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Fried whole-bellied clams
What: Fried whole clams are quintessential New England comfort food (see: Boston, fried local clams), and coastal Connecticut is yet another great spot to indulge. Whole clams differ from “clam strips,” of course, in that the flavorful belly is included in the fry; as such, they’re sometimes listed on menus as whole-bellied clams. New Haven proper lacks a good clam shack, but they’re not too hard to find a short drive away. A plate of salty, crunchy, summery goodness awaits.
Where: Family-owned since 1955, Glenwood Drive-In (2538 Whitney Ave., Hamden, map), in nearby Hamden, is the kind of bustling fast-food joint that prides itself on fresh ingredients. It’s more divey roadside shrine to fried stuff than waterfront clam shack—indeed, this is a short drive inland from New Haven—but that’s all part of its charm. Too bad it’s not an actual drive-in—be prepared to exit your vehicle in order to eat.
When: Daily, 11am-10pm (closes at 9pm Mon-Thurs from January through about March)
Order: Some people swear by the beef-pork hot dogs (and diverse condiment bar) here, but for us it’s all about the seafood. Get an order of whole clams ($15.50)—delivered fresh to the restaurant every morning year-round, they’re served plump and delicately fried, with lemon and tartar sauce—and a buttery Connecticut-style lobster roll. The handmade onion rings are a popular accompaniment, though we found them a bit bland.
Alternatively: About 15 minutes east of New Haven, and nearer to the water, is Lenny’s Indian Head Inn (205 S Montowese St., Branford, map), another super charming dive with the distinct benefit of feeling more seafood shack-y. Order the same stuff: whole fried clams and a CT lobster roll. Can’t go wrong.