Freddy’s Lobster and Clams has been on our list of new restaurants in Bethesda whose openings we have been eagerly anticipating. By chance, we discovered a soft opening this past Saturday and quickly made our way over. Right away, we could tell that this place was going to become a new Bethesda staple.
Freddy’s is the brainchild of Grapeseed chef and owner Jeff Heineman, who has always dreamed of opening a lobster and clam shack. He named the restaurant after his grandfather who he used to spend the summers fishing and catching clams with. The idea sounded like something very different in Bethesda and we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.
Wooden picnic benches graced the outside patio while brightly colored red booths and communal tables welcomed us inside. There weren’t any tables available in the dining room or right at the bar, so we grabbed some seats facing the window in the bar area. All along the walls were signs from New England as well as fishing equipment and memorabilia. There were even a line of t-shirts for sale with the restaurant’s logo in various styles.
While we were waiting to order, we decided to delve into the drinks binder (aka Freddy’s “Booze Book”) which featured an extensive (and reasonably priced – especially for Montgomery County standards) beer list. Brett ordered the Troeg’s Cappuccino Stout while I got the 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon, since I had been meaning to try it and was curious to see how it tasted.
Drinks in hand, we decided to order two staples for dinner – Brett got the fried clam strips basket (with onion rings) and I got the lobster roll. I’m a huge fan of all things lobster and couldn’t wait to compare this one to other popular rolls in the area. When our food arrived, we could see just how casual this place was. Everything came in red and white paper containers while condiments were already on the tables. We did have to ask our waiter for silverware and waters, but we’ll chalk that up to it being their first day.
I thought my lobster roll, served chilled with mayo, was fresh and delicious. It was mostly chunks of meat as opposed to whole claws or mixed like a salad. The roll was nicely toasted and buttery, but I only wished that there was a little more meat in it as it seemed small compared to competitors such as Red Hook Lobster Pound. Then again, while the two charge the same price for the roll ($15), Freddy’s also threw in a side of fries.
Brett’s platter of clam strips and onion rings resembled something you would typically find at a fish fry, the image Freddy’s is striving for. While the onion rings were huge and crispy, they tended to overshadow the small clam strips. Then again, this was their soft opening so there will be plenty of kinks to be worked out (such as Brett’s aforementioned 3:1 onion rings to clams ratio).
We informed the waiter about our qualms and he said that he would pass the word to the chef. Our host was definitely disappointed that we didn’t have as fulfilling of a meal as he had hoped, but we’ll definitely be back to see how the kitchen progresses. It is always difficult to judge a restaurant when it opens, especially during its first few days. The official grand opening for Freddy’s is this Tuesday, but they decided to open early last Saturday for a trial run.
We were definitely glad we got to check the place out. This casual establishment isn’t pretending to be anything other than what’s part of their name, which is lobster and lots of fried food. So while you may leave feeling a little guilty from eating excessive amounts of deep-fried deliciousness, it’s definitely a fun, laid-back venue. And we’ll definitely be back to sit at the bar and explore all the many beers and fun drinks in that binder.
Freddy’s Lobster and Clams is scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 17. They are located on 4867 Cordell Avenue in downtown Bethesda.