My wife and I and another couple have just returned from an extended weekend (Thur-Sun) in Maine's "mid-coast" region. In the four days we were there, I tried fried clams in four different places (I would have tried more, but for some unfathomable reason, the people with me wanted to eat something else). My report:
1. Bob's Clam Hut, Kittery, ME: OK, ordinary, touristy, expensive, no ambiance.
2. Dolphin Restaurant, Harpswell Neck Island, Harpswell, ME: Better than Bob's, but nothing particularly memorable. Reasonable prices. Luckily, I started out with their lobster stew, (buttery, rich and chock full of big chunks of lobster meat) and finished with a piece of "five fruit" pie (apples, peaches, blackberries, blueberries and rhubarb in a light flaky crust). Both the appetizer and the entree were each accompanied by the absolutely best home-made blueberry muffin I've ever had. The extras, plus a scenic location on a boatyard overlooking the water, made the trip worthwile despite the less-than-exciting clams.
3. The Five Islands Lobster Company, Five Islands, ME: The best!! Sweet, lighty crusted with a slightly nutty flavor and tender. Not greasy at all. Reasonably priced. They claim that Maine Times magazine has proclaimed them the best fried clams in Maine. I can see why and have no reason to doubt it. The food, along with outside picnic tables on a working fishing dock extending into a lovely bay that was almost a Maine cliche, put this place on my "must-return-to" list. Oh, and they had the best fried onion rings I'e ever tasted.
4. The Harraseeket (sp?) Lobster and Lunch Hut, South Freeport, ME: Good flavorful, not greasy, crunchy coating. Almost as nice a coating as at Five Islands. But the clams themselves were noticably less tender. You could wring the grease out of the onion rings. And being in southern Maine's premier tourist destination, the place was mobbed (1/2 wait for our food after placing the order) and dauntingly expensive. The location is on the harbor, so the ambience is better than Bob's, but is more commercialized than Five Islands.
I'd be interested in feedback and comments. Anyone share my opinion or am I way off base?