Clams, Cranberries and Crustaceans: Where to Eat in New England

The northeast is a foodie's dream.

From the natural beauty of mountain towns like Stowe, Vermont, and North Conway, New Hampshire, to the serene white sand beaches of Cape Cod and Connecticut’s Hammonasset Beach, New England’s list of reasons for visiting runs deep. There is adventure in hiking the 100-Mile Wilderness, sea kayaking Casco Bay and skiing the Beast of the East in Killington. There are the friendly island communities of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Mount Desert Island and the charm of small towns like Rockport in Massachusetts, Sugar Hill in New Hampshire, and Craftsbury Common in Vermont with their own variety of colonial churches, covered wooden bridges and period architecture.

Mingled throughout, however, is the region’s food. New England’s rich farmland, its bountiful coastal waters and its centuries-old immigrant influence create a unique and tasty menu that includes signature servings of johnnycakes, stuffed clams, Boston baked beans and brown bread, and the unexpected goodness of fluffernutter sandwiches, mixing peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. It’s no wonder that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was born in Burlington, Vermont, that the very first chocolate chip cookie was created at Whitman, Massachusetts’ Toll House Inn, or that the official state beverage of New Hampshire is apple cider.

At the end of the day, though, New England’s infinite list of reasons for visiting and the fear of missing out on something great make it nearly impossible to choose just where to go. Fortunately, the region’s tasty fare is served all over, and the finest of it is never far away.

The Place Restaurant

Since 1920, Rhode Island residents have counted on Aunt Carrie’s for mouthwatering seafood and the cool ocean breezes of Narragansett in the heart of Point Judith. Order the Rhode Island shore dinner to experience the region’s best South County-style clam chowder, clam cakes made from scratch, and steamed clams plucked straight from local waters. In Guilford, Connecticut, The Place Restaurant is an open-air clambake where the tables surround a smoky wood fire. Bring your own beer, pull up a tree stump for a chair, and enjoy freshly opened, fire-roasted clams with butter and hot sauce. And north of Boston in historic Ipswich, The Clam Box has been serving the tastiest fried clams for 80 years. Truly adventurous clam connoisseurs can stop in at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut, for the legendary coal-fired white clam pizza with mozzarella, garlic, oregano and olive oil.

Five Islands Lobster Co.

Abbott's Lobster

The only thing better than New England lobster is the quintessential New England lobster shack. The best of these coastal staples includes the Five Islands Lobster Co. on the edge of Sheepscot Bay in Maine, Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough in Noank, Connecticut, where lobster is steamed in giant cast-iron vaults, and Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, New Hampshire, serving fresh-boiled lobster for half a century. For straight-from-the-water whole steamed lobster in a picturesque Maine setting, it’s difficult to beat McLoons Lobster Shack on Spruce Head Island, where guests can take in the sights and sounds of local lobstermen in the harbor and the area’s oldest working lobster wharf. And on more than one occasion, the lobster rolls at The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, have been called the best New England has to offer. Big chunks of fresh soft-shell lobster meat, a hint of mayonnaise or warm butter and a toasted hamburger-style bun from a local bakery make these summer treats well worth the wait.

Mayflower Cranberries, harvesters

According to the Cape Cod Growers’ Association, cranberries are Massachusetts’ No. 1 agricultural commodity crop. The state also has more than 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs, meaning a Massachusetts bog tour is practically a requirement. Learn all about the history of cranberries and tour the harvesting equipment at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, step inside the screen house to sort cranberries at Flax Pond Farms in Carver, then step into a pair of waders and harvest your own cranberries at Stone Bridge Farm in Acushnet.

The month of August in Maine is the season of wild blueberry festivals. The Rangeley Lake Blueberry Festival hosts a frog-jumping contest, the Union Fair & Maine Wild Blueberry Festival crowns a Blueberry Queen, and the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival offers a blueberry-themed play, but they all have berry pies, cakes, muffins, breads, tarts, jams and jellies.

Whoopie pie from Bam Bam Bakery

From rhubarb pie and apple cider doughnuts to maple-flavored ice cream and Grapenuts pudding, sweets abound in New England. In Maine, the official state treat is the large cake-like cookie with marshmallow filling known as the whoopie pie. In Portland, try the plain chocolate or gingerbread flavors at Bam Bam Bakery and peanut butter and blueberry flavors at Big Sky Bread. Topped with melted ice cream or just whipped cream, Indian pudding is another classic New England sweet made with cornmeal and molasses. Try it at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, in Boston, golden sponge cake, pastry cream and chocolate ganache come together to create a New England dessert classic — Boston cream pie. At Flour Bakery, the sponge cake is soaked in coffee; while at Legal Sea Foods, they add rum caramel sauce and toffee almond crunch, and at Modern Pastry Shop in the Italian District, patrons can take their Boston cream pie cupcakes to go.