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Mass. Restaurant Where Fried Clam Was Invented Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary

By Ken Tucci, WBZ-TV Producer

ESSEX (CBS) – Memorial Day… summertime… backyard barbecues… and yes, fried clams in New England.

The Massachusetts restaurant that claims to have invented fried clams is celebrating its 100th anniversary; Woodman’s of Essex, where five generations have been serving up the best.

The clams are sizzling at Woodman’s.

“Everybody goes to Woodman’s for fried clams,” says diner Brandi Dean.

“It’s like eating cookies,” says her father, Bruce Curtis.

They could also be enjoying cod, chowder, french fries or lobster rolls.

It all started 100 years ago, when Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman and his wife Bessie opened a roadside grocery. Two years later, Chubby Woodman sold his first fried clam. The idea came from a friend.

“He took in $35 that day, the most money he’d ever taken in any day he’d ever been open. He wasn’t a stupid man so he kept them on the menu,” says Steve Woodman, who is the restaurant’s CEO today.

About 50 family members work in the business. Clams are still the most popular dish, lots of clams.

“Eighteen to twenty million clams that we sold in one year…” says Steve Woodman.

To celebrate their anniversary, the Woodmans have a new book of family recipes featuring almost everything they serve, with one exception.

“The onion ring recipe is not in the cookbook,” says Steve Woodman.

“I don’t even know the onion ring recipe,” says 4th generation family member Wendy Viator. “I honestly don’t know the secret ingredient. If I want to make onion rings or something using the batter, I have to come and buy the batter.”

And with heaping plates, a New England tradition continues. A hundred years in, the fifth generation of Woodmans is working in this most family of businesses.

Online: Woodman’s of Essex

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