Schermerhorn’s Seafood Restaurant clam chowder, Holyoke Score: 4.5 Price: cup, $3.99; bowl, $4.99
The judges found this chowder deliciously creamy and well-balanced.
Amanda: Everything a clam chowder should be. You could actually smell the clams.
Kristin: The clams were soft and the creamy potato mixed nicely. Buttery fishy goodness.
Lou: A little gritty, but not too gritty. This is a very classic clam chowder done well.
Grill & Bar clam chowder, West Springfield Score: 3.9 Price: $5
This one surprised the judges with its powerful and complex notes of cheese — Gruyere? Amanda found it “confusing,” but most enjoyed it quite a bit.
Lou: Creamy and clammy, with a good depth of flavor. It felt elegant. Not quite funky, but almost. I mean that in a good way.
Hunter: Not sure that I’d eat a big bowl of it, but it’s surprising and nicely aromatic.
James: I kept wondering if the Swiss had invaded. This one doesn’t work for me.
Smithsonian Cafe and Chowderhouse seafood chowder, Northampton and Hatfield Score: 2.8 Price: cup, $4.25; bowl, $5.50
The panel wasn’t wowed with this soup, citing a sturdy flavor profile, but finding the texture a bit off-putting.
Kristin: Listless. Tastes mass-produced. My chopped veggies are tiny.
Lou: I expect this kind of chowder to be served in most places. It’s not bad, and it’s fairly spiced, but it’s so-so.
Hunter: My clams had a good consistency. I liked that it was on the thicker side. It’s a workman-like chowder.
#5: Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack clam chowder, Easthampton Score: 2.75 Price: cup, $3.25; bowl, $6
This chowder stood out for its bacon — with mixed results.
Amanda: I like bacon, but the bacon overpowers this one. It was pretty much the only thing I could taste.
Lou: Underseasoned, and I couldn’t taste any clams. It could have been a potato chowder for all I know.
James: The upfront salt detracted from the other flavors. Too chewy. This one had a challenging clam.
Ocean Grill & Steakhouse clam chowder, Greenfield Score: 2.5 Price: cup, $4.50; bowl, $5.95
This divisive concoction had some judges patting their bellies and some judges bemused by the balance of flavors.
Kristin: Too fishy.
Pete: Deliciously salty. Almost grimy. Tasted authentic, with a decent amount of clams.
James: Bacon! Land animals don’t belong in chowder.
#6: Paul & Elizabeth’s Restaurant seafood chowder, Northampton Score: 2.2 Price: cup, $3; bowl $4.25
This beach-bummer scored lowest and left the panel unimpressed.
Hunter: The fish was overcooked, and the soup itself is flat and bland. It’s like they forgot to season it.
Kristin: It’s trying too hard to let the fish be the star, but it needs more supporting characters. Simple is not best in this case.
Pete: I did get lots of veggies and a decent amount of fish, so that’s good. I would still add bacon.•