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Maine has those essential items that every foodie seeks out when hitting up this coastal portion of New England—whoopie pies, anything blueberry, clam chowder, fried clam bellies and most definitely lobster. Steamed in the shelled, cooked to perfection in stews or bisques, atop a toasty bun—lobster can be appreciated in numerous forms. Searching for the perfect spots to stop for a bite can prove to be overwhelming, as there are many. But if you check off any or all of these traditional lobster establishments in Maine, you will have tasted some of the best.
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Customers highly rate this Portland hotspot, while also noting the “preposterous wait,” but that’s how you know the waterside location is not good, but really, really good. Travelers grab a drink and chat amongst worldwide visitors here also to experience the hype. Steamed dinners are perfect, and served with baked potatoes instead of classic boiled potato halves, but another crowd favorite would have to be the rolls. Lobster rolls are piled with fresh meat, and lightly accented with butter and mayo. However, their toasted clam belly roll, scallops roll and crabmeat roll with lettuce and tomato are mind-blowing.
Enjoy perfect 70-degree Maine weather while sitting under a pavilion at a quaint picnic table to enjoy river views in Kittery Point. This is the kind of place where you unashamedly tie on your bib and dig into the massive steamed lobsters caught by the restaurant owners themselves, in their own little boat. On the menu are other basics like steamed clams and creamy chowder, but no booze. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your own.
Kennebunkport is the perfect depiction of coastal Maine, but typically slightly ritzier. Don’t let that fool you, there are some humble gems nestled in the town, one being The Clam Shack. It’s real, authentic and simple, and they even pump seawater into the lobster tanks and steamers. Lobster rolls defy the typically elongated bun because it’s round yet still overflowing with sweet lobster chunks. Fried whole clam bellies are certainly worth pointing out, as they’re nothing like the clam strips you’d find in your grocery store freezer section. Clam bellies are plump, flavorful and ever so lightly dusted with flour before fried to golden perfection.
Base yourself in the picturesque town of Kennebunkport and discover Nunan’s, which has that traditional rustic seaside village look and offers boiled lobsters at a slightly lower price than most places. Don’t worry, it’s stellar lobster. Accent your meal with savory lobster stew, generously full of more lobster! Foodies traveling to Maine seek out great blueberry pie amongst other classics, and this is one of the spots you want to try the pie—ask for it warm.
Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf
A really cute little place right on the water in New Harbor, Shaw’s offers versatility along with expected dishes. Buffalo and coconut shrimp, calamari, swordfish and BBQ salmon shake up the menu a bit if you’re looking for a change of pace on your vacation, but what guests love most about this restaurant is the view of lobster boats chugging in to drop off their fresh catch. Shaw’s Wharf has a lot to choose from and a phenomenal atmosphere specific to the coast.
Right on the water in South Freeport, the lobster bisque has loads of meat in every bite, making it the star of the lobster game at Harraseeket. But the enormous sharable seafood baskets, melt in your mouth haddock sandwich with cheese and a lobster roll on a grilled bun are highly praised items. Keep in mind this eatery is a cash-only establishment, as are many of these types of places in Maine. Alcohol is not served but your welcome to bring your own.
Just a little walk up stand in Wiscasset, Red’s lobster rolls rival with the best in the state. A mountain of delicate, red and white meat cascade over the bun’s edges, and the buttery mayo taste is ever so slight, so the lobster is front and center—totally worth the 20-something dollar price tag. Gluten intolerant folks can enjoy a roll too since they serve delicious gluten-free buns. Fried scallops come in second and are giant bites of golden crusted goodness, and no meal at Red’s is complete without a blueberry cake or a classic whoopie pie.
Harpswell houses this gem, which literally extends into the water sitting on stilts. It’s scenic and “cottage-y”, perfect for a summer time lunch or dinner. While blueberry pie, grilled cheese and burgers receive a lot of deserved hype, the traditional steamed lobster meals are excellently prepared and served with tried and true fixings like corn, slaw, potatoes, and, of course, lots of butter!
You would not expect this tiny blue building to be the spot to have one of the top lobster experiences in the state of Maine. Just passing by and not know what it is, most would keep cruising. But C-Rays is so stellar, there’s hardly a word to describe it. A simple barebones menu leaves one with few options, but nothing more than what is there is needed. Lobster is cooked to order, and so tender it falls out of the shell with little effort. Corn, potatoes, and plump clams pile on the blue tray, and Maine Root blueberry soda makes the perfect sweet addition.