Woodman’s of Essex is arguably the most famous seafood shack in the country. Claimed to have the “best seafood in America” this is the place where back in 1916 the fried clam was born. It’s a no-frills, order-at-the-counter, eat-in-the-rough landmark that people wait in line for all summer long. Needless to say, I don’t go to Woodman’s much, the food is good but I don’t wait in line to eat on picnic tables unless I’m on vacation.
However Woodman’s is open all year and during the off-season us locals can walk right in for their famous clams, chowder or their specials. On a cold March day their sign for a fish sandwich special caught my eye on my way to work and so I decided to head there for lunch.
I was greeted by a half full dining area of mostly local people I recognized. They must have had the same idea as I had. When ordering I asked what fish they were using for the sandwich and the counter person said it was cod. I ordered, then got a Mexican Coke from the bar before heading to an old wobbly booth. My food was ready in no time and it looked real good.
It was not a huge sandwich, but had a nice white, flaky piece of codfish perfectly fried and placed on a grilled bun with lettuce, tomato and onion. Combine that with a pile of golden fries and I had myself a lunch for under $10 that was tough to beat.
One thing that I love about Woodman’s is that they keep it real. They never switched from good old-fashioned lard for their fried foods. When a lot of places had to scramble to replace their trans-fat oils, Woodman’s didn’t have to change a thing. Lard brings out a special flavor that makes something as mundane as French fries taste oh so much better.
I slathered some tartar sauce on the bun and went to town. It all looked and tasted so good that I ate it all in minutes “seagull style” meaning that I wolfed it all down without bothering to chew.
I definitely enjoyed my visit to Woodman’s and may make another off-season visit. I better hurry up, once we get some spring weather on Cape Ann the line will stretch down the block.