My favorite Maine lobster shacks

When I eat lobster, I take no prisoners. All that’s identifiable in the carnage left behind are the eyes, antennae, swimmeretes (those feathery appendages on the underside of the body), and dismembered carcass. Finished, I’m literally dripping in lobster juice and goo.

The only place for such a messy operation is a classic lobster shack, a sometimes rough-and-tumble operation that’s usually within sight and scent of the ocean.

I’ve dined at lobster outposts from Kittery to Eastport. Some serve only lobster, others a full menu ranging from hot dogs to blueberry pie.

I favor the in-the-rough, order-at-the-counter, eat-out-on-a-picnic-table shacks. These are usually pet friendly and often come with free entertainment: You can watch lobstermen unload their catch and refuel and restock their boats. No need to dress up – better to dress down so you can skip the bib. Another plus: Most allow you to bring the go-withs, from cheese and crackers to salads and rolls to wine and beer.

And remember that while lobster prices reflect market conditions, the farther you travel from the trappings of civilization and the deeper you get into bona fide lobstering territory, the fewer frills and the less costly the goods.

MY TOP CHOICE (s)

Round Pond Lobstermen’s Co-op, Round Pond

When given a choice, I opt for simplicity: If the joint does only one thing, there’s a better chance it’s doing it right. Take Round Pond Lobstermen’s Co-op (Round Pond Harbor, Bristol, Pemaquid Peninsula, 207-529-5725), a more-rustic-than-most spot overlooking a picture-postcard harbor. Buddy Poland serves lobster, steamers, corn-on-the-cob, and chips. Period. When he runs low on lobster, he saunters down the dock, climbs into his dingy, putt-putts out to a lobster car – that floating crate where the crustaceans are stored – and brings back reinforcements.

Muscongus Bay Lobster, Round Pond

For those who don’t like lobster, there’s Muscongus Bay Lobster (Round Pond Harbor, Bristol, Pemaquid Peninsula, 207-529-2251), a larger and wee bit fancier place with a bigger menu. I have friends who favor this spot not only because of the expanded choices – lobster and crab rolls, stews and chowders – but also because it has some sheltered tables, if the weather looks threatening. It also serves fresh Pemaquid oysters, which gives it points in my book. And it earns extra points for having a touch tank filled with all manner of slimy and spiky sea critters for the kids.

OTHER CHOICES

Chauncey Creek, Kittery Point

While those are the two shacks I frequent, there are plenty of others along the coast. Another classic is Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier (16 Chauncey Creek Road, Kittery Point, 207-439-1030), which overlooks tidal Chauncey Creek (prettier at high tide). Like Muscongus, it has both deck and sheltered seating (heated), all at brightly colored picnic tables. The menu has choices for landlubbers – chicken dinner, hot dog – as well as mussels, oysters, cherrystones, tuna roll, and even shrimp, but lobster is why folks come. Be forewarned: It can be very crowded, parking is a nightmare, and bug spray is a must.

Cape Pier Chowder House, Cape Porpoise

The scenery is top notch at the Cape Pier Chowder House (79 Pier Road, Cape Porpoise, Kennebunkport, 207-967-0123), which tops a pier in a traditional lobstering village. The views (bring binoculars) extend to Goat Island Light House. There’s inside seating, so it’s weatherproof, which gives it a longer season than most; it opens in April and goes to November. The menu has a lot more than lobster, and it’s open for breakfast on weekends.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth

If you’ve had enough of quaint fishing village vistas, head to The Lobster Shack (222 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth, 207-799-1677). It has everything: rocky ledges, tide pools, crashing surf, a broad menu, dive-bombing seagulls, big-ocean views, and a lighthouse (with foghorn – avoid on a foggy day or bring earplugs). It’s a classic with frills: dining inside and out and a menu that includes sandwiches and fried seafood.

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster, S. Freeport

Take a break from power shopping L.L. Bean’s and the outlets and head to Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster (Main Street, Town Wharf, South Freeport, 207-865-4349), a popular spot on the working harbor. Not much fussiness here; picnic tables on pavement and a tiny dining room are the seating options. The menu, however, is pretty extensive for a lobster joint. You can decide for yourself whether fried clams are better battered or breaded. BE FOREWARNED: In 2011, Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster began charging customers for water, which is outrageous. On one visit, the chowder served was barely warm and tasted as if it came from a can. It can do better, and so can you; go elsewhere (such as nearby Day’s, on Route 1, with seating behind overlooking a tidal estuary).

