Connecticut is tiny. Only two of the 50 states are smaller; but it has the highest per-capita income in the US. Although you can drive almost anywhere in the state in about an hour, and the state is only about 70 miles wide, its ragged shoreline, on the north shore of Long Island Sound, measures over 600 miles.
Ship-building and fishing have been important parts of the Connecticut economy as far back as colonial times.
The shellfish business has been so important to Connecticut, that it is apparently the only state with an Official State Shellfish. Unfortunately for us clam lovers, it's the oyster.
Oysters were consumed in great quantities by Connecticut's native American inhabitants, and early European settlers found oysters to be a staple and reliable food source.
Oyster farming developed into a major industry in the State by the late 19th century. During the 1890's, Connecticut held the distinction of having the largest fleet of oyster steamers in the world.
Hard clams were harvested in many locales during the 1800's, but to a lesser degree than oysters. Clam harvesting became more efficient with the introduction of bull rakes in the 1920s; however, the method was abandoned following the introduction of rocking dredges in 1946.
In the 1950's, the hydraulic hard clam fishery began with modest harvests by fishermen who were seeking to supplement their income. The fishery and cultivation of clams became increasingly popular in the 1970's due to high market demand and unit value, and, in 2000, clams surpassed oysters as Connecticut’s highest valued aquaculture product generating nearly $10 million per year. (Connecticut Department of Agriculture, 2004)
Most of Connecticut’s clams are sold in New York, and then shipped throughout the US. Some of them stay in the state, for the enjoyment of local clam fans.
Best Non-Fried Clams on Earth are the wood-fire roasted "specials" at
The Place in Guilford. They also make great lobster, amazing roasted corn, plus chicken, shrimp, mussels, vegibobs and steaks. You can bring adult drinks, or buy a soft drink. The Place opens on the last weekend of April. I've been a customer since 1963. CLICK for more.
Jimmie's restaurant in Savin Rock (West Haven), CT, has
the second best fried clams I've tasted -- cooked perfectly with
about 70 years practice. Portions are big, and unless you eat
fast, some will be too cold to enjoy. Jimmie's has great fried
shrimp and scallops, too; and is famous for its fries and hot
dogs. You can feed seagulls in the parking lot or on the
adjacent beach. Right next to Jimmie's, a former competing
restaurant has been transformed into a city-owned conference
center. One of the meeting rooms is "The Clam Room."
Dino's in North Haven CT has excellent seafood, sandwiches
and dinners. The fried food comes very fast, so if you want
chowder first, tell them to delay the main course. Sometimes I
have the chowder for desert. Sometimes I have chowder, then
clams, and then more chowder.
In North Haven a few miles south of Dino's, Nick's Char-Pit is
the pits, with the worst fried clams I ever tasted. The clams
were under-cooked, slimy and disgusting. The Rhode Island
chowder was really celery soup, with no discernible presence of
our favorite bivalve. My visit was the first time in my life I couldn't
(wouldn't, actually) finish clams and chowder. YUCK!
You can get delicious clam pizza, either red or white, at the two branches of Papa's Pizza & Pasta in Milford. Pies are "New Haven style," baked in a brick oven. The thin crust is absolutely perfect, not slimy-sloppy, or rock hard, but firm and chewy, like a good bagel.
Stonebridge, also in Milford, has a wide variety of seafood, including clams in various forms.