The Defunct Restaurant That Brought Fried Clam Strips To The World

When it comes to boardwalk seafood snacks, there are few offerings that are quite as popular as fried clam strips, a staple in New England clam shacks. It's hard to imagine a New England summer without these treats, but it's true — there was a point where fried clams and clam strips just weren't a part of the Northeastern diet. 

Nowadays, though, clam strips are so popular that they're a mainstay at several major fast-food chains. For instance, White Castle serves clam strips, and Long John Silver's has a cult following, thanks in part to its rendition of this treat, per Mel. But neither of these restaurants is responsible for making clam strips mainstream. You might be wondering how they became so popular and which restaurant has that claim to fame. 

It might surprise you to find out the restaurant that ushered in this Northeastern treat is no longer in existence.

The scoop on clam strip history

Though people have been eating fried clams for a while, clam strips are only around 90 years old. Clam strips are the fried parts of the foot of longer clams and don't include the belly/neck. As a result, they're not quite the same as fried clams. As Vice explains, Thomas Soffron was Massachusetts a clam digger in the 1930s who was also a very picky eater. He couldn't stand eating clam necks as he found them to be unsanitary. He began to fry clam strips because the strip of the clam tasted sweeter. 

Eventually, Soffron's work caught the eye of one of the biggest names in casual dining: Howard Johnson's. (Yes, as in the hotel chain by the same name.) At the time, Howard Johnson's was mostly known for being a major restaurant with 28 ice cream flavors, per The Food Dictator. Because it was primarily a Northeastern chain, having clams on the menu just made sense. Soffron Bros. became the only distributor of clam strips to the chain. 

Clam strips became an almost entirely-HoJo-only experience. In most parts of the country, Howard Johnson's had a tight grip on the clam strip market. So for several decades, you could only buy clam strips at Howard Johnson's restaurants, explains the South Florida Reporter. Now, though, the restaurant is defunct, and clam strips have become plentiful. Who'd have thought?