So there I was on I-95 in Connecticut on Wednesday evening around quarter to seven, and I was approaching Old Saybrook, when I got this empty feeling in the pit of my stomach, and my thoughts turned to Johnny Ad's and fried clams. Now, to some folks of a certain age the words "fried clams" evoke memories of pointy orange roofs, 28 flavors of ice cream, and strands of a battered elastic substance with a faint clam-like flavor. My SO is such a person, and her recent order of clam "strips" at the Redwood Drive-In in Mendon, MA is what got me craving clams this week. While those strips were surprisingly tasty and tender, they were but a pale reflection of the briny bivalve sought out by true fried clam afficionados, which is, of course, the whole belly clam.
When I placed my order at Johnny Ad's for a regular order of such clams and an order of onion rings, the counter lady said, "I have to tell you, our whole belly clams have really big bellies right now". After looking around to make sure I really was at Johnny Ad's and had not actually been killed in a fiery crash on the highway and just come through the Pearly Gates, I replied that as far as I was concerned the bigger the better. "Well", she said, "we feel that we should warn our customers".
After what seemed an interminable wait, but was actually less than ten minutes, my number was called and I carried my treasure into the dining room to tuck into. When the first golden globe practically melted in my mouth, flooding the receptors on my tongue with that salty-metallic flavor, I checked again to be certain I wasn't really in heaven. The onion rings were quite good as well, and I'm glad I made that choice since the fries I saw other diners eating seemed to be the pedestrian crinkle cut frozen variety.
Refreshingly, and contrary to the current trend, Johnny Ad's doesn't ticky tack you to death. When I ran out of tartar sauce halfway through my meal, I wandered back out to the order window and searched in vain for the ubiquitous sign announcing "Extra Tartar Sauce $.50", so I meekly approached the window and asked like Oliver Twist if I could please have some more. The counter lady simply held out a cup in each hand and asked me with a smile if one or two would be enough.
Whole bellies are currently $14.95 for a regular side order of about 10-12 hefty, juicy, delectable clams. They are also available as a platter with fries and cole slaw, or in a roll. If you have someone who thinks they are "yucky", they can get clam strips instead, or other seafood or non-seafood items.
Johnny Ad's is on US Route 1 (Boston Post Road) between I-95 Exit 66 and Exit 67, 3 or 4 blocks south of Main Street in Old Saybrook.
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