Clam chowder is one of those dishes few people spend much time contemplating, yet everyone claims to know which style is best. Do you prefer the tomato-and-veggie-laden Manhattan style or the cream-and-potato New England version? Thick and creamy or smooth and silky? No matter which way you take your chowder, fresh ingredients are key, which is why we’ve parsed out the most satisfying examples of each type. Take a look – you might be in for a surprise or two.


Price: $6.25 New England Clam Chowder
Hours: Mon to Fri – 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.,  Sat – 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

It’s centrally located, has been both a commuter retreat and a tourist staple for nearly 100 years, and it’s also very, very good. Despite being in the heart of NYC, the New England chowder at Grand Central Oyster Bar reigns supreme in the soup bowl. Manhattan style is also available. Sit at one of several counters where businessmen and regulars slurp oysters, drink wine and dive into a huge bowl of creamy, buttery goodness. The clam-to-potato ratio is off the charts, and a dash of bacon and celery add texture and aroma to this savory dish.

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(credit: Randazzo's Clam Bar/Facebook)

Price: $4 – $5 The Red Chowder
Hours: Sun to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.,  Fri to Sat – 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

This 96-year-old Sheepshead Bay family institution is classic Brookl-Italian: wines, sauces and chowders are commonly identified by their colors, and food is intended to be eaten rather than photographed. You’ll find a variety of chowders at this no-nonsense, seaside spot: Manhattan, New England and spicy crab and corn. The Red is rich and full of flavor, with just the right amount of grease. The White is creamy, thick and bursting with ingredients. But honestly? The Red is what steals the show at Randazzo’s.


Price: $5.50 Classic New England Chowder
Hours: Mon- to Thurs – 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Fri – 12 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Sat – 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.,  Sun – 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Launched by a real surfer dude, this tiny bar is crammed with Pacific Island-themed ephemera, a sandy floor and laid back “Surf Barbies” straddle the beer taps. The website links to a daily surf forecast site for Far Rockaway beach. This place is as legit as a hipster-filled Williamsburg boite can get. On a menu board, you’ll find four chowders: Bahamian Monk Fish, Shark Attack, Corn & Crab and classic New England. The clam chowder (and the rest of the food here) is righteously rich and tasty. Expect the very laid-back service to reflect the venue and you’ll be fine.

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Price: $14 Chowder Sampler
Hours (Chowder Bar): Mon to Fri –11:30 a.m. to close,  Sat to  Sun – 3:30 p.m. to close

Opened two years ago by Chef Ed Brown and the management company behind China Grill, the elegant Lincoln Center spot inside the Empire Hotel draws a steady crowd before and after operas and symphonies. The New England clam chowder is somewhat non-traditional – lighter and silkier than usual and cooked with wine. Go with the Chowder Sampler ($14) and select three options from the Chowder Bar, which might feature Manhattan Blue Crab, Mushroom, Winter Squash or Ed’s signature Shellfish chowder, jam-packed with chunks of lobster, clam and more.

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Price: $24.50 prix fix lunch
Hours: Mon – 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Tues to Sat – 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sun – 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Conveniently located by Carnegie Hall and Central Park, this surf ‘n turf intends to bring together East and West Coast sensibilities in its decor and cuisine, rich with sushi, fresh seafood towers and killer prime burgers. A new prix fixe lunch offers up a nicely made, ocean breeze-seasoned New England clam chowder as an appetizer option, along with choices like a Yellowfin tuna burger, hanger steak and chocolate blackout cake.

(credit: Lobster Joint/Facebook)

Price: $8 New England Clam Chowder
Hours: Tues to Sun – 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.

There aren’t too many places in town where you can pair your clam chowder with a pitcher of Dark ‘n Stormy cocktails (spiced rum and ginger beer), but this year-old Greenpoint destination has been wowing local trendsters with both, along with meaty lobster rolls, savory mussels and more. As with some of the other New England chowders on this list, Lobster Joint’s version trends towards a lighter brothy creaminess, leaning away from traditionally heavier style. Great chunks of clams and potatoes are well balanced, emboldened by celery and chives.

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Robert Haynes-Peterson is an editor and freelance writer living in New York. He is certified by the American Sommelier Association through its 24-week Vinification and Viticulture program, and the government of Mexico through its Master Mezcalier program (continuing). His work can be found at