A few times every summer I get a total craving for exactly the sort of meal they offer at Littleneck, a friendly, clam shack sort of place in the somewhat unlikely (though rapidly changing) post-industrial neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn. It’s usually after a day at the beach–which for me usually means a day at the Rockaways–or after work during one of those seemingly endless summer evenings.
But either way the desire’s the same: for a simple supper of fresh shellfish, raw, steamed, or fried (or all three!), in a total casual setting, with good music, cheap prices, smiles all around. Sure, an ocean breeze and a sunset over the Atlantic would be nice, too, but you can’t everything!
Anyway, on Memorial Day I made my way to Littleneck in Brooklyn–located right near several of my favorite neighborhoods, and indulged in a one-man clam festival. I figure at a place called Littleneck you have to eat littlenecks, and so began the proceedings with a half dozen of these raw little beauties, nothing fancy, just a squeeze of lemon, a dab of horseradishy cocktail sauce, and the taste of the sea. Not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely hit the spot.
Next up in my Brooklyn Littleneck clam feast was a bowl of New England Clam Chowder which, when prepared well, is probably my all-time favorite sort of soup. Littleneck’s clam chowder was, frankly, just ok: the broth had a nice kick to it, and I appreciated the chunk or two of smoky, fatty bacon, but several of the clams–not all of the clams, but definitely several–were unforgivably rubbery.
This same sort of inconsistency keeps the Full Belly Ipswich Clam Roll from reaching the genre’s top tier. Some bites? Lightly crispy, wonderfully tender, exploding with the ocean. Other bites? Less. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t have a great time at Littleneck, or be charmed by your ramshackle surroundings, or enjoy your food. It’s likely, in all cases, that you will. But Littleneck just isn’t the sort of transcendent clam shack experience that I have been hoping for.
Littleneck is located in Gowanus, Brooklyn, on 3rd Avenue between Carroll and President Streets, about a four-block walk from the F train stop in Carroll Gardens (and across the fabled Gowanus Canal!), or about a block away from the R train stop at Union Street. Littleneck serves dinner only. More info and a complete Littleneck menu, on their website.
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