The Search for the Perfect Chowder

Editor's Note: Pacers radio broadcaster Mark Boyle is spending his summer working as a broadcaster/mentor with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

I came to Cape Cod for two very specific reasons. I wanted to do some baseball play-by-play, and I wanted to work with young broadcasters, and I'm getting ample opportunity to do both. Now that I'm here, though, I've come to understand that there is one other thing I'd like to accomplish.

I want to find the perfect bowl of clam chowder.

While I understand that this is a very subjective endeavor – what I consider to be perfect, you may deem mediocre, or worse – I still think it's something worth pursuing. With that in mind, I've hit several spots on the cape, an area known for chowders and seafood, and have been very impressed with the quality and the selection. Almost without exception, these restaurants have met the only single inviolable rule that I have when evaluating chowder: if your chowder is thin, if it has the same consistency as a hemophiliac's blood, then you are a sham and an impostor and should cease serving chowder immediately, and in an MJB Ruled World, be subject to prosecution. On the cape, unlike the Midwest, this is not an issue.

I started my quest at a place called Captain Parker's Pub. It's one of the more popular dining establishments in West Yarmouth, it's minutes from my temporary summer castle, and it comes highly recommended by the locals. The place itself boasts about its chowder, and I thought it as good a place as any to start.

Was it good? Yes, but I still felt disappointed. Even cheated. While it was very thick and flavorful, with a slightly spicy taste, it had a skewed ratio of clams to potatoes. Unacceptable! It's supposed to be clam chowder, Captain Parker, not potato chowder. If I wanted potato chowder, I would go to Idaho. Or Ireland. Or somewhere else renowned for potato production. I expected more from you, sir. In my eyes, you've been demoted. You are now Ensign Parker.

I've tried several quirky, hole-in-the-wall, more reasonably priced places, too. I will admit that this was partly because I'm thrifty (cheap, in common vernacular), but mainly due to my theory, proven time and time again over the years, that you can sometimes find the most satisfying meals in the less fancy establishments. I did find some good chowder in places like Seafood Sam's and Salty's, a quirky low key spot that only uses paper plates and plastic tableware, and a place where I was seated at the same long picnic type table with three delightful couples who looked old enough to have landed at Plymouth Rock (which, by the way, is not all that far from here) with the pilgrims. And while I gave Salty's the edge over Captain Parker's, I was still left thinking that there was something better.

The place that's come closest so far, at least for me, is called Chapin's. A nice place, with outdoor seating, and really good food aside from the chowder, which was thick, creamy, had the right amount of clams (and minimal potato invasion), and was very zesty and flavorful. And while I like to consider myself above such petty, shallow tendencies, I strongly suspect the fact that the owner picked up the tab for our meal may have unduly influenced my view of the cuisine, chowder included.

I still have some time. But I'm starting to at least consider the possibility that there is no perfect bowl of clam chowder, just as there are no perfect women, political parties, or commercial flights. But I will continue to try, as the search for perfection – which almost always takes years, if not decades, and almost always proves to be ultimately fruitless - frequently leads to finding excellence.

How do you think I settled on Knob Creek and Cohibas?

Pictured: Three of the clam chowders Mark Boyle has sampled this summer. (Photo: Mark Boyle)