Boston may be known for its history, architecture, and rabid baseball fans. But if there’s one thing about Boston that should really be celebrated, it’s the clam chowder. The city sits on the Northeastern coast and boasts some of the best seafood in the country. Although we love the oysters and the crab rolls, true food lovers know that the clam chowder (otherwise known as "chowda") is a true necessity. Whether you call Boston home or you’re just visiting for a few days, you don’t want to waste your time on subpar chowder — the good stuff is absolutely out of this world, but the bad stuff? It can be actively unpleasant. And since a lot of people are weird about unappealing seafood anyway, bad chowder is something you’ll definitely want to avoid.
We’ve done some digging to uncover the best spots in the Boston area for clam chowder. Whether you’re looking for a quick, casual bite to eat or you want to sit down at one of Boston’s most luxe restaurants, you’ll find an option on this list. Just make sure to bring a big appetite because there’s a good chance you’re not going to want to stop eating the best New England clam chowder Boston has to offer.
First up is one of the best seafood spots in Boston, if you’re looking for more than the basics. We love Saltie Girl’s clever takes on all kinds of seafood-based favorites. From the delightful torched madai to the classic moules frites, we can’t get enough of this place. While you’re choosing from the various dishes on the menu, make sure you don’t pass up the chowder. The fried clams really make a big difference here, adding a depth of flavor you won’t find in an average bowl. The potatoes add some bulk to the dish. The bacon makes this New England clam chowder feel even more indulgent, and the celery offers some texture and freshness to the mix. Oh, and don’t forget to order a cocktail on the side. (The Saltie is our favorite.)
Located in Boston’s Back Bay, this is one of our top restaurant suggestions if you’re visiting the city and want to try a spot that feels a bit more local than the busy spots that cater to tourists. It’s close to downtown, so you don’t have to go far if you’re already staying in the area. Small shops, bars, and eateries line this stretch of Boston, so you’ll have plenty to do before and after you eat.
Boston Chowda Co.
If you’re visiting Boston, there’s a good chance that you’ll be heading to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace at some point. It’s a touristy spot, but it’s fun to wander around to check out all the different food options. Of course, while you’re there, you may want to snag a lobster roll to snack on as you sit outside or walk to the water. But don’t write off a cup of chowder just because you’re on the go. Boston Chowda Co. has you covered for all of your chowder-related needs, and we love that you can just grab one of the best chowders in Boston and be on your way.
The chowder here is especially creamy, which couldn’t be more comforting on a chilly day — luckily, Boston has a lot of chilly days over the course of the year. Our advice? If you really want to indulge (and you should!), go for the New England clam chowder in the bread bowl. The chowder itself is delicious, but nothing beats ripping apart the cream-soaked bread when the soup is all gone. Yes, this counts as a religious experience.
Row 34 Boston
If you’re looking for an inexpensive bowl of clam chowder near Boston, you probably shouldn’t head to Row 34. But if you’re willing to pay a little extra for the good stuff, you’re going to be wowed. And with such a fantastic menu in addition to the chowder, it’s a spot that’s definitely worth checking out. Located in Boston’s Fort Point, Row 34 boasts elevated comfort food favorites like crab cakes and lager-steamed mussels. Of course, the clam chowder is essential. At $12 for a bowl, it’s not the cheapest clam chowder you’ll ever have, but you deserve to treat yourself. The house saltines add a salty touch to the soup, while the bacon ups the savory factor and makes every bite more satisfying.
We think this is a great spot for a fun date night because who doesn’t think that slurping down seafood brings two people closer together?
Union Oyster House
Another classic tourist spot is Union Oyster House. And although touristy spots generally don’t have the most sparkling reputation when it comes to food, this restaurant really does serve top-quality New England clam chowder. Fun fact: It’s actually Boston’s oldest restaurant, so you’re going to get a taste of history when you turn up at this centrally located spot. If you’re looking for adventurous small plates and wild cocktails, this is not the location for you. Rather, you’re going to find comforting New England classics here that will truly give you a traditional taste of the region.
