Loretta’s is one of Newburyport’s best little restaurants. Not as fancy as Mission Oak or Black Cow, but equally as adventurous in menu variation. Not as much of a bar scene as Agave or Port Tavern, but the perfect atmosphere for mid-week lunch. And since Loretta’s posts its daily specials on line, today I tried the clam chowder for the first time (after probably 20 meals there).
First Taste: clam and bacon on one spoonful — that is about as good as it can get
Fishy Substance: plenty of clams, cooked a little less than most chowders (maybe this was early in the day for the soup, as it was just a few minutes after noon). Nothing special and no grit, but fresh-tasting and abundant
Essential Extras: bacon bacon bacon bacon. Yes, some purists will say clam chowder should stand on its own without needing the magical power of bacon, but this clam chowder had a perfect balance of enough bacon and enough potatoes and enough spices and little extras to make it all work
Creamy Quality: Initially, the chowder seemed a little thin, but throughout the cup it tasted heavier and heavier, without being creamy…so, yes, a creamy chowder that wasn’t creamy, somehow
What It’s Got: tremendous balance between bacon and clams, plus a slight mustard-colored hue that made me initially think I was tasting mustard, although enough spoonfuls into it that sense went away. Something gives it a less-than-creamy-white-color (essence of bacon?) that helps it all come together
Overall: I check Loretta’s menu almost daily and probably get there twice a month, so I am disappointed that they don’t have clam chowder more often (disappointed like a gluttonous hog is disappointed when the trough is empty). When they have it again, I’ll be back. Easily one of the best chowders I have had.
Rating: 4.5 Clams...I am trying to decide what could make it better and perhaps the creaminess could come out just a bit more. And with respect for the purists, I’ll refrain from giving it a 4.85 since it does have bacon. But the bottom line is simple: this is the best clam chowder in Newburyport.