The Original Clam Tavern is a throwback in the best sense, an old-school seafood standby that's stayed true to blue-collar Clifton Heights for 50 years, both in fair prices and low-frills, fishtank ambiance.
Its greatest asset is owner Tony Blanche, a childhood clam-shucker there who returned to buy it after a career in sales, who understands the value of quality ingredients treated with pride in continuity.
You taste that in the peerlessly fresh mussels red, the creamy chowder, plump scampi and excellent crab cakes. But nothing says tradition quite like the signature baked clams, perfectly shucked whole and shellbaked in a distinctive steel tray, those juicy middlenecks lightly browned in Italian seasonings and a tangy, mysterious red dot.
"It's not pimento, which is what most people think," says Blanche. "It's ketchup. I never figured out why. But I stick by the recipe."
Baked clams, $8.99, the Original Clam Tavern, 339 E. Broadway Ave., Clifton Heights, 610-623-9537; clamtavern.net
– Craig LaBan