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Food + Drink

Quest for the Best Clam Chowder

From Chowder Fests to Clam Cook-offs, there’s major competition for the best creamy bowl. Here, the seven that made our cut.

See recent posts by April Ellis

The Black Pearl, Newport, RI

On the docks of Bannister’s Wharf in Newport, The Black Pearl is a true New England institution. Built in 1920 out of an old three-mast ship, the nautical restaurant is worth seeing just for its polished brass detailing and teak wood interiors. But people don’t line up for the decor, they come for the award-winning “chowdah.” Order a cup and sit in the dressy Commodore’s Room and Tavern or snag an al fresco table on the Waterside Patio.

Grand Central Oyster Bar, NYC

Who knew that the best cup of chowder in New York could be found within the city’s iconic train station? But low and behold, the Oyster Bar is home to an insane raw bar of oysters, sea urchin, clams and more. Sidle up to the lunch counter and order the New England clam chowder with a warm buttermilk biscuit on the side.

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Union Oyster House, Boston

As the oldest running restaurant in the country (opened in 1826), Union Oyster House has mastered the art of cooking chowder. Here, the Boston classic is complete with a hunk of buttery cornbread (tip: crumble the cornbread in the chowder). Still hungry? Don’t miss the raw bar downstairs, which shucks heaping plates of fresh oysters and mussels.

Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco

Don’t overlook San Francisco — the coastal city makes a mean chowder. Find it at the 100-year-old fish market, where you can watch the fish-slingers chop up the clams that are hauled in fresh each morning. But be prepared, this chowder is a thin, buttery and briny counterpart to its thick, creamy east coast sister. JS Tip: Make sure to add Dungeness crab and oysters on the half shell to your order.

Pike Place Chowder, Seattle

This hidden gem in Seattle’s famous Pike Place is worth the trip out west alone. The dish started as a Friday special and was so popular, that it turned into a full-time business, with the chefs competing for the best recipe. The winner — full of bacon, potatoes, cream, fresh veggies, and some top secret ingredients — has even earned a coveted place in the Great Chowder Cook-Off’s Hall of Fame (yes, that’s a real thing). Talk about bragging rights.

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East River House Restaurant, Portsmouth, NH

As the three-time winner of Portsmouth’s Chowder Festival, it’s no wonder why this seafood staple at the River House made the cut. The rich stock is loaded with lobster, scallops, shrimp, clams and haddock, and is served with a four-inch Maine lobster roll on a grilled Brioche bun.

Maguire’s, Easton, MA

Ask any Easton local where to eat, and they’ll point you to Maguire’s, a cozy Irish pub that’s been open for 23 years. (Disclaimer: this writer happens to be a regular.) The neighborhood joint, just 30 miles south of Boston, has some epic blackboard specials, but the clam chowder is always a favorite on the menu. We love to eat it in a warm bread bowl, which soaks up the delicious creamy broth.

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