Ken's, specifically. A fried seafood joint in Scarborough, Maine. I am still officially not in the habit of blogging about eating sentient beings, and yet I feel obligated to tell you that Ken's is open for the season. Voila, clam cakes. There are lots of other things on the menu — fried clams, lobster rolls, etc. — but we went for clam cakes and did not regret it.
They're available in sandwich form (on hamburger buns) or all by themselves in little wax paper sacks. Most in our party eat them as pictured above, with crisp but otherwise utterly indifferent french fries, perfectly acceptable cole slaw, squishy rolls of the variety that would be disappointing elsewhere but become palatable in salty New England seaside air, and homemade tartar sauce (not on the menu, I think, but now you know to ask for it). Note the bloody mary in the background, although beer is fine too. I'm entirely convinced that as a meal this is more than the sum of its parts, but the seasonal habits of migratory eaters are hard to break. If you're in search of new habits or have yet to acquire any, my stepsister reports that clam cakes are pretty good dipped into lobster stew. I also noted two white-haired guys at a nearby table looked rather convincing eating theirs with a thin smear of yellow mustard.
As for what differentiates clam cakes from fritters, I can only tell you that I have never personally known them as fritters but have little reason to believe they are not, in fact, fritters on some basic level. Wikipedia says they are typically made with chopped clams in a batter of flour, milk, clam juice, eggs and baking powder. Very fritter-ish, no? I've never made them at home but were I to try, this recipe for clam fritters would be the one I would reach for; it looks appropriate and trustworthy and the results . . . look more or less like clam cakes to me.* I am almost — only almost — willing to hazard a guess that what's called a fritter on Long Island and in Massachusetts is called a cake in Maine and Rhode Island (e.g.). A few hungry minutes of research reveal plenty of exceptions, though I'm not sure it's fair to call them "exceptions" when there don't seem to be any firm rules.
As for whether clams are sentient beings, I am willing to say yes I think they are. At least, I don't see why they're not. They don't have a central nervous system but they do have sensations, responses to their surroundings, and a way of life. They have hearts, feet and gonads and varying degrees of interest in opening and shutting their homes. I don't know much about them but the pictures of their various features here seem helpful.
Anyhow, if you want to digest your first clam cakes of the season while walking on a chilly, deserted beach and photographing shuttered motels, you'd better hurry.
And if you want to take a few clam cakes for a ride back to NYC or other points south, Ken's will sell you uncooked ones. Don't freeze them or they'll turn gummy! In fact I think you might be better off getting cooked ones and re-heating them on a baking sheet. I'm pretty sure the ones at the restaurant are deep-fried and you won't get the same results pan-frying them at home.
If you are looking for a place to stop for a snack on your way up to Ken's, you might try
* I have a suspicion that many of the people who cook summer clam cakes for a living would go cross-eyed about Mr. Claiborne's fresh parsley, but if you want to experiment with it behind closed kitchen doors I'm not going to discourage you.