At one time, lobster was so cheap and plentiful in Maine that it was fed almost daily to prison inmates. Eventually, however, the sweet, succulent meat from these less-than-attractive creatures came to be seen as a delicacy. Today, lobster – baked, boiled, in a stew or on a roll – is the foundation of Maine’s tourist industry.
If you plan to take a drive “down east” along the coast, here are the places you will want to stop for the best lobster dinners in Maine.
Nunan’s Lobster Hut – Kennebunkport
The locals will tell you that, despite what the Post Office may claim, Nunan’s is really located in Cape Porpoise, a tiny village with an evocative name tucked out of the way some two miles from the busy center of Kennebunkport. For almost 60 years, people have been finding their way to this quintessential Maine lobster shack for simple steamed lobsters served fresh off the boat. There are four main attractions on the menu – one-and-an-eighth-pound, one-and-a-quarter-pound, and one-and-a-half-pound lobsters, plus the two lobster combo. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company – Freeport
The vast majority of visitors to Freeport, Maine don’t even realize that it’s located right on the coast. A short drive from the bustling downtown area – home to the famous L.L. Bean flagship store and its surrounding retail outlets – is the picturesque harbor in South Freeport, at the edge of Casco Bay. The Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving fresh seafood from its own fleet of fishing boats for over 40 years. One of the great things to do on a gorgeous Maine summer afternoon is to grab a picnic table under an awning above the docks and watch boats unload their catch while you enjoy a bright red boiled lobster dripping with melted butter.
Lucky Catch Cruises – Portland
At one point or another, nearly every tourist to visit Maine stood in front of a lobster tank and – either confidently or timidly – pointed out the unlucky lobster that will soon become their dinner. But the journey from the saltwater tank to the dinner table is only half the story. Now, visitors to Maine can get the full experience, setting out on a lobster boat into Casco Bay, pulling up traps, and taking their catch home or to a dockside restaurant for immediate steaming and consumption.
Lucky Catch Cruises leaves the Commercial Street docks near Portland’s popular Old Port district five times a day from Memorial Day through Columbus Day weekend for unique lobster cruises. Each trip lasts roughly an hour-and-a-half and gives visitors a chance to learn first-hand what lobstering is all about. Cruisers can get as involved as they like – participating in the heavy lifting of hauling traps, or sitting back to watch and learn while enjoying the unmatched scenery of the Maine coast. At the end of the cruise, you can take any of the lobsters home with you, or take them across the pier where they will be cooked up in a delicious dockside meal.
Boothbay Lobster Wharf – Boothbay Harbor
Every lobster is cooked fresh, by definition. After all, the poor critters are tossed in the pot alive. But there’s something about enjoying a hot, steaming lobster at a picnic table right on the dock, just as the day’s catch is brought in. The Boothbay Lobster Wharf is owned by a cooperative of local lobstermen, who run a wholesale and shipping operation as well as the restaurant. If your conscience can handle it, you can pick the exact lobster you want right from the saltwater tank and send it on to a better place – your plate!
Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf – New Harbor
If your goal is to enjoy a lobster dinner in the most authentic setting possible, Shaw’s is likely the place for you. New Harbor is the quintessential coastal Maine town. It’s where Paul Newman and Kevin Costner filmed the movie “Message in a Bottle.” In fact, scenes were actually filmed at Shaw’s itself. Chances are, when you’ve seen a postcard of a small Maine bay with lobster boats floating by a dock, you’ve been looking at a picture of New Harbor. It is a working harbor that has changed very little in generations. You can watch the lobsters being off-loaded from boats. They will toss yours in a net bag – along with some clams, if you’d like – and steam it for you. In a few minutes, you’re sitting on the deck overlooking the harbor enjoying one of the world’s great meals – fresh Maine lobster.
Also by this author:How to Eat a Maine Lobster