Sometimes it sucks not to have a car. Like when you want really great seafood - the city is just not the place to be. Essex, on the North Shore, seems to be the center of the clam shack world in Massachusetts, boasting what some consider to be the top three options - Woodman's, Essex Seafood, and J.T. Farnham's.
My family took a day trip up to Newburyport last week, and we pushed through the lunch hour, growing grumpier by the minute, so we could have clams instead of eating at one of the restaurants in town. Using my father's GPS, the trip from Newburyport to J.T. Farnam's front door was quick and easy. Ordering, however, was not quick and easy, since we were all starving and couldn't make up our minds.
We eventually settled on "boats" - your choice of fried seafood, plus fries or onion rings. Two orders of clam strips, one order of clams with bellies, and one order of scallops. My mother and I aren't big fans of whole clams; I think I've had too many bad ones, with bellies filled with nasty grit, for me to really be a fan. But sampling the bellies, I was blown away - they were small, sweet, and juicy, proving to me why so many people love whole clams. The clam strips were also delicious and not at all chewy - cut a little big for my taste, but absolutely delicious. I only tried one bite of scallop, but it was also perfectly cooked - Farnham's knows what it's doing with the fryer.
As far as sides go, the options are fries, onion rings, or cole slaw. Without a doubt, the onion rings are the way to go here - delicate, with just the right amount of batter. The fries were good, but didn't have the same cache as the rings. And slaw... ew, mayo.
God, I've made myself hungry just by writing this...