Five Islands, Georgetown

Five Islands (1447 Five Islands Road, Georgetown, 207-371-2990) tops a lot of lists for favorite lobster shack, and for good reasons. The setting is idyllic. It tips a finger of bridge-connected islands. Sit on the wharf – that’s the only choice – and watch sailboats play hide-and-seek amid the spruce-topped islands in the harbor and lobster boats chug to and fro pulling traps. The headliner is lobster, but there are plenty of other options, from chowder and fish ’n’ chips (hand-breaded) to burgers and chicken tenders. It earns points for making its own tartar and mustard dill sauces and cilantro mayo. You get the idea: These folks are passionate about their products.

Waterman’s Beach, S. Thomaston

No less an authority than the James Beard Foundation gave Waterman’s Beach Lobster (343 Waterman’s Beach Road, South Thomaston, 207-596-7819) an award for being an “American Classic.’’ Order at the window, then grab a picnic table overlooking a working pier and island-studded Mussel Ridge Channel. It doesn’t get much better than that. But it is tiny, and given such a big reputation, expect to wait. And do save room for the homemade pie.

McLoon's lobster shack, Spruce Head, Maine. Hilary Nangle photo IMG_8568McLoon’s, Spruce Head

Dreamy, spruce-fringed island views are alone worth the trip to this off-the-beaten-pat shack, but McLoon’s also dishes out might fine lobster, lobster rolls, lobster stew, and house-made desserts. And yes, there are choices for any landlubbers traveling with you. This adorable, red, wharf-side shack has picnic tables both outside and under a tent.

Miller’s, Spruce Head

If the line’s too long, or you prefer something a bit more remote, segue over to nearby Miller’s Lobster Pound (Eagle Quarry Road, Spruce Head, 207-594-7406) on quiet Wheeler’s Bay. It’s on a working wharf, and if you time it right, you can watch lobster boats unload their catches. The emphasis is on lobster, but it serves other shellfish, hot dogs, and homemade pies, too. There is some sheltered seating. Beer and wine are served.

Fish House Fish, Monhegan Island

It doesn’t get much more in the rough than Fish House Fish: a fish shack on a beach on an island. Perfection! You can get boiled lobsters as well as lobster rolls, crab rolls, seafood stews and chowders, and even appetizers in the form of local smoked fish. Take it all to a picnic table on the beach, overlooking Monhegan’s lobsterboat-filled harbor, with Manana Island as a backdrop.

Perry’s, Surry

On a clear day, the views from Perry's lobster shack in surry, Maine, extend over the ocean to Mount Desert Island.Hilary Nangle photo.Way, way off the radar screen (and the highway) is Perry Long’s Lobster Shack (1076 Newbury Neck Road, Surry, 207-667-1955). It’s true to its name, with just a handful of picnic tables on a pier. The menu is limited; it serves lobsters, mussels, corn-on-the-cob, lobster rolls (1/4 pound premium lobster meat on a fresh, chewy bun), crab rolls, and—for the kiddos—corn dogs. And save room for the  ice cream sandwiches made with farm-made ice cream (emphasis on cream) and homemade chocolate cookies. People come for those, alone. And the views? Over the ocean waters to Mount Desert Island.

Thurston’s, Bernard (Mt. Desert Island)

Everyone knows Thurston’s Lobster Pound (Steamboat Wharf Road, Bernard, 207-244-7600) is the best lobster spot on Mount Desert Island. The two-story, screened-in dining area is built on a wharf above lobster boat-clogged Bass Harbor in a classic fishing village. Because it caters not only to tourists but also to the island’s well-heeled summer residents, it’s quite a bit snazzier (perhaps pricier, too) than most lobster spots. Still, it’s an order-at-the-counter place – just be sure to read the rules before doing so. In 2014, Thurston’s added a full bar, with a fireplace, screened roll-up walls, and a deck. Great spot!

Lunt’s Dockside Deli, Frenchboro Island

For the real deal, take the Bass Harbor Cruises lunch cruise to tiny Frenchboro, on Long Island, eight miles off Mount Desert Island, in Blue Hill Bay, for lunch at Lunt’s Dockside Deli (207-334-2902). Lunt’s is built on a working wharf over a harbor that’s filled with working boats, not yachts. En route, Captain Kim Strauss, who has been navigating these waters for more than 55 years, not only shares lobster lore, but also will haul up a trap or two and explain the whole process. And that knowledge makes you appreciate the critters even more.

