Ask the Critic: What's NYC's Best Seafood 'Shack' Cuisine?
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Lobster Rolls and Fried Clams?
Hi Critic, Longtime reader, first-time emailer. I moved to New York pretty recently and am looking for a place to get my fix of lobster rolls, fried clams, and other New England-style "seafood shack" eats... and I'm from the Boston area so I'm pretty picky. I'm looking for the traditional stuff here, nothing too crazy and modern, I don't think fried clams need to be dressed up to taste good! I'm curious about restaurants, not just sandwich shops. Manhattan and Brooklyn both fine.
A location near the water is generally a plus for a seafood spot... unless that water is the often-fragrant, none-too-scenic Gowanus Canal. But Brooklyn's Littleneck would succeed anywhere, with its classic and amply clam-ed chowder, Maine-style lobster roll, and steamers a-steamin' with garlic, chile, and Narragansett—New England enough for you? And though it's nothing like a seafood shack, Mayfield out in Crown Heights has a way with seafood, and its plump clam bellies and cornmeal fried oysters are particularly good bets.
Styled somewhere between a Massachusetts clam shack and a snug West Village restaurant, Pearl Oyster Bar is a little bit of both, with a menu that's problematically enticing. Recommended: The steamers. The fried oysters. The clam chowder. The fries. The lobster roll. The blueberry pie. The hot fudge sundae. I'd go on, but I hope that's enough for one meal. On the newer end? Head north to Chelsea Market, where Cull & Pistol isn't quite as traditional, but we're fine with bending the rules as long as the results are this delicious. As long as you don't go in expecting clam chowder, you might find yourself quickly warming to the oyster and leek soup with potato and dill croutons, which hits all the same creamy-hearty-seafoody notes; and wherever your lobster roll loyalties lie, you'll find a version on the menu, with both a warm Connecticut-style rendition with drawn butter, and a cold mayonnaise-bound Maine one.
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