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The 10 Best Lobster Shacks In Maine

Waterman’s Beach Lobster, South Thomaston

Feel Like a Native: First, there’s the drive in, a lovely trip along the peninsula south of busy Rockland (where the Maine Lobster Festival is held every August). Down here it’s a scene from a Wyeth canvas: forests of black spruce abutting saltwater farms; the scent of pine mingled with seaweed. Between a meadow and a rocky beach sits Waterman’s humble shack, with two dozen picnic tables scattered around a lawn and a tented deck. The day’s haul is steamed over salt water, which gives the meat a briny tang while keeping it firm. Kids and grandparents hunt for shells on the beach while a dog chases a Frisbee across the field. Was that a For Sale sign you saw on that house down the road?

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf Restaurant, New Harbor

Eavesdrop on Fishermen’s Gossip: True fishing villages are hard to come by these days, which is what makes New Harbor such a find. Hollywood knew it: the Kevin Costner/Paul Newman film Message in a Bottle was shot in this salty sea dog’s town. Shaw’s wharfside bar is filled with fishermen from morning till night. From the second-story deck, you can watch as boats pull up and drop their catch onto Shaw’s rickety wooden scale. Be sure to get a lobster roll—Shaw’s served over 10,000 of them last year. A scarcely buttered hot dog bun cradles glistening chunks of perfectly shredded, bite-size meat, nicely chilled yet not overly so, with a touch of mayo and lemon that doesn’t overwhelm the lobster. Most places frown on garnish, but Shaw’s rolls come with crisp, bitter lettuce that adds a satisfying crunch and complements the sweetness of the meat.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Red’s Eats, Wiscasset

Escape a Traffic Jam: Few highway snarls are as loathed as the one that forms on the Route 1 bridge in Wiscasset. On summer weekends, cars wait up to an hour to cross. Relief can be found at Red’s Eats, a gaudy roadside hut just south of the bridge. The market-price roll is ridiculously generous: a whole lobster’s worth of nearly intact, unadorned meat (mayo or butter comes on the side), overflowing from a tiny hot dog bun that’s too unwieldy to pick up. The solution? Use your fingers to eat the plump morsels, dipping them in melted butter: instant lobster cocktail. Perfect for whiling away the next 30 minutes in traffic—and don’t worry, you’ll be going too slowly to spill.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Estes Lobster House, Harpswell Neck

Visit a Hidden Haunt: Maine’s Mid Coast hides some of its best secrets on the “reaches”: long, narrow peninsulas that stretch like fingers into the sea. The sleepy Harpswell peninsula is just a half-hour’s detour off I-295, yet it could be 200 miles away. Estes Lobster House is surrounded by water—Harpswell Sound and Potts Harbor—and has outdoor seating and a fire pit. The tables are occupied by families of Harpswellers, who know their way around a crustacean: watch that 10-year-old rip open a claw bare-handed. In the evenings, torches are lit and fading sunlight shimmers across across the sound.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster, South Freeport

Tom Lampe

Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster, South Freeport

Take a Break from Shopping: So you’re making the pilgrimage to L. L. Bean and the outlets of Freeport. When you can’t face another discounted duck boot, retreat to this popular spot on the South Freeport marina. Lit up like a small-town carnival at night—with a jovial clientele who picnic on their car hoods when the tables are full, as they often are—Harraseeket is a few steps above a shack. But it’s got the requisite old-school ambience, the devoted following, and the juiciest, lushest lobster for miles around—not to mention golden fried “onion middles” (the core, not the rings) and sea-tangy steamed clams to dunk in drawn butter. Try not to drip on your new Patagonia pullover.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport

Find Humility amid Ostentation: Bet you never expected a bare-bones, roadside hut in the Bush-friendly resort town of Kennebunkport. The unassuming Clam Shack is the Pa Kettle of seafood joints. Owner Steve Kingston insists on using only hand-shredded meat for his rolls—knives, he says, cause oxidation, tainting the flavor. The Shack pumps in seawater from the tidal river outside for both the holding tanks and the steaming cauldrons. Rolls arrive with the meat still warm—served with butter or mayo or, frighteningly, both—on toasted homemade dinner rolls. (Some old-timers swear the original lobster roll was round.) Take a stroll alongside the marina and wave at the yacht owners—they’re probably enjoying the same lunch.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Barnacle Billy’s, Ogunquit

Make a Pilgrimage to a Tourist Mecca: Sure, it’s so popular that the weekend crowds practically double the population of this artsy seaside village. But that view—oh, that view. Sailboats pass under a hand-cranked wooden drawbridge into minuscule Perkins Cove. Across the harbor, impossibly green lawns tumble down to the water’s edge. Meanwhile, you’re taking it all in from Billy’s open-air deck, over a bowl of paprika-spiced clam chowder and a rum punch. Ship’s bells clang, seagulls squawk—and finally the counter girl calls: “Number 24, please! Lobster rolls for two-four!” Never was there a sweeter sound.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, Kittery Point

Erwin Chuk

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, Kittery Point

Sample a Riverside Shack: Just a short drive off Route 1, yet eons away from Kittery’s outlet-mall madness, Chauncey Creek has lured the faithful since 1948 while blissfully remaining off the maps of northbound tourists. No ocean views here—just a quiet tidal river amid a thick spruce forest. The policy is bring-your-own-everything: regulars show up with coolers full of beer, wine, salad, foie gras, you name it. Chauncey Creek supplies the lobster; there’s also a raw bar with Malpeque oysters and cherrystones from Prince Edward Island. Choose your own lobster from the tank, commandeer a brightly colored picnic table on the dock (or, if it’s a buggy evening, on the screened deck), and wait for your order while the river drifts by.

Peter Jon Lindberg

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

Bagaduce Lunch, Brooksville

Get Hooked on a Classic: The ospreys are often circling overhead at Bagaduce Lunch, a no-frills take-out restaurant on a tidal river in Brooksville—and recipient of a James Beard “American Classic” award. At “the Bagaduce,” the seafood menu hasn’t changed since current owner Judy Astbury’s father, Sidney Snow, first hung out a shingle in 1946. Since then, this shack (which shutters from October to April) has built a thriving summertime business catering to Blue Hill–area locals and travelers en route to Deer Isle who can’t get enough of the house specialties: plump lobster meat served on buttery toasted hot dog buns, golden fried haddock, and fried clams. Angle for a picnic table with a good view of the neighboring falls. You may even see a seal.

Adrien Glover

The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine

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