
Herrine: This is a sea clam, a cockle sea clam, and then there’s another clam. We add two clams to get a better flavour out of them. For here at Anthem, I feel our clam chowder stands out from the rest a little bit more because we use a couple different clams. We use a sea clam juice that really kicks it a notch.
Emily: It’s served in a warm bowl with oyster crackers.
Herrine: This chowder seems like it’s really super thick but in a good way.
Herrine: Right off the bat, this chowder looks a lot thicker than some of the bowls that we’ve eaten, and the colour is, has just a slight tinge of yellow.
Emily: I’m really thinking that’s what’s going to set this chowder apart from others, is that brininess. Wow! That is really good.
Herrine: The clams, super roughly chopped so you’re still getting, like, big chunks of clam, and they’re not rubbery, they’re not grainy. They still taste very fresh. It’s so good, but I feel like I can only maybe have half of this bowl.
Emily: I love the fact that they’re using two kinds of clams. I like the fact that one of them is a secret. It makes me feel like I’m part of something special. My absolute love is hot sauce, so I’m just gonna… Mmm! That’s the way to do it. Just in case you want to know what it looks like out here in Boston. It’s been snowing for maybe 10 minutes, and it already looks like this. Herrine’s not OK. She’s really full of chowder. She’s not good.
Herrine: I want to lay down.
Emily: She froze. I’m from California, and I’m doing better than Herrine. I just want everyone to know that. Our last and final stop is Union Oyster House.
Herrine: We are at Union Oyster House, America’s oldest restaurant. We are going to try the Oyster House clam chowder, a Boston classic.
Herrine: We’ve been shooting all day today, and Union Oyster House is our last stop of the night. We’re filled to the brim with clam chowder, but we must carry on. It’s really cool ’cause Paul Revere was here and so were the Kennedys. I don’t know if Paul Revere was actually here, but I think he was. A bunch of presidents ate this clam chowder before I did. So if they say it’s good, who am I to deny the chowder of our forefathers?
Herrine: Because it’s the oldest restaurant in America, and the chowder is a Boston classic, I am expecting this to be like top tier, like, they know what they’re doing.
Emily: My clam was a little grainy, but other than that, this is really good. This tastes like classic. If you came to Boston, and you wanted some chowder, you got this, and you’re like, “Heck yeah, I’m in Boston now!”
Herrine: I feel like it lacks a little bit in the clammy and briny flavour that other places have. I feel like this is the old-school classic clam chowder, and, you know, it tastes delicious. It’s just, I wish there were more clams in it. But that’s about it.
Emily: I was complaining about all the chowder I’ve consumed over the past few days, but I did it. I can’t be stopped. So I know this sounds strange, but I could go for another bowl right now.
Emily: I know, I was looking at the footage, and I would be lying if I told you that I am not craving a clam chowder.
Herrine: Yeah, seriously I think that made me so hungry.
Herrine: I know.
Emily: So which one’s your favourite?
Herrine: OK, so I want to be clear: All the clam chowders were delicious in their own way, and I feel like I would crave each individual one on a different day.
Herrine: For different reasons.
Emily: t’s called “Best of the Best” for a reason, they truly are the best.
Herrine: Of the best. But, I do have to say my favourite was Atlantic Fish Company.
Herrine: Because it was just all-around kind of on the lighter scale.
Herrine: It hit all the marks for me, and I feel like I would want that every single day.
Herrine: Which one was your favourite?
Emily: So I actually would also say Atlantic Fish Company…
Emily: If it wasn’t for the dill at Boston Sail Loft, that really just stole my heart. I mean, I told you that it’s something that’s very close to home for me ’cause my grandma made it for me all the time. And so I think it had that nostalgia that made it my personal favourite. I also loved the density of the cream in that soup.
Herrine: I honestly would go with both, like I would have them back-to-back.
Emily: I mean, we really did, so.
Herrine: So guys, after you saw all four, which one is your favourite? Or which one would you try?
Emily: Let us know in the comments below.
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