Anyone familiar with Boston’s North Shore knows that you can’t attempt to eat at Woodman’s of Essex (“A Yankee Tradition since 1914”) during the summer without encountering lines of staggering lengths. Hot and covered with suntan oil and sand, families try to mollify their antsy kids while waiting for freshly steamed lobsters, fried clams, fried everything. Yes, there are other such emporiums in the vicinity, but their lines are not as long, and there’s a good reason for that. Woodman’s, aside from staking a claim as “inventor of the fried clam” (on July 3, 1916, to be exact), serves up the freshest, most skillfully cooked seafood in the area. And if the high prices don’t jive with the plastic plates and utensils, so what. We live not far from Woodman’s, but we only attempt to eat there off season. Each December 30, it’s our tradition to arrive at the near-empty eatery around 7pm for a day-after-birthday treat: the “Down River” fried combo plate ($26.95 this year: clams, shrimp, scallops, fish, fries, fried onion rings), a golden mountain of delight (seen being assembled here) that never fails to please.