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Summer Shack Clam Chowder
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Summer ShackSummer Shack Clam Chowder

The best clam chowder in Boston

Here’s where to find steaming bowls of the New England classic, packed with fresh clams, potatoes, and cream

Written by
Time Out Boston Staff
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A hot bowl of savory clam chowder is a perfect Boston treat on a cold winter’s day, or even in warmer temps when you just want something from the sea that's truly fulfulling. You’ll find the best clam chowders around The Hub at traditional seafood joints as well as higher-end restaurants. Classic chowders stand the test of time, while newer options add a modern twist. For additional seafood options, check out our list of the best seafood restaurants in Boston and best lobster rolls in Boston. Make a night of it by following up with an oyster happy hour and a visit to one of the best wine bars 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

This cozy restaurant in the North End features exemplary raw bar selections and one of Boston’s most renowned lobster rolls. But the clam chowder, made to order with cherrystones from Wellfleet, is definitely worth a try. While it’s a thinner version than most, it packs a punch, with salt pork, clam stock, and béchamel.

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

One of Boston’s oldest and most famous restaurants, Union Oyster House has been serving clam chowder since its beginnings in the 1850s. They’ve stuck to the same recipe, because why mess with something that’s survived decades? Featuring fresh clams and plenty of history, this bowl is rich and creamy, a true classic.

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

The award-winning New England clam chowder at Legal Sea Foods has been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981. It’s a must when dining at any of the Legal locations. The chowder is thick and creamy, made with fresh clams from Cape Cod.

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

For those who might claim they’ve tried it all, seafood-wise, Saltie Girl finds ways to always reinvigorate the classics. The rich, pork belly-kissed clam chowder, Ipswich fried clams, and warm buttered lobster rolls are all worth the wait for a booth or bar seat inside the narrow townhouse space.

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

It’s a bit of a surprise, but one of the best clam chowders in Boston can be found in the tourist-filled Quincy Market. Ned Devine’s has been crowned Chowderfest champ multiple times. The chowder features chopped fresh clams, potato, celery, cream, thyme, and a good dose of pepper. Top with oyster crackers for a standout classic version.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Waterfront
  • price 2 of 4

Two-time Boston Chowder Fest champs James Hook & Co. make a mean, classic clam chowder with fresh whole clams, cream, broth, potatoes, and a solid roux. If it ends up being your favorite chowder, you can order a half gallon shipped right to your door. 

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

This subterranean South End eatery from Barbara Lynch is a cozy spot for oysters paired with crisp white wines. When you’re in need of something warmer, indulge in the clam chowder. B&G’s version features bacon lardons and is topped with spicy homemade croutons.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 3 of 4

Oysters are the star here, and they’re not to be missed, but Island Creek Oyster Bar offers a unique take on clam chowder that makes it a must-try. The clams, of course, are fresh. The broth is light and flavorful, with a hint of fennel. It’s topped with house-cured bacon and chives, and instead of oyster crackers, this chowder is served with mini buttermilk biscuits.

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

Island Creek Oyster Bar’s sister restaurant dishes out exceptionally-fresh seafood alongside rare and celebrated beers. The clam chowder here is a little different from a classic version, but just as tasty. The broth is a bit lighter, and includes red potatoes (with skin). It’s finished off with bacon and a light, crumbly, house-made saltine.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

This semi-hidden gem in Fort Point Channel presents a carefully-curated, locally-sourced menu. The clam chowder here is elevated, fitting in nicely among the rest of the artisanal items on the menu. This version is made with fresh Littleneck clams, enhanced with pork belly, and topped with potato chips.

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

This popular Seaport seafood shack on the water draws crowds for buckets of seafood, drinks, and good times under the open air tent. In cooler weather, try a warm bowl of clam chowder—it’smade from scratch daily and features local quahogs poached in white wine. Smokey bacon, cream, onion, celery, and pepper make this chowder rich, flavorful, and satisfying.

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