Cape Cod Clam Shacks

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Rich and I had lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants the other day. It’s a cozy spot tucked back from the road just off Route 6A in Yarmouthport, MA called Jack’s Outback. We’ve eaten there so often over the years that we’ve gotten to know the waitresses, the proprietor, and some of the other regulars. We’ve commiserated with them when life has dealt a nasty blow, shared funny stories, and gradually become part of the Jack’s Outback family.

We often convene the “Breakfast Club” on a winter’s morning, sharing a table with fellow innkeepers and trading stories of life before and, eventually, after innkeeping.
But this day we snuck off by ourselves for a serving of quiet and calm that Jack’s so easily delivers. It was cold outside, wintery and windswept from a storm that was whipping up the east coast. Inside it was warm and toasty, with the fragrance of all things yummy emanating from the kitchen. We waved to friendly faces and slid into a booth. Most days we just order our “usuals” – a burger for Rich and a BLT for me. But on this wondrous day one of us was in for a treat. There among the “specials” were two words that brought a twinkle to Rich’s eyes:  Clam plate.

A rarity at this time of year, fried clams are my husband’s favorite guilty pleasure. In the summer, of course, clams are plentiful, as are the clam shacks that serve them. But in the depths of a Cape Cod winter, finding a good fried clam plate is often like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. It got me thinking about some of our favorite spots for enjoying summer’s bountiful harvest of the bivalve, both here on Cape Cod and in our travels throughout New England.

A few years ago I happened upon a book entitled, New England’s Favorite Seafood Shacks: Eating Up the Coast from Connecticut to Maine. Written by Elizabeth Bougerol,  it may not be the definite tome on the best seafood establishments in the region, but the unifying theme is that each and every place listed is someone’s favorite. Some of the entries may have made the list simply because of the quality of the food offered. But it might just as well have been for its setting, the preponderance of local color, the authenticity of the experience, the interesting characters that frequent the place, or simply years of time-honored existence.

Whatever the grounds for inclusion, to me the very existence of the book and places listed within are reason enough to chart a course that includes a stop at each and everyone of them, just to judge for myself whether it deserves to be on “the list”.

So here, in reverse order from the tip of the peninsula to the islands off its coast, are the 21 establishments on Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard that were deemed worthy by the author. Rich and I have sampled a few and can concur with Bougerol overall, but we’d love to hear your take on the list, or add your favorite seafood shanty to a list of our own making.

The Lobster Pot

Mac’s Seafood
Bayside Lobster Hut
Moby Dick’s

Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar

Cap’t Cass Rock Harbor Seafood
Sir Cricket’s Fish & Chips
The Lobster Claw


Captain Frosty’s Fish & Chips
Sesuit Harbor Café

West Dennis
Kream ‘n’ Cone

Baxter’s Boathouse

The Clam Shack

Martha’s Vineyard
The Black Dog Tavern
Larsen’s Fish Market
The Bite
Home Port Restaurant

The Lobster Trap
Nantucket Pharmacy