Blue Marlin Grille’s Fried Clams are Beloved and Gluten-Free!

Although Gloucester, MA has lots and lots of great seafood options, many of my favorite places are located next door in Essex. The town is most famous for its fried clams, but great seafood of all kinds abounds in the restaurants along the Causeway and beyond. Not too long ago we had a nice lunch at the Windward Grille, and after a TV interview for 1623 studios, I got some excellent fish tacos from J.T. Farnhams, which I posted over on the Instagram page. Recently the family headed to a real favorite for locals: The Blue Marlin Grille, where the food was so good, I can’t wait to go back.

blue marlin in essex has gluten free fried clams

I don’t go to “the Marlin” enough, the bar has been packed with the local crowd for about 20 years and in that time the restaurant has racked up several awards. On the night we went we had to wait about 20 minutes, not too bad. It also happened to be the 2nd night since the Essex clam flats reopened after a red tide closure, so we had to start off with some fried clams. When your clamming friends are digging “doubles” (digging your quota on 2 tides per day) you got to help them out by eating local.

Blue Marlin’s Fried Clams

I now know why so many of my Essex friends love the clams here. Blue Marlin’s fried clams are gluten-free, using only cornmeal and coming out light, sweet and crispy. This is the old-school way of frying clams, just like they do down the street at Woodman’s, they didn’t know that “gluten-free” would be a thing later on. Gluten free in this case is also low-FODMAP so another reason for me to try them. I’ve never had their fried clams before and I’m so glad I tried them now!

Blue Marlin’s menu is huge, but they are also known for some really good specials on rotation. Their coffee-crusted Kona steak is a local legend and one of my mother’s all-time favorite things on Earth. I was so tempted to try it, but on this trip we were here for seafood and so I got another local favorite: their Parmesan-crusted local halibut and my wife got the blackened swordfish.

Blue Marlin’s Local Halibut and Swordfish

parmesan halibut blue marlin

Although it’s hard to see in the picture, my halibut had a light but deliciously crispy coating with a drizzle of beurre blanc. It was the perfect touch as the deliciously fresh halibut stood out above the other flavors. I would absolutely order this again. As Atlantic halibut stocks continue to rebuild, there is more of it available on local menus. This is a very good thing as I recall when I worked in restaurants 20 years ago, almost all our halibut were shipped from the West Coast. Nothing wrong with Pacific halibut of course, but if I have a choice, I’m always going with the more local source.

blackened swordfish blue marlin

My wife was not sure if she would like blackened swordfish but was very glad she chose it. Sometimes when you get blackened fish, that’s all you taste is the seasoning, and it makes you wonder if they are just trying to get rid of some old stock. Not here at the Marlin, the swordfish was fresh and local (it’s swordfish season) and you could taste its meaty goodness beyond the seasoning. With a name like Blue Marlin, you’d expect they know how to cook billfish…and you’d be correct.

Overall a great experience at the Blue Marlin Grille in Essex, MA, we left full and happy. In fact, we are already planning on going back with some friends soon. I can’t wait to get their fried clams again and maybe this time I’ll finally try that Kona steak.