Scrod, Scallops And Snapper, Oh My!

Menus these days are massive.  They’re thick as a phone book, laminated or bound, and include information ranging from the homeland of each head of lettuce to the distressing fact that shellfish, peanuts and undercooked food can kill you.

Recently, a friend showed me a menu from the Clam Box.  Back in the day, that restaurant (on the site of the current Bertucci’s) was one of the most popular spots in town.  Westporters — and travelers on the nearby “Connecticut Turnpike” — loved it for its simple seafood, plain interior and servers waiters who just asked for your order, without introducing themselves by name and complimenting you on your choice.

Its menu was similarly down to earth.

Times have changed, of course.  You can’t get a shrimp cocktail for $2, a 2-pound lobster for $10.50, or “loads of french fried onion rings made to order” for 85 cents.  (Onion rings “made to order”?)

The Clam Box menu is a window into the past.  It was a true seafood restaurant, from appetizers of clams and oysters on the half shell, to clam, oyster and lobster stews; all the way through the “fried fish in season belly burster,” Canadian smelts, Rocky Mountain rainbow trout, Long Island bluefish, Boston “mackrel,” newburg dishes, finnan haddie au gratin, Alaskan King Crab (garlic butter on request), Baltimore crabmeat cakes, and combination lobster meat, crabmeat and shrimp salad (served with potato salad and cole slaw).

There were only 3 items for “non-fisheaters”:  broiled chicken and fried chicken  (both “disjointed”), and a chopped steak platter with onion rings, french fries, and cole slaw or salad ($2.50).

Today, the Clam Box is just a memory.  So too is Allen’s Clam House.  Mansion Clam House is still around — and though it’s one of my favorites, its prices have zoomed beyond clam-shack territory.  (The king crab and Maine lobster bear the dreaded “$M/P,” for “market price.”)

Sure, $5 for lobster au gratin isn’t what it used to be.  You can’t buy a home in Westport for $25,000 either.  (Although the way housing prices are going, you never know…)

But being handed a cardboard menu, with plain-as-day choices in easy-to-understand English, might explain why the Clam Box lasted so long.

And is still remembered so well.

23 responses to “Scrod, Scallops And Snapper, Oh My!

  1. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Back in the 70’s WMMM had radio quiz contests…. I use to win all the time… The PRIZE!!! A quart of THE CLAM BOX CLAM CHOWDER!!! Oh the days!

  2. An order of fried clams with onion rings to go. When my wife & I were first married that was more than we could eat. Friday night after work.

  3. Nancy Powers Conklin

    In 5th and 6th grade I bowled at the Westport Lanes EVERY Saturday morning in the Clam Box bowling league for girls. We would have our banquet at the end of the season, where else, but at the Clam Box! We would have it upstairs in the banquet room. Don’t remember what we were served for the bowling banquet, but it was always fun to go there! Loved the onion rings and fried clams in the little clam box!! Such memories…

  4. When did it close? And why?

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      It closed some time in the late 70’s very early 80’s maybe…. not sure why except times were changing… and what took over was Tanglewoods…an ok at best American place

      • Tanglewoods, as I recall, was owned by Marketing Corporation of America (MCA). The Westport restaurant was a prototype – they wanted to develop a national chain of Tanglewoodses. Obviously, they never did.

  5. We were having a Westport Bar Association luncheon at the Clam Box when a fire broke out in the kitchen and I ahd just been serdved my lobstaer. The staff and fire department were trying to get us to leave the building, but i wasn’t moving unless I could take my lobster.

  6. We were having a Westport Bar Association luncheon at the Clam Box when a fire broke out in the kitchen and I had just been served my lobster. The staff and fire department were trying to get us to leave the building, but I wasn’t moving unless I could take my lobster.

  7. Larry Perlstein

    I moved to Westport in 1970 and the Clam Box was a big draw — it’s still odd to drive past and see Bertucci’s. But an even bigger favorite in my family was King Neptune on Rt 7 in Ridgefield. I remember getting a huge heap of (what I believed was fresh, not frozen) King Crab for something like $10. Now those were the days! King Crab has never been the same.

    • The Clam Box was fine but King Neptune was the best – the Neptune Platter – I’ve never had anything better! They also had cole slaw that was fabulous (wish I had the recipe for that).

  8. The people of the Clam Box were great too. Steve Zakos was the owner and host in the tradition of all good restaurant owners. He knew most everyone and greeted all with a smile and a handshake. His son Steve (Ziggy) grew up and worked the Restaurant into early adult hood. Mitch, the Manager was another popular fixture. Angie Carusone tended bar and prominent Westporters like Dr. Cliff Mills, Chief Sam Luciano and others would often share conversations in the upstairs bar. My favorite dish was scallops to go. I think a big box sold for $6.00. When I graduated from the Westport PD Regional Police Academy in 1959, the dinner was held in the banquet room. I reported for duty on the 12-8 a.m shift two hours later.

  9. Gary Singer

    It was always the Clam Box for Sunday family dinners. I remember I started dreaming of Lobster Newberg about every Wednesday.

  10. The Dude Abides

    I saw Richard Nixon speak there in the fall of 1960. Chowder all over his tie. My parents deemed the Clam Box only for “New Yorkers” and stayed away. Seems they were wrong on two fronts.

  11. Sorry to say, you missed out on this one, Dude. Great place. We did take out from the CB more often than we ate there but I loved that restaurant. Like the Arrow It was a restaurant fixture in a town where a night out for a family dinner, or even Friday night take out, were still big events.

  12. Last time there was SHS wrestling team banquet in the upstairs room.

  13. Well I gotta part company, I worked at the Clam Box my junior year high school, and the food was very uninspiring. True I had the insiders view of how it was prepared, but I never thought it was that impressive. For quality of cuisine Bertucci’s beats it.

    And the management were not the stellar characters described by Dick Alley IMO. We had a supervisor named Doyle who was universally despised by the staff. I am nostalgic for a number of things in Westport that are gone, but the Clam Box is not one of them.

    Point of interest: I worked there the same time as the daughter of Fannie Fox, the “Argentine Firecracker” worked there as a hostess.

  14. The Dude Abides

    SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!! I remember Fannie Fox. People used to drive from the city to see her! I concur. Food sucked.

    • Did you see that movie?

      • The Dude Abides

        No. I did not. Good?

      • JPT, what movie? They made a movie about her? I was in the house the family owned when they were in Westport on several occasions, and attended a few parties there. Talk about a corrupting influence!

        TDA, thanks for the support on the food, I think maybe it underwent a decline over the years that may have lead to its demise. I understand there are special memories people associate with the place, but my view of it was not positive, and I think others who became familiar with it at the same time (and others I know who worked there) largely agreed.

        • No they made a recent movie in which “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR” was a euphemism.

  15. According to my intense and interrupted research, The Argentine Firecracker was in two films (“Posse From Haven” & Hay Que Parar Le Delentera”) and a documentary entitled “This is America.”