Freddy’s Lobster and Clams, Bethesda, MD

May 17th was opening night for Freddy’s Lobster and Clams, and when I walked in, none other than Jeff and Barbara Black were sitting at the bar, paying respect to owner Jeff Heineman. I knew bartender Chris Cunningham was working here, but he still seemed out of place since I’m so used to seeing him inside of the DC city limits.

I pulled up a barstool, and asked Chris to recommend a drink. The wryly named Wicked Awesome Pissa ($12) is made with Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon juice, muddled strawberries and basil, and a soda floater. As it sounds like, it’s a great summer drink, and I love the fact that it isn’t gratuitously sweet.

Freddy’s inherited some wines from the old Tel Aviv Cafe, and will need to finish going through them before their list starts to approach that of Grapeseed; for now, beers are the star of the show here. A bottle of Fullers ESB ($6.50) should do the trick with most things on the menu.

I asked Chris what his favorite things were, and he said “fried whole belly clams, a cold lobster roll, lobster stew, home style chowder, and onion rings.”

Taking that into consideration, I tried them all. 🙂

A platter of Fried Whole Belly Clams ($15) might shock those used to clam strips. Picture a marble with a tentacle attached, breaded and fried, and that’s the appearance – the marble is the whole belly, of course, and bursts when you bite into it, having a texture not unlike a juicy version of shad roe. These were wonderful clams, but I thought the batter was slightly underseasoned (remember, this was the very first night they opened). Later that evening, Jeff (Heineman) told me he tasted one of them, and said to himself, “Damn” – he thought the very same thing, and was going to tweak it.

But the onion rings, served with the platter, were seasoned just right – they’ve gotten some criticism over on, but I really liked them. Plus, I really appreciated that when you bit into them, the entire onion ring didn’t come flying out, i.e., they were thoroughly cooked.

This platter alone was more than enough food for me, but Jeff brought over small samples of the Lobster Stew ($8 for a small) and the Home Style Creamy Clam Chowder ($5 for a small), both of which have also received some criticism on, mainly for being too thin. I take strong exception to this – it specifically says on the menu, “Our stew and chowder are authentic New England style – not thickened with flour.” Works with me! The stew is indeed thinner than many people might be used to, and its buttery component goes beautifully with the in-cred-i-ble homemade blueberry muffin that it comes with. Yes, it comes with a blueberry muffin that’s worth killing for. The chowder is naturally thicker due to the potatoes, and for my tastes, is as good as any New England clam chowder I’ve ever had.

I liked that chowder so much that I ordered a Regular ($8) to take home and have for lunch alongside a Cold Lobster Roll with Mayo ($15). Again, that lobster roll has taken some internet heat for being too small, but to me, it’s the best version I’ve had outside of Maine. As far as I know, Freddy’s is the only restaurant in the Washington, DC area serving fresh, i.e., never been frozen, lobster rolls, made with meat pulled from lobsters swimming in their 450-gallon tank that same day (or thereabouts). If there’s any other restaurant (or truck) serving fresh lobster rolls in town, someone please let me know – indeed, these rolls aren’t huge, but you only pull 3.5-4 ounces of meat from a one-pound lobster, and that’s about what these contain. And they come with fries, too.

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