Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Woodman's, Essex, MA

I have this rule-I just don't eat seafood in place too far from the ocean. Maybe it's from growing up in New England where I'm always close to the Atlantic, maybe it's a bit of food snobbery, but I just enjoy seafood more when I know that vast body of water is close by. Now, if I can enjoy my fish and crustaceans where I can actually see or hear the ocean- even better!

Saturday evening I had the opportunity to visit one of Massachusetts' treasures- a long revered, much loved seafood spot right on the water in The town of Essex. Begun in 1914, Woodman's is a family run business that specializes in classic New England fare- and even lays claim to inventing the New England tradition-fried clams.

As soon as you walk up to the front door, you know you're in for a treat. Large grills sit outside the restaurant with lobsters grilling on top- all cooked to order. Inside, in true rustic fashion, a line forms where you order your food, they ice you your order number, and you wait for you food to be ready. Fear not a long wait though, there is entertainment to be had. The kitchen is open and for the kitchen mosey (like me) there is plenty to become engrossed in. Finally however, your number is called and and then, cafeteria style, you can wend your way through the crowds and find a spot to enjoy your feast.

Feast is, by all accounts, exactly what you will do. Beyond the portions sizes being generous, what Woodman's serves is real food. It's pick it up with your hands, dig in, make a mess and satisfy the hunger that a day spent in the sun can build.

I opted for a crabmeat sandwich, served with potato chips for my meal. A hot dog roll, filled over the brim with fresh lump crabmeat, was set surrounded by a lake of chips. The crabmeat was fresh and tender, mixed with the right amount of mayo just to hold it together. I personally enjoy the addition of celery or onions to these types of sandwiches mainly for the texture variation, which this sandwich was lacking, though not to it's detriment necessarily. I will say that the contrast of the creamy salad with the salty and crispy chips was very nice, and a far better choice than fries in this case.

The food that Woodman's serves is simple, it's atmosphere is real. As I sat enjoying my sandwich that evening, feeling the cooling night air, and listening to the chatter around me, I felt a unique sense of pride of being from this great state. Woodman' has captured the real essence of what it is to be from Massachusetts: real, simple, and proud.


Jen said...

Sounds like a great place to visit.

Anonymous said...

Woodman's was a destination restaurant for us on one of the first times my mom came to visit me up here, and it absolutely lived up to the hype! A little too much fried "stuff" for me...but boy was it all delicious...the batter, the fresh fish, the clams...all perfectly done!

Kristen said...

gotta love Woodman's! I have been spending sometime in Essex this summer but have yet to wait in the line this season. I know it's worth it though!!

Boston Food Diary said...

@Daisy- go at night! I was there at 8 or so on Saturday night- no line really at all. I was actually wishing for one to give me more time to decide what to have :-)

@eatliveblog- agreed on the fried stuff- I somehow managed to resist it- but there was a lot of fried delicacies on the menu

In and Around Town said...

Woodman's is definitely good and a must do at least once a summer. But JT Farnham's up the street is almost better and has no line!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

This is a very reasonable rule to have - growing up 10 mins from the ocean, I would have to agree! I'd love to try this place!

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