Wharf Gallery & Grill, Corea

Corea Whaf Gallery, Corea, Maine. Hilary Nangle photo.IMG_4253A relative newcomer in the world of lobster shacks, Wharf Gallery & Grill (13 Gibbs Ln., 207/963-2633) began in a wharf-top fishing shack, where Joe Young displayed historical photographs of Corea, taken in the 1940s-60s by Louise Z. Young, born in Corea in 1919. Louise was a friend of painter Marsden Hartley, and snapped many candids of him around the area. A few years ago, Joe began serving lobsters, lobster rolls, and lobster-grilled-cheese sandwiches (delicious!). Every year, the menu expands a bit (now there are crab claws, baked beans, haddock chowder, and landlubber fare (hot dogs, sausage, steak’n’cheese) and the wharf-top seating gets a wee bit nicer. The views, however, never change. Corea is a very protected working harbor, edged with trap-lined wharves and filled with working boats. Perfect!

Quoddy Bay Lobster, Eastport

You can't beat the view or the food at Quoddy Bay Lobster in Eastport, Maine. Hilary Nangle photoWhen the weather’s clear, there’s nothing finer than lobster at Quoddy Bay Lobster (7 Sea St., 207/853-6640), in way, way downeast Eastport. Watch boats unload their catch, watch the tide change, and simply soak in the views over Passamaquoddy Bay. Heaven!

38 responses to “My favorite Maine lobster shacks”

  1. Michele Stapleton

    Great choices! Thurston’s packs a double wallop in that it has one of the best harbor views in Maine. So much so that I choose a photo I took from the dock at Thurston’s is the home page on my web site at http://www.michelestapleton.com/ ! Don’t forget your camera when you go to Thurston’s and for best results try to visit around sunset.

  2. Sally Johnstone

    Hi Hilary!

    One that we like is over in Brunswick, on the way out to Orr’s etc.just outside of Cook’s Corner. It’s Guernet Trading company http://www.gurnettrading.com/ . People are friendly, prices excellent, and the seafood is amazing. At the risk of being lambasted by Wisscasset devotees, we think that they have the best lobster rolls ever. Great seating area on picnic tables overlooking the river and marshes, too. We drive over from Bath all the time.

  3. Ginny

    Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve been to Thurston’s! Been too long since I’ve been to MDI, for that matter. I am just going to have to get over to Bass Harbor and Bernard this summer.

  4. txtravelgal

    Do you know of any places that serve lazy-mans lobster (out of the shell)?

  5. Kristin

    Hey Hilary,
    What’s your take on the best lobster roll? Hotly debated, I’m sure. Might that be another top-ten blog post sometime?

  6. Barbara Daley

    I’m trying to remember the name of a place we stopped for lunch with delicious lobster rolls and lobster bread bowls on Route 3 north of Acadia National Park. It was close to the road and maybe painted red – seating for maybe 25 or so. Can anyone help?

  7. Catherine Coburn

    Wish I’d seen this before our recent trip to Maine! I do agree about the Quoddy Bay Lobster shack. We had the best scallop rolls there!
    But what about The Brass Compass in Rockland Lynn’s lobster club is divine! She even beat out Bobby Flay in a throwdown. We stopped by there on our way north, the club is so big you can share it between two people and still feel full! Really delicious.

  8. LYNN

    About five years ago my husband and I visited Ogunquit for a week and while eating at a local lobster restaurant, the people at the next table told us of Red’s Lobster Shack an hour or two north of there that had the best lobster around. We forgot the name of the little town which was right on the water. However, they were right, it was great! We are going back to Maine in September and would like to revisit it but have no idea where it is. Do you have any idea what the name of the town is?

  9. Dale Gunn

    If you’re near Waldoboro, Damariscotta, or Pemaquid Peninsula I’d recommend Shaw’s in New Harbor. I was there last weekend and several years ago. Always very busy each time I’ve been there. They don’t have a web site, but share the wharf with Hardy Boat Cruises (http://hardyboat.com/new_harbor.htm).

    Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf Restaurant, New Harbor
    Serving lunch and dinner on the harbor. That’s right, on the dock over the harbor. Lobster, of course, fried clams, chowders, steamers, onion rings, steaks, burgers and a raw bar. No wonder this place is packed all summer!
    207-677-2200

  10. Lisa

    I want to visit Maine and stay at a motel/hotel cottage/guest house where I can have a view of the harbour and watch the lobster being unloaded. Any ideas?

  11. maxine

    Heading to Central Maine from New Hampshire in mid July. Should we stop at Mabel’s Lobster in Kennebunkport or Round Pond Coop in New Harbor near the Pemequid lighthouse?

