For me it’s a yearly ritual usually reserved for the early part of the summer before the tourists, and Greenheads, take over. It is of course, the fried clam feast, and my preferred location is Farnham's in Essex, MA.
Woodman's is the better-known fried clam shack and, according to the mythic fried clam creation story, the place of its birth some 100 years ago. But Farnham's is my favorite. The clams are light and fluffy, as fried food goes, and the location is absolutely unbeatable.
Farnham's is right on the Essex salt marsh, which is part of the much larger Great Marsh which stretches from Cape Ann up into New Hampshire. So you can order your bounty and they go sit at a picnic table right on the water. It is quintessential Cape Ann summer dining. If you have a boat, and the tide is right, you can even motor right up to the restaurant, though disembarking over the mud flats seems like far more effort than it’s worth.
This year the big news at Farnham's is that they have fish tacos, the first menu change I’m aware of in my waking life. We tried them and they’re pretty good, though with a hard flat shell that is more like a bowl or plate than a taco shell. Still delicious, still worth ordering.
For me, it’s really not summer until I’ve tasted one of those fried snots, and if it's your sort of thing as well, there’s really no better place than Farnham's. Get there in June, and get there on a weekday if possible. And try the lemonade too.