This is a day I’m conflicted about: I love it, but I also dislike it fundamentally. Don’t get me wrong, I love clams (that’s what she said!). I love a good linguine in white clam sauce, loved stuffed clams, baked clams, a really good plate of clams in black bean sauce at dim sum in Chinatown…but clams on a halfshell? Barely cooked, if at all, and served with little more than tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon? Raw bars just don’t do it for me, sadly, so if I celebrate National Clams On The Halfshell Day, they’re going to be in their half-shell, but stuffed back in there after they were breaded, fried, and seasoned to perfection. (Hey, they don’t dictate how they should be in the shell, just that they’re still there! :-P)
But I love this day because I get to write about one of my favorite places in New York City, that’s literally right around the corner from my childhood home. 🙂 And I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass, either–the New York Times thinks it’s great, too! The place, of course, is Randazzo’s Clam Bar, on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay. It’s been around in that brown-shingled building facing the water since before I was born, and it’ll probably be around for years after this review. The light-up neon lobster sign heralding good seafood eats may be dwarfed by the Loehmann’s and the Russian nightclub on either side, but it’s still a bustling eatery on summer evenings, with little more than ten tabletops and an open view to the kitchen and raw bar. You want fresh seafood like raw littleneck clams, you can’t get them any fresher than right off the fishing boat and into Randazzo’s.
I took my friends there this summer for a dinner meal; one of my friends was hankering for some good pasta in red sauce, and Randazzo’s definitely has that. In addition to all the fresh seafood you can find there, the restaurant makes their own signature marinara sauce, which has just the slightest hint of heat to best complement the briny seafood. The atmosphere felt like a hometown fishing village eatery, nothing fancy or upscale about it–except for the taste of their seafood.
You can go to Randazzo’s for any of their seafood dishes (my friend learned the hard way that there aren’t many vegetarian options on the menu!) but the New York Times applauded them specifically for their clams on a halfshell, where they recommend to slide up to a stool at the raw bar and have your clams served immediately to you, cold and briny, so fresh you can watch the chef schuck them before your eyes. Randazzo’s is a small, family restaurant, with photographs and portraits of the family decorating the walls, and it’s great for a weeknight summer dinner as well as a walking littleneck lunch, that you can order right out of its take-out window (and eat on their picnic benches outside–the original al fresco!) The Bay might be a little frosty at the end of March, but it’s still a great trek down to the end of the B line to check out the freshest, tastiest clams you can find in New York City.
Randazzo’s Clam Bar
2017 Emmons Ave, Sheepshead Bay
“To the east, where the shore hooks back around Manhattan Beach to become Sheepshead Bay, there is Randazzo’s, a family outfit that has served clams since the early years of the 20th century. Its dining room is spare and open and clean, and serves a menu to match: fried seafood, lobsters, oysters and clams. The counter up front, with its sideways view of the street, is where the devoted slurper should sit — or stand on its opposite side, ordering through the sliding window. There is no middleman between the shucker and his guest, and more clams can be ordered with the smallest of gestures: “ ’nother dozen, please.” Or: “Gimme a half of cherries.””–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Now down to business. Came here to grab a quick snack with the old man so he could revisit his childhood –he used to come here to get some clams as a kid. So we did. They were baked and amazing, Truly some of the best I’ve ever had. This place was so good and so cool I would take the subways all the way down to Sheapshead Bay next time in in NYC just to go back.”–Robert C.
“Great old school place, simple and to the point. They server a number of raw and italian american seafood dishes. The service is quick and food is fresh. The cherrystones on the half shell were ice cold and fresh and perfect on a hot summer day. The steamed and fried seafood like calamari or scungilli is served smothered with either medium or hot red sauce(not really that HOT). But if you are looking for old time brooklyn seafood joint this is the place to go.”–Darren H.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!