The broiled sea scallops are out of this world, and you’re not going to want to miss the shrimp cocktail, a.k.a. the greatest American seafood dish. But of course, if you’re headed to Union Oyster House, we recommend the cup if you’re ordering other dishes as well — the bowl is a lot of food. It’s creamy, it’s classic, and they definitely don’t skimp on the clams. And since it’s such an essential spot for chowder in Boston, you’ll truly feel like you’re getting a taste of the city.
Atlantic Fish Company
Another Back Bay mainstay is the Atlantic Fish Company, a restaurant that’s been around since 1978. This location is one of our favorites during the summer when it’s warm enough to sit outside and watch all the people walking past — it is a bustling part of the city, after all. This chowder place has a little bit of everything. It’s not totally old-school, but it has enough classics on the menu that we wouldn’t mind taking our Boomer parents. Dishes like the lobster crab louie, the seared octopus, and the elegant fluke crudo are worth ordering. But the New England clam chowder is absolutely essential.
The award-winning dish is absolutely brimming with clams, so you get that chewy seafood texture in every bite. We love that they serve it in a bread bowl, which is, frankly, how every soup should be served. We love pairing the chowder here with a bright, zippy white with some acidity that can cut through the intense creaminess.
Basically, you can’t go wrong with most of what’s on the menu at Atlantic Fish Company, but you definitely shouldn’t skip the chowder bread bowl.
The Barking Crab
If you want to sit on the water at one of the best touristy spots that Boston has to offer, make your way to The Barking Crab. It’s located on Boston’s Fort Point Channel and super close to the Seaport, which is home to bars, shopping, and more restaurants as well as the ICA, Boston’s contemporary art museum. The Barking crab offers a beautiful view of the water. This is one of our favorite spots to bring guests when they’re in town because it just feels so New England. Of course, we’re not just going there for the vibes. Despite being a tourist hangout, this place does offer top-quality dishes that we’re always happy to get our hands on.
The New England clam chowder is literally the first thing on the menu, so you know they really care about it here. It’s obvious once you taste it. Chunks of potato and onion give this soup plenty of bulk and flavor, while the thick, creamy broth coats the clams perfectly. Layer on the bacon, which adds a fatty, umami note to the combo, and you’ve got a cold weather staple that could convert any seafood hater. Just make sure you save enough room for the Phuket shrimp salad: an unexpected but very welcome gem on the menu.
Stephanie’s On Newbury
If you’re looking for some of the prettiest architecture in Boston, make your way to Newbury Street. While you’re there, you’ll be lucky enough to be in the vicinity of Stephanie’s On Newbury, another staple in the best clam chowder scene. We like that this restaurant seems to offer a little bit of everything. From the mezze plate to the egg salad sandwich (made — most importantly — with Kewpie mayo) to the rigatoni Bolognese, there really is something for everyone. But no matter who you are or what you want out of your Boston culinary experience, ordering the chowder is key.
What we love about the chowder here is the fact that they really don’t go light on the herbs. Although some New England clam chowders can taste super creamy and salty without a lot else going on, that’s not what you get from Stephanie’s. The chowder is intensely flavorful — so much so that you don’t actually need to order anything else. Of course, there are plenty of solid options on the menu, but the chowder really is that satisfying.
Clam chowder is, of course, an essential New England dish that you have to try if you’re in Boston. But another regional dish is the ubiquitous lobster roll, which might be why you decide to head to Luke’s Lobster. There are multiple locations, including in Downtown Crossing and Back Bay. You’ll find a variety of unfussy seafood classics that will undoubtedly keep you coming back for more. If you want a taste of the best sandwiches the spot has to offer, we suggest going for the Luke’s trio, which will get you three mini rolls: one with shrimp, one with crab, and one, of course, with lobster.
But just because you’re getting a lobster roll doesn’t mean you should stop there. The New England clam chowder here is undoubtedly a good choice. It’s simmered with clam broth, so you’re going to get plenty of that salty seafood flavor you love in every bite. A word of advice: Make sure you use plenty of oyster crackers in this soup — it makes the dish heartier and even more filling. And don’t forget that you can buy frozen clam chowder from Luke’s Lobster, so you can heat it up every time you want a warm and comforting dinner. We love the convenience!
