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Restaurants & Bars

Woodman's vs. J.T. Farnham's for fried clams

bachslunch | Jul 1, 200706:06 PM     15

Did a direct comparison very recently between Woodman's and J.T. Farnham's, two major league spots for fried clams in Essex, MA. In both cases, got a belly fried clam plate with rings, fries, and slaw.

Fries: forgettable in both cases, frozen standard issue, nothing special.

Onion rings: depends on your taste. Farnham's uses a somewhat non-uniform breaded style coating similar to how it does its clams. Woodman's is darker, with a more uniform tube-type coating, notably greasier, but tasted good nonetheless. Different, but both very good.

Slaw: no contest. Farnham's is much better, with a creamier consistency and more flavor, slightly yellowish color. Woodman's is comparatively bland, with little flavor, thinner dressing, much whiter color.

Clams: both are well more than edible, but Farnham's is better. Similar moderate size and similar breaded style coating. Both had good clammy, slightly briny flavor. The major difference -- Woodman's unfortunately had some clams with very rubbery strip portions, some of which couldn't be chewed. Farnham's clams didn't have this problem.

Both places of course are "in the rough," with picnic style booths indoors (also some diner style stools at Farnham's) and picnic tables outside; you stand in line at both spots to place your order (Woodman's however has two lines, one for drink orders, one for food orders). Nothing fancy, a bit of grubbiness, and plenty of rustic atmosphere at both. Advantage Farnham's: there's a really nice salt marsh view from their outside picnic tables, Woodman's has a marsh view of its own that's a little less picturesque, but its tables are covered by a tent. Advantage Woodman's: there are real bathrooms here, regrettably only a port-o-potty at Farnham's with no place to wash hands.

Given the choice, I preferred Farnham's, but Woodman's wasn't bad.

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