Traditional New England fare revolves around the seafood of the area’s coast, but pays homage to the cooking methods of its British origins—the likes of boiled lobsters, baked-stuffed shrimp, fried cod, and steamed clams. Other foodstuffs native to the region also play a big part in the regional cuisine—cranberry sauce, maple syrup, cornbread, and baked beans, for starters.
These days, the culinary options in New England are as diverse as the population; you’re as apt to find Thai-inspired bouillabaisse and tapas-style Punjabi specialties as you are classic clam chowder. But if you’re up for trying the region’s specialties at their source, don’t miss these traditional New England dishes:
The clambake: A smorgasbord of seafoods (steamed lobster, mussels, and clams) served with vegetables (usually corn on the cob and potatoes). Traditionally these are steamed together in a hole dug on a beach, but are more often found in restaurants, cooked in a kitchen.
Lobster: Steamed or broiled, this native crustacean is a messy but glorious affair. The meat lies inside a tough shell, which is cracked by the diner using metal crackers and a small fork, and dipped in melted butter before eating.
Clams: Generally divided into types (hard shell or soft shell), clams are a true New England delicacy. Soft shells, or steamers, are usually eaten either steamed or fried. (If steamed, diners pull them from the shell, remove and discard the neck casing, and dip them in broth and drawn butter before eating.) Hard shell clams are served differently: The smallest ones, known as littlenecks and cherrystones, are most frequently served raw with horseradish and cocktail sauce; the largest hard shells are chopped up and used primarily in chowders and stuffings.
Clam chowder: Dating back to the 18th century, New England clam chowder is by far the most popular of the region’s creamy fish stews. Most restaurants have their own recipes, using a bit more potatoes here, a different ratio of bacon to cream there (but not tomatoes—that is what distinguishes Manhattan clam chowder and is therefore heresy in New England). Sampling and finding your favorite is the real fun.
Boston Baked Beans: Not for nothing is Boston  nicknamed Beantown. This dish—made of dried beans baked slowly with salt pork and molasses—was a staple in colonial times, and remains a favorite today.