Victor Tango's Fried Ipswich Clams: This Ain't Long Jong Silvers, Matey

When I was a kid, I thought clams were irregular, long rubbery strips of sweet protein covered in cornmeal breading. It wasn't my fault. Even though I grew up on the Eastern Shore, my parents grew up in central PA. They weren't seafood people, so most of the seafood meals from my early youth were eaten at Howard Johnson's, Long John Silvers, and on special occasions Phillip's Seafood House. If you're not familiar with these places, they pretty much take everything you can think of that comes out of ocean, batter it, put it in a fry basket, and then serve it in a paper basket. It's not great.

Those clams I remember weren't really clams, though; they were clam strips, which are an invented sort of seafood cut from the foot of humongo sea clams. There's nothing wrong with fried clams feet, but if this is what you're used to, and you happen to order a plate of fried clams at Victor Tango's, you'll see the old "strips" leave a little to be desired. They've also branded "fried clams" as something they were never intended to be.

The foot of a clam is a large, meaty muscle the bivalve uses to burrow in the sand. It's got a sweet, delicate flavor, but can be as tough as rubber bands.

Victor Tango's uses a whole soft-shell clam, though, just like they do up in New England (and other places that give a damn), so in addition to the foot, you're eating the entire animal. It's more tender, delicate and has a much fuller flavor. The spicy tartar and red wine vinegar sauces VT's serves them with don't hurt things either.

Eat these. They're good, and they're worth the 14 clams they'll set you back.

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