The Clam Bar

I am all about evolution in any brand, but sometimes some things shouldn’t change.

We read about restaurants that have lasted decades but, for whatever reason, could not read the landscape and evolve accordingly. Sometimes it is sad, but most of the time, these brands stop hitting the high notes for so many years that we tend to shake our heads and say, “Yes, it was time.”

There is something comforting about acknowledging those failures. We lament how we saw it coming as if we knew. We were those regulars who lost interest, lost faith, stopped going, and moved on.

Yet, there are those restaurants that bring comfort every time you walk in the door. You know what to expect, and they are still positively humming away. They do not need ever to change. What hurts is when ownership changes hands unexpectedly without anyone knowing, and they change what worked. However, we all saw it coming.

Out on the east end of Long Island, there is (was) an institution called the Clam Bar. I can’t tell you how often I have eaten there for all the tea in China, as they say. I always knew what to expect. We would sit under umbrella-covered tables with classic seafood beach food. We relied on our favorites, the clam chowder, the fried clam belly strips, and for me, the steamers. Always fresh, plump, and perfect.

Last summer, things started to change. The menu became laminated, and even though the chalkboard still existed, it was not the same. We had heard the Clam Bar had sold, but my guess was it sold last year, and after taking a look at what it cost and thinking they could run a better business, they changed the menu, relying on fried food from an outside vendor. They do not even carry the Dr. Browns Diet Cream Soda anymore. And the sails they swapped out for the umbrellas are filthy.

We didn’t believe it, so we went. The steamers were dry and inedible. They even apologized for how long it took and tried to give me another one, which was also inedible. The kitchen was an absolute shitshow, and the vibe had changed entirely.

The family that owned it made serious cash for decades; I guess it was time to depart. The next generation had no interest. What is sad is that someone came in and destroyed a money-making gem. They killed an institution. RIP, Clam Bar; I will never return.