The Great Chowda Hunt From The Barking Crab To Quincy Market, Fenway Park And The Out-Of-The-Way No Name Cafe
I had almost given up on finding Boston’s best chowder when there it was, the place I had spent two hours walking around the city trying to find.
Out on a dock far away from the city center, with a stream of men in business suits walking into and out of the place, was the No Name Cafe.
It was my kind of joint – wood, rustic, with a porthole on the door – on the water, far from modern and full of character.
I was so hungry by this time, I was ready to go directly into the kitchen and pour a big bowl myself, but I patiently waited for the waitress and the bowl to arrive to my table.
And you know what, it wasn’t Boston’s best chowder.
My three-day quest had come to an end and had taken me all over the city. After all, what kind of PubClub.com reporter would I be if I went to Boston and said “here’s the best chowder” if I didn’t try all of them? And one can’t go to Boston without having chowder, right?
I had it at my hotel, the Omni, served with the famous Parker House rolls (fantastic). I had it at several places in the touristy Quincy Market (Boston Chowda Co., has the best of these), I had it at Union Oyster House (the oldest continuous restaurant in the United States), I had it at the Barking Crab, a cool place on the waterfront that has the best and liveliest atmosphere.
I even had it at Fenway Park (good, but here’s a tip: let it cool before tasting. I burnt my tongue so bad it still stings).
Yet everyone told me to go to the No Name. “It’s a bit difficult to find,” they all said. “But well worth it.”
So one warm afternoon I set out, thinking it would take 30, maybe 45 minutes to get to the joint. I walked and walked, I stopped to ask people, I wandered, I wondered but most of all I kept walking. I get determined like this sometimes – once I start something I like to finish it.
The dock is well south of the center of the city and there’s no signs. All the while I kept saying “it’s got to be around here somewhere!” (Confession: this was before phone apps and I’m not sure they would help anyway, for this place really is hard to find!)
So imagine my excitement and anticipation when I saw the men in business suits. Why else would they be way out on a dock?
When the chowder finally arrived, it looked fantastic. Unlike the other places, it was a seafood chowder, not a clam chowder. It was a yellow-ish color and looked delicious. When I stuck the spoon into it, the seafood floated to the top; there was so much of it, I thought it might tumble out of the bowl. Served on the side were several large pieces of buttered garlic toast.
So when I finally got spoon to mouth, I could not have been any more excited. Yet instead of letting out a “oh my gosh this is AWESOME” yell, I leaned back in my chair and stared curiously at the bowl.
Despite all that color and look of multiple spices in it, despite of all that seafood in it, the chowder was tasteless. Completely tasteless.
I was as dumbfounded as I was tired, but if travel has taught be anything it’s to make the best out of every situation, so I ordered a cold draft beer and utilized the toasted garlic bread (which was good) to dip into the chowder. I left satisfied, not because of the chowder but of making something out of nothing.
Oh and the best clam chowder place in Boston? The very place where I stared my search – the Parker House restaurant in the Omni.