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Rebel's Guild clam chowder
Photograph: Rebel's Guild

The best clam chowder in Boston

Whether you’re craving the classic New England style or one with a little twist, there’s something for everyone

Written by
Tanya Edwards
Written by
Time Out Boston Staff
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We’d be hard pressed to name a city in the US that has more clam chowder options than Boston, and everyone has their favorite—just ask any local! From traditional-style chowders at casual pubs to elevated takes at fine seafood restaurants to modern twists at chic spots, there’s a bowl for everyone. For additional seafood options, visit the best seafood restaurants in Boston or the best oysters bars in Boston, or be sure to grab one of the best lobster rolls in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

The best clam chowder in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

While you’re waiting for your epic lobster roll, dip a spoon into some chowder at one of North End’s best seafood restaurants. It’s made with cherrystones from Wellfleet and is thinner than a classic chowder (but not as thin as Rhode Island-style). Salt pork, clam stock and béchamel round out the flavor profile of this comforting dish.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Quincy Market
  • price 3 of 4

What can we say about the Union Oyster House that hasn’t been said a million times? One of the oldest and most famous restaurants in town, this historic spot has been serving clam chowder since its beginnings in the 1850s. Featuring fresh clams and plenty of history, a bowl of this stuff is rich and creamy, and it’s as unchanging as our favorite place to take family from out of town.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Seaport District
  • price 2 of 4

Created in Cambridge in 1981, the award-winning New England clam chowder at Legal Sea Foods has been served at six presidential inaugurations. The chowder is thick and creamy, made with fresh clams from Cape Cod. While it’s a must at any of Legal’s restaurant locations, the views at the local chain’s Harborside spot make it even better.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Back Bay
  • price 3 of 4

Good news! The wait at Saltie Girl has shrunk considerably because the former, Back Bay hole-in-the-wall has taken over its now-closed sister restaurant, The Met. That means, this spot is now serving its rich, smoky, bacon-kissed clam chowder—which is topped with crispy clams—on one of the finest patios on Newbury Street, as well as a large, expanded space inside.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Bay Village

Tucked inside the newly revamped and reopened Revere Hotel, Rebel’s Guild offers steampunk vibes and a stellar take on this classic shellfish soup. Their rich smoked clam chowder is topped with cornbread croutons—a better than expected twist that has been a hit amongst locals and out-of-owners alike.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Waterfront

It’s not summer in Boston without spending a lazy evening (or afternoon) drinking and dining out on the patio at Rowes Wharf Sea Grille. Dig into the restaurant's coastal chowder, which is packed with clams from Provincetown and marbled mashed potatoes. While it’s definitely a destination in the warmer months, we’ve gotta say that those harbor views and cups of chowder aren’t bad in the winter either.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Back Bay
  • price 3 of 4

With locations in Boston, Cambridge and even Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino, Summer Shack serves up a classic chowder that shines with Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh thyme. After you try their classic clam chowder packed with cherrystones and sprinkled with chives, dive into the Bermuda fish and crab chowder—it’s memorable.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Quincy Market
  • price 2 of 4

Taking out-of-towners around the tourist hot spots? You can do far, far worse than grabbing a chowder lunch in tourist-filled Quincy Market. Ned Devine’s has been crowned Chowderfest champ multiple times. Their creamy chowder features chopped fresh clams, potato, celery, cream, thyme and a good dose of pepper. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Waterfront
  • price 2 of 4

They don’t just do lobsters (and amazing lobster rolls) at James Hook. The two-time Boston Chowder Fest champs make a classic clam chowder with fresh whole clams, cream, broth, potatoes and a solid roux. If you’re just visiting, or are homesick for good chowder, you can order it shipped to you from their website.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

With locations in Fort Point, Burlington and even Portsmouth, NH, Row 34 dishes out exceptionally-fresh seafood alongside rare and celebrated beers. Start your meal with a cozy cup of their chowder that has a lighter broth, red potatoes (with skin on), bacon and a light, crumbly, house-made cracker.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

One of the best outdoor seafood shacks in Boston, this spot reliably draws crowds for buckets of seafood, drinks and good times under its open air tent. The scratch-made chowder features local quahogs poached in white wine and boasts smokey bacon and lots of cream. It draws in hungry diners in the cold months.

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