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First Look: Freddy’s Lobster & Clams

A New England-style fish shack comes to downtown Bethesda.

Fried clams, a cold lobster roll, and onion rings. Photograph by Erik Uecke

The cold lobster roll at Freddy’s Lobster & Clams is one of Washington’s best versions of the New England sandwich. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Lobster used to be relegated to the $30-plus-entrée category, but the poor man’s version—the lobster roll—now can be found all over town. The best examples claim allegiance to Connecticut (warm, butter-bound) or Maine (cold, mayo-tossed); use hunks of knuckle, tail, and claw meat; and feature New England–made top-split buns.

The cool, lemony sandwich at Freddy’s Lobster & Clams is certainly in the top tier (the buttery one isn’t as good). But the rolls are just one part of the seaside-shack menu from chef/owner Jeff Heineman, who’s also behind the wine bar Grapeseed next door.

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A Photo Slideshow of Freddy’s

The food gleans favorites from the culinary traditions of several Northeastern states. Rhode Island–style dishes include a broth-based clam chowder—there’s also a good creamy chowder—and fried calamari with hot pickled cherry peppers. Maine gets a nod with whoopie pies and a bisque-like lobster stew served with a blueberry muffin. The second half of the restaurant’s name relies on the fryer, which produces crisp whole-belly clams and clam strips; order them with the matchstick-thin fries.

Although the decor feels generic—fishing nets, old buoys, weathered signs—the place is a near dead ringer for a dirt-cheap New England seafood joint: There’s a 450-gallon tank of live lobsters, and food is served in red-and-white-checked paper carriers.

Pinned to the wall are colorful T-shirts for sale—a common sight in scruffy Rhode Island restaurants with devoted followings. Judging by Heineman’s initial efforts, it won’t be long before Freddy’s has its own set of loyal fans.

Freddy’s Lobster & Clams, 4867 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 240-743-4257. Starters $5 to $12, rolls $10 to $15.

This article appears in the August 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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