Sandwich of the Week: Ipswich Clam 'Burger'

Rockville Center's tiny clam shack makes a fried clam sandwich that reminds you what summer is like, or declares its arrival.
The Ipswich clam burger at Bigelow's in Rockville Center, Long Island, NY.
The Ipswich clam burger at Bigelow's in Rockville Center, Long Island, NY.

It’s not that Bigelow’s is a secret. There are Chowhound threads, and write-ups in The New York Times every few years. It’s just that it is good. Why? The tiny clam shack does fried seafood that reminds you what summer is like, or acts as a figurative flag planted in June that declares summer’s arrival.

Bigelow’s is in Rockville Center just off Sunrise Highway at the edge of town. They’ve been frying Ipswich Clams in the style Russ Bigelow learned while working at hotels in New England, since he opened up in 1939. The Andreolas brothers (Christo, William and Anthony), who have owned it since 1991, take pride in the fact that the method hasn’t changed much.

Pictures and knickknacks line the walls inside the blue-trimmed, windowed, white shack. Bigelow’s is the ultimate open kitchen — there’s just a horseshoe-shaped Formica bar around the fryers. But this is where locals and (as Ed Levine noted) big-time chefs like “Dave Pasternack go for a fried clam fix.” Most things are fried, but they’re also light, juicy, plump, and not overseasoned.

Ignore the “From the Grill” options, you’re here for golden-brown goods. There’s fried shrimp, flounder, whiting, scrod, scallops, oysters and more, all served with cole slaw or fries. But it’s the “Famous Ipswich Clams” that you have to get. The best way to do them is burger-style, or as the menu says, “Done on a Bun” (which costs a little less). Crispy, crunchy, juicy clams falling out all over the place as you pick up the sandwich. A spritz of lemon, a few spoonfuls of the homemade tartar sauce, a few liberal dashes of Tabasco, and you’ll be more than satisfied.

Bigelow's 79 North Long Beach Rd, Rockville Center, NY

 

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