  12. Vanessa @FrenchFoodieMom

    What a great post! We’re coming to Maine in July for a wedding in Bar Harbor. Any great lobster in the rough places there?

  13. Felicia Warner

    My very favorite place for lobster and steamers is Five Islands at Georgetown. The view is just so “Maine” and beautiful. The food is great, too. I am a long time Mainer that has been transplanted to FL and miss my trips to Georgetown. Go there every time we are back.

  14. Michele Stapleton

    One more to add to your list (& my person favorite when I’m on that side of the state) is Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound on Route 3 just before you head over the bridge into Acadia. At the risk of being called a heretic, I’ll confess that I love their Lobster Salad Sandwich. It’s their Lobster Roll alternative: lobster meat and a touch of mayo between two thick slices of homemade bread, garnished with a slice of cucumber, cherry tomato and slice of green pepper. I love it! (Growing up on the Gulf Coast with shrimp salad might have predisposed me to prefer lobster salad to a lobster roll?) Anyway, I am usually traveling for work when I eat at Trenton Bridge and so prefer something less messy than a boiled lobster. So, I’ll get the sandwich or, if it’s chilly out, the lobster stew. It’s family-run, always with the same faces at the counter, and even though I might get that way maybe only twice a summer, they always remember my name. Warning: closed on Sundays.

  15. Annie C

    Glad I found your site. I just booked a flight and first night hotel at South Portland near the airport for Sept 5-10. Will be renting a car and driving around with my folks – got 4 full days to eat my fill of lobster. Can anyone recommend a travel itinerary focused on good lobster shacks/restaurants? I had initially planned to stay in one place and drive out but it might work out better if we stay at a new place every night (I haven’t booked the other 4 nights yet so that’s flexible). Since we don’t have that many days, we can’t go too far otherwise, I would love to include Thurston’s in my itinerary since it’s so highly rated by everyone.

    Would appreciate any advise. Thanks.

  16. Kim

    This info is quite helpful. I’ve never driven on Route 1 in Maine. But highway 1 in California brings out the worst in my children. Should I stay away? Is it winding and stomach twisting?

  17. Charles Cabral

    Hello Hilary, I`m a RI native that used to go to Maine to Boothbay Harbor in the Brunswick region off route 27 off route 1, my favorite place to get lobsters!!
    I have moved to Anderson, SC about 2 1/2 yrs ago and sadly, no more lobster trips to ME!!
    I have been looking for places that ship lobsters but some that I found are very, very expensive!
    Do you have a list or know of some places that don`t charge an arm & leg for it? Some charge has much as $85. for shipping!!

    Much thanks for your inputs or your readers advice.

    Charles

  18. Jessica Johnson

    Glad to find your piece. Thinking of a zipping to Muscongus Bay on this rainy Labor Day to take advantage of the covered seating and touch tank.

    You didn’t mention the prices at Harraseeket. We were shocked and dismayed. You said it best: “you can do better.” As you mentioned, the scene at Day’s is a good take with nice people running the show.

    BTW, don’t forget the bug spray on a trip to Five Islands. With all the hostile air traffic muggy, breezeless summer evenings can feel like Pearl Harbor.

  19. Judith Tydings

    Best lobster shacks should include McLoons in South Thomaston, 315 Island Road – best scenery! as well as food. Not far from Lobster Lane bookshop.

  20. Frances Lovelace

    Are the covered/inside lobster restaurants open all year round? We don’t have any time except for the Thanksgiving weekend. Will we have any good options? Thank you.

  21. Ariana Wright

    Hi Hilary!
    My boyfriend has decided to book a last minute trip to Maine this weekend and luckily I found your post! The Round Pond Co-op sounds awesome for its simplicity and rustic setting. We will be staying in Ogunquit though and am not sure I’m ready to spend that much time in the car on my only full day there (we live in NY so its also out of the way). Any recommendations for a place that is casual maybe even a BYOB? Thanks in advance!!

  22. birendra huja

    We recently travelled to New England and did research fpr lobster shacks. I am sorry to say that I have difficulty giving anything above a mediocre grade. I think that the lobstershacks are over rated if anything. I was specially disappointed with lobstershack at Cape Elizabeth. A small amount of thawed lobster meat on a small cold bun for a good price can be described in many ways but satisfactory. Now if I want to eat lobster I would rather go to a sit down restaurant, pay fifty percent more, get a total meal and be served with a smile.Goodby Lobstershacks!!!

Leave a comment