Three of us (one of whom uses the email address clamarama) tried Essex Seafood and Lewis' last nite. I have a feeling that whichever place you hit first will be your favorite, and so it was with us and Essex Seafood. It was fairly quiet there at 8PM so our clam plate and small steamers came out fairly quickly. Nice, light battered, plentiful clams, great tartar sauce, good rings and way above average fries. Steamers were good too altho I have them so seldom, I can't judge what makes a great steamer. Anything in melted butter tastes pretty good. With two sodas and a side of corn, it was $24.
We then drove a few miles east to Lewis' which is a real restaurant, bar/smoking area on one side, pleasant dining room on the other. Made me think of a place my parents would frequent, esp. with the reasonable prices ($8.95 for chicken picatta, etc.). Lots of specials like chicken pot pie, etc. but we got their large clam plate (they had both 5 and 7 oz) and fried oysters. Both came w/ cole slaw and fries, salad could be sub. for $1. Not nearly as many clams as Essex but a nice touch with the batter. Fries were boring but the cole slaw was quite good. The oysters were tasteless according to one friend and definitely not as flavorful as the clams. Altho for me, you could put almost anything in batter and dip it in tartar sauce and I'd be happy. The waitress was super nice and w/ one beer and a wine, it came to $33. I'd read somewhere that Lewis' had the best clams but at this point, I'd stick with Essex or Farnhams, esp. if you want to go casual.