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Photo by Darren Pellegrino
Fling a bivalve on the North Shore and you will strike a dozen places all making great clam chowder, many with a unique spin. Winner Brine’s Pork + Clam Chowder turns the traditional hearty dish into a velvety soup while retaining all the familiar flavors. Rather than chunks of potato, the soup employs spuds cooked in a mixture of clam juice and classic chowder flavorings (thyme, bacon, celery, onion, etc.), then strained and pureéd with cream as a thickener. Clams are smoked and added at the last minute, which means they are tender and flavorful. The dish is topped with crispy house-cured pork belly and crunchy potato chips, instead of oyster crackers, for a dish that is thick, rich, sweet, and totally satisfying (not to mention gluten free).
25 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8479,
  The Blue Ox The Blue Ox in Lynn offers an entirely different take on this New England staple, spiking its traditional chowder with a hit of Tabasco to balance the richness of the cream with heat and acid. Applewood-smoked bacon brings slight smokiness while a garnish of extra-virgin olive oil adds a pleasing fruitiness.
191 Oxford St., Lynn, 781-780-5722,

Palmers Restaurant & Tavern

Classicists might prefer the thick, rich chowder at Palmers, packed with large chunks of tender clams.
18 Elm St., Andover, 978-470-1606,

The Landing

For pure stand-up-your-spoon pleasure, The Landing is hard to beat. So thick it’s almost cheesy, and dotted with roasted corn, it is definitely a soup that eats like a meal.
81 Front St., Marblehead, 781-639-1266,

The Village Restaurant

Prefer something lighter? For nearly 60 years, ?The Village has been serving tasty New England fare. The milky broth in their chowder—a family recipe handed down for generations—virtually sings with sweet fresh clam goodness.
55 Main St., Essex, ?978-768-6400,

Woodman’s of Essex

121 Main St., Essex, 978-768-6057,