After a brisk 5-mile hike through the dunes at Crane Beach, we were fully prepped for the short drive north to visit The Clam Box to give their lobster rolls a try. We’ve been here before, pre-Chronicle days, and have driven by its distinctive “clam box architecture” countless times. As you might imagine, The Box is famous for their fried clams, and many locals claim their clams are the best around (which they aren’t). But we were surprised to hear so many roll hounds claim The Box was their favorite lobster roll joint.
As is nearly always the case there was a pretty long line at The Box, and we waited while the friendly counter girl took orders from those ahead of us in line at what seemed a glacial rate of speed. You know, this can be pretty aggravating at times, but in this case our smiling order taker was simply taking very special care to get everyone’s order exactly right, so we really couldn’t complain. After finally placing our order, we sat on a long wooden bench near the pick-up windows waiting for our number to be called. This position gave us a birds-eye view of the massive fried clam, scallop, and fish platters being distributed by several more smiling and courteous youthful staffers. After about 10-minutes, we picked up our tray and headed out to the picnic area to enjoy the tail end of a warm, sunny Fall day.
As for how we graded The Clam Box’s lobster roll, we should begin by saying this roll really wasn’t bad. They weren’t huge, but they were stuffed pretty full with claw, knuckle and tail meat, all very lightly dressed with a touch of mayo. There was nothing at all offensive these rolls, and we didn’t feel ripped off. Conversely, these rolls were remarkably unremarkable – that is, there was absolutely nothing outstanding or memorable about them. The roll itself was a standard New England-style split-top hotdog bun that was prettily grilled, but it lacked that “butter-grilled” flavor that adds such a nice bottom to the best roll experiences. We wondered if perhaps The Box simply under-buttered our rolls, or maybe they were using unsalted butter (or, God forbid, some tasteless butter substitute?). Regardless, it lacked bottom, leaving us longing for a Top-10 roll (which this roll certainly isn’t).
Between the roll and the lobster meat was a bed of cut iceberg lettuce. The lobster meat itself was, again, not offensive, but it wasn’t singing of freshness either. We tried to pin down what we were getting, and our conclusion was that this meat tasted like it had been made yesterday and then refrigerated overnight for today’s use. We have no idea if this is what happened, we’re just saying that’s the impression we got. The meat wasn’t overcooked or rubbery, but it wasn’t sweet and succulent, either. If we were to stretch to find something positive to say, it would be that the size and and variety of meaty chunks used in this roll were definitely good.
The Clam Box scores an ACCEPTABLE rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):
- T’s Rating: 83
- P’s Rating: 82
- AVERAGE: 82.5
The Clam Box is located at 248 High Street in Ipswich MA. WEBSITE: http://www.ipswichma.com/clambox. PHONE: 978.356.9707. The Clam Box is a seasonal business.
UPDATE: Our friend and fellow blogger, Lobster Gal (lobstergal.com), just confirmed for us that The Clam Box uses previously-frozen lobster meat, which they themselves confirmed for her on a recent visit. This makes sense, considering our review, but is nonetheless really disappointing. Shame on you, Clam Box!
Pingback: The Lobster Roll Chronicles 2012 Year In Review! | Lobster Roll Chronicles
Just curious, what are the best fried clams around (including NH and Maine)?
Nathan, this is a tricky one. Although there are a lot of second-tier fried clam joints around, most in-the-know will choose Woodman’s (who apparently invented the things) or their neighbor down the road, JT Farnham’s. We remember the original owners of Farnham’s as being the hands-down winner. The new owners (of close to 20 years now) also make a really great fried clam. Even if it really came down to a tie, we’d vote for Farnhams for both sentimental reasons, and because we tend to always root for the little guy.