Ray's Seafood keeps serving up favorites
By Rob Levey
Seacoast Scene, August 6 - 12, 2015
[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene]
One of the oldest continuously operating seafood restaurants on the Seacoast, Ray's Seafood Restaurant has been synonymous with summer for more than 50 years.
One of its most popular items is its fried clams, which come in strips and whole bellies.
"We get them fresh every day," said owner Andy Widden, who took over the operation from his mom in 1985. "They come in five-gallon buckets with five pounds of clams for each gallon."
According to Widden, the key elements to any good fried clam dish are, of course, "a good fresh clam" and an often-cleaned fryolater. While acknowledging clams taste better when fried in lard, he said Ray's uses vegetable oil as a result of society's shift toward healthier eating.
"We're pretty healthy-conscious nowadays," he said. "We definitely offer more broiled and baked items than years ago —- you have to give people what they want. ... People still like their fried seafood, though."
Noting that his family has been involved in the restaurant since it opened in 1961 —- his mom took it over from founder and close friend Ray Parker after he died in 1973 —- he said Ray's has not changed much through the years.
"It's all about service, quality of food and prices," said Widden, who acknowledged the last component of their formula for success is not under their control. "Everything is way more expensive today, so it's important we keep serving good food and provide good service and keep everything consistent."
This kind of consistency is possible only through the efforts of a staff of approximately 50. From kitchen to front-of-house staff, including bussers and hosts, Widden said, he requires a lot of help to ensure the best possible customer experience.
"You want people to have a good meal, enjoy the service," he said.
In addition to food many locals and tourists have sworn by for decades, Ray's offers an outdoor upper deck and unparalleled views of the ocean and the Isles of Shoals from its upstairs dining room. In its lounge, customers can take in views of Rye Harbor.
"You recognize faces through the years and know this is where people come year after year," Widden said. "I enjoy meeting people —- it's a people business, that's for sure. All we can do is make sure they are happy when they leave."
Ray's will be at the upcoming Seafood Festival the weekend after Labor Day in Hampton Beach. For more information about the restaurant, visit raysseafoodrestaurant.com.