Long Island clam shacks: A dozen to dive into
Keep on shucking. Long Island is shaped like a finfish, but its regional table may be defined by the clam. Littlenecks and top necks, cherrystones and steamers -- they're abundant and prepared countless ways.
But the pure and popular way to serve hard-shell clams is the simplest: raw, on the half shell. And the no-frills, to-the-point clam bar is a classic Long Island institution. When you're in the mood to dive in, here's a dozen to get you started.
The Clam Bar at Bridge Marina(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
The Clam Bar at Bridge Marina, Bayville: One of the signs reads Bridge Marine, but you won't miss this spot under the blue canopy and molto al fresco. In addition to clams on the half shell and the lobster specials, you may find yourself lingering just to savor the sunset.
Clam Bar(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
This is as summery as it gets, on the stretch between downtown Amagansett and Montauk. The very casual, alfresco Clam Bar lures many for its meaty, market-priced lobster salad roll. It's also a good stop for clams on the half shell ($8 for half a dozen, $13 a dozen), fried whole clams with French fries ($16.50) and steamed mussels ($13.50).
Bracco's Clam & Oyster Bar(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Rambling waterside Bracco's Clam & Oyster Bar on Freeport's Nautical Mile is undoubtedly Long Island's rocking-est clam bar. Slurp clams on the half shell ($8 for 6) to the strains of live music (or DJs) until 1 a.m. every night. (Can you dance while you slurp?) Bracco's specialties include tuna nachos (raw tuna and seaweed salad on crisp wontons, $24) and drunken shrimp (boiled in beer, $15 for half a pound).
Tully's(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
Under new management this year (Tim Burke also owns neighboring Back Bar and the Lobster Grille Inn in Southampton), Tully's picnic table-filled yard remains a great place to while away a lazy mollusk-filled afternoon with plump steamers ($18) and briny clams on the half shell $14 a dozen). Crustaceans (in the form of steamed lobsters and meaty lobster rolls, $22), also are recommended.
The Shack(Credit: Nicole Horton)
An annual challenge: finding a parking spot along 25A that's not a hike from seasonal magnet The Shack in Centerport. Here, families, couples, singles -- and the occasional biker group -- clamor to place orders at the clam stand before hunkering down at picnic tables. Perennial favorites: littleneck clams on the half shell (market price), fried clams with fries ($13), lobster rolls (market price) and fish and chips ($16). Hot dogs and burgers, too.
Point Lookout Clam Bar(Credit: Barbara Alper)
Sit on the deck at Point Lookout Clam Bar and watch the fishing boats chug back to their berths in Reynolds Channel. The clam bar is owned by the wholesale-retail fish market that shares the building, so everything is top notch. Motto: "From our ships to your lips." If you're still hungry after clams on the half shell ($7 for 6) and stellar steamers ($15), there's a full menu of grilled and fried fish, pastas and lobsters from 1½ to 3½ pounds.
Peter's Clam Bar(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Eat inside or on the deck at the historic Peter's Clam Bar on Barnums Island Channel. Clams on the half shell are de rigeur; one shucker named Luis can handle a dozen clams in 48 seconds. Raw clams (any size) are $7 for 6, oysters are $9.50 for 6. Specialties on the hot menu include fried smelts ($12.95) and a huge pot of paella ($23.95).
Oyster Bay Fish & Clam(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
The bar and dining room of the seasonal Oyster Bay Fish & Clam are done up with decades' worth of seafaring props and paintings, the checked tablecloths are pure old-time oyster bar. (The patio fronting on Route 106 is less picturesque.) Simple is best: Raw clams are $1 apiece, whether littlenecks, top necks or cherrystones; Bluepoints from Oyster Bay's own Frank M. Flower & Sons are $2. The menu also features plenty of traditional fried-fish dinners, lobster specials, chowders and bisques.
Nick's Pizza & Clam Bar(Credit: Nicole Horton)
Kid-friendly and casual, Nick's Pizza & Clam Bar in Smithtown also offers highly respectable pizza. Here, you order at a window and stake an outdoor table (or indoors in inclement weather). Cherry-stones on the half shell ($7.95 half-dozen, $14.95 dozen) are fresh and briny, as are oysters ($9.95 half-dozen, $16.95 dozen). There also are steamers ($13.95), steamed clams ($12.95) as well as fried clam strips or belly clams ($12.95). Pizza options range from a regular cheese pie ($9.99) to a fancier bruschetta pizza ($17.99).
Kingston's Clam Bar(Credit: Linda Rosier)
Since Colonial days, oysters have been shucked at this site, which, since 1978, has hosted the popular Kingston's Clam Bar in Sayville. You'll find clams on the half shell ($6.95 half a dozen, $12 dozen), steamers ($11.95), steamed littlenecks ($11.95) and fried clam strips ($12.95 platter). Also, the obligatory chowders. Modern menu additions include lobster rolls ($17.95) and fish tacos ($15.95). Eat under an awning overlooking the boats in Dutchman's Cove.
Claudio's Clam Bar(Credit: Doug Young)
Claudio's waterside complex in Greenport includes the more formal restaurant Crabby Jerry's "family eatery," and the namesake clam bar. Popular for littleneck and cherrystone clams on the half shell ($7.95 half-dozen, $14.95 a dozen), lobster roll sliders ($14.95 for two), lobster roll ($19.95), platter of oysters, clams and peel-your-own shrimp ($15.95).
Butler's Flat(Credit: Linda Rosier)
Named after the lighthouse in New Bedford, Massachusetts, New England-style clam shack Butler's Flat in Brewer Capri Marina West has a sweeping view of Manhasset Bay. Highlights include fried belly clams ($17, with good fries and slaw), steamed littlenecks ($10 a dozen) and a meaty, mayonnaise-free lobster roll ($19).