, Derry, New Hampshire

March 20, 2014

Derry eatery makes '603 Reasons' list

Clam Haven is open for the season

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — It’s not quite spring unless there’s a line forming at Clam Haven.

Even with snowbanks still standing and brisk winds blowing, the popular snackbar at 95 Rockingham Road has been booming since it opened for the season March 12.

Clam Haven made the list of “603 Reasons” readers think New Hampshire is special.

The eatery is on many residents’ and visitors’ lists, a must for anyone craving seafood, ice cream, burgers and hot dogs.

It’s more than just a plate heaped with clams that keeps people coming back.

It’s also the memories.

Led by longtime owner Rick Metts, it’s a family effort that includes daughters Jamie Vachon and Becky Meehan. Both women work as Clam Haven managers and have been fixtures in the restaurant since they were young.

Metts has owned Clam Haven for 28 years and said it’s all about the people.

He has connected with many families through the years, part of Clam Haven’s draw as a community gathering spot.

“I’ve seen the kids growing up and they bring their kids,” Metts said.

He, too, is a community fixture. He’s known not only as the man behind the deep fryers, but also as a member of town boards. He served as Town Council chairman for several years. He supports local schools and other community organizations.

When told his restaurant made the “603 Reasons” list, his first response was to thank the fans who put the restaurant there.

The eatery has served generations of families over the years. Now, those who remember stopping by on a summer night for an ice cream treat or a plate of onion rings are sharing their love of the spot with their own children and grandchildren.

“They’ve been here forever,” Derry resident Loretta Carleton said Sunday. “The food is great and the kids love the ice cream. It’s a nice place to take the family.”

Fried clams are a top seller, Metts said, with about 30 gallons of clams fried and served every week. Thousands more will follow this season before Clam Haven closes its doors for the season in September.

Onion rings are popular, too, the Clam Haven goes through about 500 pounds of onions every week.

Some have other favorites.

“It’s the hot dog special,” April Starin of Manchester said.

A Derry native, she worked at the ice cream window as a teen and returns every year.

“I wanted to come (on opening day), but it was raining so I came the next day,” Starin said. “I think it’s sort of a Derry tradition.”

Karissa Schneider of Derry agreed.

“It’s the best seafood around,” she said.

She is partial to Metts’ fried clam strips. Other come for the ice cream and slushes.

Metts said he has enjoyed having his family close by, helping make Clam Haven a success.

He also has enjoyed seeing generations of families stop by every year to enjoy his food. He said it’s a tradition to share stories and memories.

“We know people’s lives and they want to share with you,” Metts said.

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