Since it was listed in the book “1,000 Things to See Before You Die”, we just had to have the famous fried clams at Woodman’s of Essex. Land-locked Ohioans generally do not eat a ton of seafood unless you live by the great lakes. Before we were vegetarians, we’d have some salmon or shrimp, but rarely anything fresh. Of course clams never made it to our list.
But considering these clams were going to deep fried, how bad could it be with a delicious cornmeal coating? Worst case, we’d be able to pretend they were fried ochre, or fried tomatoes, or deep-fried anything, right? After exploring Salem all day, we were hungry, and like two seniors we arrived early (at 4:00) in Essex for dinner, and surprise, the place was pretty empty.
We made our way to the counter and ordered a fried clam strips dinner to share. The meal comes on a paper plate piled on top of onion rings and French fries. A heaping pile of deep fried goodness – that’s a lot of lard. But, did I mention we were starving, and our digestive system needs a cleanse anyway, and as evidenced by previous fried meals, lard acts as the grease to make that happen,
Weirdly enough, we had to go to a different counter to order our drinks. I asked the server why the two different counters. She said, on busy day, having the drinks at a separate counter helps improve the counter speed when the place is packed. I can only imagine a Saturday or Sunday in this place. Especially after we saw a sign that says “Happiness is finding an open booth at Woodman’s.”
We got our drinks and picked a table and waited a bit impatiently for our order. Once we heard our number called, Kimmer rushed over and with the classic Woodman’s tray – a thin, open-top cardboard box that in the right light sparkles with drops of splattered grease. Protected inside was our deep fried dinner with three sides of tartar sauce.
We dove right in. I ate several pieces of clam trying to figure out the flavor. It tasted alright but some pieces were very chewy. Kimmer said he’s not sure if he likes clams or tartar sauce, and I’m not sure I would eat clams any other way. The onion rings were amazing and had to remember to leave some for Kimmer.
We were really glad we decided to split the dinner because, even together, the two of us couldn’t finish the whole thing. Sadly, we did leave a handful of clam strips on the plate. But we did eat all of the onion rings and french fries.
While we don’t have a baseline for what fried clams should taste like, it might be unfair to say this is the best fried clam dinner, but we definitely enjoyed it and would try clams again. For more information visit Woodman’s website here.