Old Cape Cod, Great Clam 'Chowdah'

Written by David DiCrescenzo on . Posted in Dining Out

So, I found myself way down on Cape Cod the other day and was visiting a town I hadn’t been in for perhaps 30 years…Osterville; the Wianno section to be precise.  By the way, before I tell my tale of dining this day, I have to tell you that when Patti Page sang “Old Cape Cod” back in the 50’s, she had to have just visited Osterville.  The shops, little restaurants, and beautiful vintage homes that line the streets leading to the very quaint center of town suggest a quieter, simpler time; when a bottle of soda cost a nickel, neighborhood corner stores still had pickle barrels, and for ten cents you could get a bag of penny candy that would keep any kid happy and quiet for a day.  

Anyway, I had some time to kill and was a little hungry, so I figured that I’d have an early dinner and grab myself a slice or two of pizza and a coke.  

As I was nearing my final destination, I saw what looked like a decent local pizza joint and started to venture in, and then I noticed a little seafood place just to the side of it that was advertising Clam Chowder.  What can I say, I’ve always liked to try the different chowders here and there in my travels, and of course Cape Cod is famous for it, so I opted to have the chowder instead of the pizza.  Mind you, just because one is on the Cape or in the Boston area doesn’t mean that every place you get ‘chowdah’ is going to be great.  Just like anything else, some places do it right, some not so much.  

When I walked in to the Osterville Fish Market, it looked about the same as most; a counter for placing orders with a very inviting display of fresh fish and specialties right next to it, that made me tempted to bring something home.  After briefly considering ordering a plate, I decided just to have a pint of chowder.  So I ordered it and off I went down to a very scenic beach to hopefully enjoy my chowder.  I want to mention for a moment that I’ve always been a fan of the chowder served at Kelly’s Roast Beef up in the Boston area and have used them as a benchmark up to this point...  

After carefully opening the container so as not to make a mess and get any on myself, the aroma of the broth hit me and I was impressed.  Then I tasted the broth and was just floored.  I’m not sure exactly what they put in their chowder, (I’ve been known to cook up some great stuff in the kitchen, however chowder is not my specialty) but the smooth, creamy, velvety consistency of it, and the perfectly balanced blend and marriage of butter, cream, probably condensed milk, and clam broth was heavenly.  Really, that’s the right word!  I so loathe it when a chowder broth is a study in starchy, floury paste with rubbery clams.  

Next I dug my spoon in to sample the clams and other ingredients and found the perfectly sized clam chunks soft and tender, and with just the right amount of ‘chewability,’ (I may have just created a word) and flavor.  The potatoes were also just the right size, fully cooked but firm and not the mushy goop that I often see.  The only disappointing thing about it was that I only got a pint; I could have easily scoffed down a full quart of this delicious nectar of the sea.  I might add, while this chowder certainly stands strong on its own merit and needs no help at all, if you’re a hot spice kinda person, a splash of Cholula Sauce would send this dish into orbit.

I have to believe that many of the nearby restaurants in Osterville have some great offerings, and probably some great chowder; or it could be that only the locals know about this place.  In any case, this is the spot that I visited, and I have to say that this was very likely the very best Clam Chowder I have ever enjoyed; certainly in a very long time, and I will visit for more whenever I’m in town again.  Without a doubt, from now on when I try chowder anywhere else, the Osterville Fish Market & Restaurant is my new measuring stick.

You’ll find them in Osterville at the intersection of Falmouth Rd./Rt. 28 and Osterville/Barnstable Rd.  They are open year round, and their phone number is 508 420 0500.  They also have another location in Barnstable Harbor; Osterville Fish Too, and that number is 508 362 2295.