National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy
Samantha DiMauro
October 02, 2014

It’s the question of a lifetime: where can one find the best clam chowder in Boston? This is no light matter, friends. What began, way back when, as a working fisherman’s dish has become a local delicacy, gracing the menus of both gritty harbor-side hole-in-the-walls and gourmet restaurants alike. At this point in my life, I’ve tried many cups of the stuff, from satisfying, homey comforts of the scrape-the-bowl variety to grave disappointments committing the cardinal sin of a thin stock and chewy clams. A good broth can be tested by how long it takes for your spoon to sink below the surface (at least three seconds is the mark of prime stuff), though the size and amount of the clams is always what makes or breaks this dish. While the true test of the best bowl is up to your own taste buds, everyone respects a chowder heavy on the goods.

Legal Seafoods

The chowder served at every Presidential inauguration since 1981 is a must-try in Boston, even if you can only manage an airport taste-test ten minutes before you leave town. You can find it at any Legal outpost (including Terminal C!) but I like to grab a bowl at Copley Place, where I can people-watch from the dining room.

The Barking Crab

This bona fide seafood shack on the Fort Point channel celebrated its 20th birthday this year with a new chowder recipe! It’s creamy, and made from scratch daily with Ipswich quahaugs, steamed and poached in white wine. Eat at the bar by the live lobster pool and watch kitchen hands fish out two-pounders by the half-dozen. Dinner and a show.

B&G Oysters

One bowl of chowdah is not like the others. Classic flavors are broken down and distinguished by salty, sweet bits of bacon, thick chunks of clam, and a spicy kick of cayenne-coated oyster crackers. Indulge by the spoonful sitting in the enchanting back patio nook, ensconced by ivy-covered, South End brownstone facades.

Charlie’s Kitchen

This is no starter dish, no appetizer. Charlie doesn’t mess with anything less than a hearty, homemade diner meal with character. It will come to you searing hot, heavy on the cream, and characterized by haphazard, varying sizes of unpeeled potato chunks, celery slices, and clam strips. This Harvard dive bar's bowl of chowder is made the way the locals like it: to get. The job. Done. 

Atlantic Fish Co.

One cup is simply not enough of this award-winning chowder. A spoonful strikes an eloquent balance of soft bite-sized potatoes and hearty chucks of cherrystones churned into a creamy, salt-pork-sweetened broth. Order it overflowing the crispy edges of a freshly baked bread bowl, and sit out on the sidewalk patio to be the envy of all walking by on Boylston Street.

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