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Five great white chowders

Like gumbo aficionados, chowder fans are fiercely dogmatic about what constitutes an authentic version of the dish. But there’s one thing they can usually agree on: Never skimp on the clams.

Courtesy of Nick's Cove/Justin Lewis

1. Hog Island Oyster Bar
More than a pound of clams in their shells dog-pile on top of skin-on potatoes, with color pops of carrots in a brothy base. Sit at the shell-studded counter and watch the hardworking crew shuck oysters. Ferry Building Marketplace, S.F., 415-391-7117

2. Nick’s Cove
It would be tough to find a more peaceful stretch of water than the one that lies beyond the deck at Nick’s. Here, settling into the mellow rhythm of Tomales Bay, you’ll spoon up an exceptionally rich, silky chowder built with salt pork, cream, Yukon golds, leeks, and a bold note of apple wood–smoked bacon. 23240 Hwy. 1, Marshall, 415-663-1033

3. Sea Salt
This blue-green hideaway on gritty San Pablo sets the bar high. Plenty of freshly steamed clams make for a wonderfully briny flavor balanced by a tidy dice of tender potatoes and a judicious hit of cream. 2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-1720

4. Sotto Mare
Amid North Beach’s barhopping scene is this casual seafood spot with mounted rolls of paper towels for napkins and old-fashioned chowder so thick it’s almost chewy. Pleasantly heavy on the celery and bay leaf, it’s made from scratch daily. 552 Green St., S.F., 415-398-3181

5. Tadich Grill
Bowls of lemons, bottles of Tabasco, and chunks of sourdough punctuate the venerable wooden counter at San Francisco’s “original cold day restaurant.” The old-school chowder here, topped with a splash of parsley, brims over its shallow bowl, with plenty of clam meat and a surprising afterburn from chili flakes. 240 California St., S.F., 415-391-1849