Part of me feels sheepish promoting fried clams anywhere other than at a North Shore institution like the Clam Box or Woodman's, or at my favorite Vineyard beachside shack, The Bite. Another part of me can't help but marvel at the Ipswich beauties fried up by Barbara Lynch's crew at B&G Oysters, despite distractions like the South End raw bar's urbane decor, choice wine list, and beloved lobster BLT (future "Sandwich A Day" post).
In other words, these are the only fancy-restaurant fried clams I think are really worth the cash ($14 half/$26 full). That Lynch's crew starts with Ipswich bellies makes all the difference; these juicy, sweet, whole-belly behemoths are harvested from the mud flats off Ipswich, where experts claim that the particularly nutrient-rich soil gives the bivalves their superior, almost nutty flavor.
The shatteringly crisp, delicate coating is another plus. Whereas too many fried clams are so heavily coated in a dense batter that their briny flavor gets lost, these bellies are lightly dredged in a mixture of flour and cornmeal that fries up into a sheer but substantial coating with plenty of crunch. And hats off to the kitchen's draining practices; they leave not a lick of grease in their wake. That makes swiping up the pickle-y house tartar sauce and polishing off the pile of perfect fries all the more enjoyable.