Neptune Oyster may not look particularly notable from the outside, but take a seat, and you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best seafood Boston has to offer. We love this tiny, cozy spot, and it is (as the name suggests) our go-to place for oysters in the city. But you don’t have to stop after you’re done slurping, as there are countless other dishes on the menu. The North End cioppino is our absolute favorite. The Neptune johnnycake and the razor clam casino are fantastic options, as well. But you must order the Wellfleet clam chowder.
This isn’t your average Boston clam chowder. They added some clever twists to this dish, so it feels somehow familiar and comforting as well as exciting and creative. Instead of bacon, they use salt pork, which still adds that layer of depth but saltier and less aggressive since salt pork isn’t smoked like bacon. The thyme also adds a nice complexity to the equation, so you’re not going to get bored when you’re halfway through your bowl.
For an upscale seafood experience that offers a focused menu and surprises throughout the meal — and most importantly, boasts fantastic clam chowder — Neptune Oyster just can’t be beat.
Visiting Faneuil Hall and want sit-down dining compared to what you’ll get at Boston Chowda Co.? Make your way to Ned Devine’s. This spot gives you the complete Irish pub experience — something you have to try when you’re in Boston. When you first sit down, make sure to order a pint. Then you can take a closer look at the menu. You might be distracted by the Irish poutine, and rightfully so. Slow-braised beef gravy and creamy Irish cheddar on a huge pile of tater tots would distract anyone. And your eyes may be pulled toward the soft pretzels because they’re basically a requirement when you order beer. But focus: You’re here for the restaurant’s award-winning clam chowder.
This three-time Boston Harborfest winner for best clam chowder isn’t anything wild — it’s just that good thanks to its creamy and thick texture with a generous potato-to-clam ratio. A burger might be the more conventional choice when you’re swigging beers. But we actually find that this bowl of clam chowder provides the perfect coating for your stomach, so feel free to order another round.
The James Beard award-winning chefs behind Eventide Fenway clearly know their way around a pot of simmering chowder. The stuff you’ll find here is out of this world. Just like Neptune Oyster, Eventide includes salt pork versus bacon, so you’re getting more of that intense saltiness that we love so much. This chowder is on the thinner, lighter side, so don’t expect that intense creaminess you’d find in traditional New England clam chowders. It comes with a generous serving of saltines, which, despite the seemingly already-high salt content of the chowder, is essential in our book. The best part is when the luscious broth starts to soften the saltines and turn them to mush — it’s actual heaven.
But with so much else to explore on the menu, make sure you don’t stop at the chowder. The Jonah crab toast is a fantastic option, as are the fish and chips. Really, when are fish and chips not good? An unexpected favorite on this seafood restaurant’s menu is the fried chicken katsu sandwich — just believe us on this one! And the best part? The clam chowder makes the perfect side dish for your sammie.
Restaurant lovers will know that in Boston, Barbara Lynch is a legend. Her restaurants, which are scattered all over the city, are known for their top-notch fine dining experiences. If you want to experience the best that Lynch has to offer in the seafood realm, make your way to B&G Oysters, an essential South End going-out spot. First things first: Order the clam chowder as your appetizer. The combo of cream and bacon in this recipe is fantastic and lends itself to one of the richest, most indulgent chowder experiences you’ve ever had. The real magic in this dish, though, comes in the form of the spicy croutons that give this chowder the texture it needs. The delightfully fiery crunch seems like such a no-brainer We’re surprised we hadn’t seen it before coming here.
After you sample the clam chowder, it will be apparent that the rest of the menu has some more special surprises in store for you. Go for the sea scallops with fresh peas and crispy prosciutto, or try the whole branzino, which comes dressed with shaved fennel and grapefruit. If you want to do your future self a favor, order an extra serving to go. It is one of the best clam chowders in Boston.