On The Winding Road To
Fried Clam Heaven
By Peter & Will / email@example.com
Every so often the Foodies hit the road because some eating
experiences are worth the drive.
Such is the case with Bigelows, the self-proclaimed
fried Ipswich clam capital of Long Island. An eatery of modest
proportions, Bigelows is not much more than a fish shack
in an unexpected place. It stands where it was built nearly
three-quarters of a century ago when the corner of Long Beach
Road and Sunrise Highway was a very different place. From
the moment one pulls into the parking lot, its clear
that a meal at Bigelows is going to be a step back in
Russ Bigelow built the place in 1939 after several years of
working at New England hotels. It was in those years that
he learned the art of frying seafood, according
to the restaurants literature. Now a fry house was nothing
new at the time, but one thing was: the Ipswich Clam.
Known alternately as long neck clams, soft shell clams, piss
clams and New England steamers, the thin-shelled Ipswich clam
is considered sweeter than other varieties. For Long Islanders,
who take for granted things like bay scallops and fresh caught
bluefish, the Ipswich clam was well received and Bigelows
was on its way to success.
Success, it seems, means slow, steady and unchanging. While
theres been an update or two to the 1939 Bigelows,
it clearly hasnt been recent. The signs are old, the
shingles weathered and the U-shaped counter well worn. Counter
seating is all thats offered, with few more than a dozen
spinning stools, most of which were occupied during our recent
weekend visit. At the center of it all the fryer. It
was working a steady pace churning out plateful after plateful
of delicate breaded clams.
To be honest, we had no idea that clams from Ipswich were
any better or worse than those from our own South Shore waterways,
and for clams on the half shell, wed travel a long way
to get to Long Island for a half-dozen. You wont find
em at all at Bigelows, where the food is prepared
fast and furious in the frier, on the grill or not
We started with the lobster bisque (cup $4.50, bowl $5.25).
It was thick and flavorful with enough sherry flavor to warm
even a New England night, though plankton-sized chunks
of lobster were so small as to leave us wishing we sported
baleen. Perhaps the server didnt dunk deep enough into
For an appetizer, we went with a contemporary favorite, Buffalo
Popcorn Shrimp ($6.95 appetizer). Cooked just right, these
spicy shrimp did indeed pop, though it took a sprinkling of
Tabasco to wake up a relatively tame sauce. Next trip back
well try the mini crab cakes ($8.35) served with horseradish
Dijon sauce, or the Calamari ($8.35) with Marinara sauce.
For the main course, we both went the Ipswich route. Mine
was the platter actually a paper plate with
a respectable, fresh-tasting cole slaw on the side. I assume
its made on the premises (note the crocks full of tartar
sauce). Will went with the sandwich, a heaping of hot fried
clams piled on a soft bun, with, what else, fries on the side.
Whether it can be attributed to cooking techniques (they do
one thing and they do it well) or the Ipswichness of the clams
themselves, the clams were a treat. Crispy on the outside
soft, tender and blazing hot inside
they were a different
experience than the chewy fried clam sandwiches I gave up
eating at my neighborhood fry house years ago. If theres
a drawback, its that the Ipswich Clam is pricey. Priced
according to the days market, the paper plateful ran
me $22.95; the sandwich was $13.95. But once youve driven
the distance, its easy to talk yourself into the splurge.
Theres plenty of exploring to be done on Bigelows
menu with most selections available as a plate or sandwich.
Strip clams (plate $13.95, sandwich $9.35), fried flounder
($13.25, $8.95), calamari ($12.75) and bay scallops ($13.50)
all beckon, as do the grill selections: grilled salmon, swordfish
or tuna ($15.95). However, I suspect that as long as there
are Ipswich Clams, thats what Ill be having when
I head to Bigelows.
79 North Long Beach Road
Rockville Centre, NY
Atmosphere: Fish shack casual
Cuisine: Seafood, fried or grilled
Price range: Inexpensive, cash only
Hours: Mon-Thu 11-9;
Fri & Sat 11-10;