8 Strange New England Foods You Probably Haven't Tried

From clambakes to frappes to anadama bread, signature staples of regional cooking turn up on menus all over town. Try them and enjoy.

We Bostonians are wicked proud of our accent, our sports teams, our politics and our food.

Especially those foods that are unabashedly local—meaning if you grew up anywhere else in the country, you’d have no idea what they were. Anadama bread. Frappes. Indian Pudding. Scrod. For those unfamiliar with such idiosyncratic New England eats, the following guide is for you. Why the unrepentant regionalism? Don’t blame us; we’re from Massachusetts.


Scrod

What it is: A filet of firm whitefish, usually cod, commonly (but not etymologically) believed to be an acronym for “sacred cod” or “select catch retrieved on (that) day.”

Where to try it: Union Oyster House. At Boston’s oldest restaurant, scrod is prepared just the way it would have been prepared for John F. Kennedy—broiled with a topping of buttery crumbs. You can even sit in JFK’s favorite booth.

41 Union St., Boston, MA, 617.227.2750 


Frappe

What it is: A beverage of milk, ice cream, and flavored syrup whipped together in a blender, that all other Americans (except Rhode Islanders) call a milkshake. (In Rhode Island, it’s a “cabinet.”)

Where to try it: J.P. Licks. Frappes are available in multiple flavors (including Cookies ‘n Cream and Mint Irish Lace) and two consistencies: regular or “xtra (sic) thick.”

1106 Boylston St., Boston, MA, 857.233.5805


Anadama Bread

What it is: Bread made from wheat flour, cornmeal and molasses, with origins going back to 19th-century Rockport, Massachusetts.

Where to try it: The Friendly Toast. Have Anadama on any sandwich; toasted, as an accompaniment to most breakfasts; and/or as a basis for French toast. You can also purchase a loaf to take home. 

35 Stanhope St., Boston, MA, 617.456.7849


Boston Brown Bread

What it is: Steamed, sweet bread from early 19th-century New England that is typically made with both wheat and rye flours.

Where to try itTownsman. Instead of a breadbasket, guests receive Boston brown bread—with the can it was steamed in. Pass the whipped honey maple butter sprinkled with togarashi spices.

120 Kingston St., Boston, MA, 617.933.0750

Townsman's Boston brown bread


Clambake

What it is: A method of cooking shellfish in a rock-lined sandpit originally devised by local Native Americans, hundreds—if not thousands—of years ago.

Where to try it: The Barking Crab. Steamed over salted water (not baked in the sand), The Crab’s clambake features lobster, clams, chorizo sausage, Red Bliss potatoes and corn on the cob. It's served with clam chowder, coleslaw and a bib.

88 Sleeper St., Boston, MA, 617.426.2722


Johnny Cakes

What it is: Griddled flapjacks made from cornmeal, boiling water, sugar and salt that Benjamin Franklin described as “better than a Yorkshire muffin.” 

Where to try it: Deluxe Town Diner Watertown. Johnny cakes here are “south country style” thick—as they’re eaten in southern Rhode Island, a state which says it’s the birthplace of the Johnny cake. Enjoy them with fresh fruit or a side of eggs.

627 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA, 617.926.8400


Indian Pudding

What it is: A slow-cooked, porridge-like dessert of cornmeal, molasses and milk that was popularized in Colonial Massachusetts.  

Where to try it: Durgin-Park. At Faneuil Hall Marketplace’s bastion of Yankee cooking, order this favorite it as it’s meant to ordered—with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

340 S Market St., Boston, MA, 617.227.2038

 


Fluffernutter

What it is: A sandwich of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff, a sticky sweet, gooey spread, invented in Somerville in 1917 and manufactured today in Lynn.

Where to try it: Local 149. At this South Boston gastropub, the famous sandwich is fried and served for dessert with hazelnut-cocoa Nutella for dipping.

149 P St., Boston, MA, 617.269.0900


Boston Cream Pie

What it is: Not a pie at all, but a white cake stuffed with custard or pastry cream and glazed with melted chocolate.

Where to try it: Parker's Restaurant. The official dessert of Massachusetts was invented at the Parker House in 1856 by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian. (While you’re there, taste one of the eponymous rolls, which they have been baking since the 1870’s.)

60 School St., Boston, MA, 617.227.8600

Boston Cream Pie at Parker House

 

 

Mat Schaffer
About the author
James Beard-nominated Schaffer is known for discerning, honest reviews, and was the former dining critic for the Boston ...