Right, because you were going to come Maine and not indulge in the state’s decadent, abundant crustacean delicacy? You couldn’t avoid lobster in Maine if you tried—not that you should. Not only do the state’s lobstermen harvest some 80% of the nation’s total lobster catch each year, but it’s something like a staple in Vacationland, a little closer to a workingman’s food, lacking the mystique of a delicacy that surrounds lobster in dinner menus elsewhere in the country. And Mainers have more than one way to eat a bug (as lobsters are colloquially known): There’s your classic “shore dinner” of boiled lobster, a pile of clams or mussels, and some picnicky sides, like a baked potato or corn on the cob. There’s your lobster roll, sweet meat with a touch of mayo or butter on a simple, grilled and buttered hot dog bun. Then there’s grilled lobster, lobster bisque, and the myriad ways lobster has worked itself into other foodstuffs like risotto or mac and cheese. However you like it, trust these classic lobster shacks to get yours right.
Related: The 10 Best Lobster Shacks in Maine
Muscongus Bay Lobster Co.
Open mid-May through mid-October (like many a lobster pound), Muscongus Bay is what you might call a working restaurant. Even as you’re tearing apart claws and drizzling on the melted butter at your picnic table, lobster boats are coming in with their catch at the other end of the pier.
Waterman’s Beach Lobster
Waterman’s nabbed an America’s Classic James Beard Award back in 2001, and this family run place on the midcoast certainly fits the bill. As if fresh, reasonably priced lobster with a nice sea view weren’t enough, the place is also worth a visit for its mean homemade pie. A slice of blueberry is more quintessentially Maine, but I heartily recommend the subtly sweet rhubarb.
Chauncy Creek Lobster Pier
This place is downright festive when the colorful, creekside picnic tables fill up on summer evenings. Pick your own lobsters out of a tank, then hit up the raw bar of oysters and cherrystones (those are clams) to create your own shore dinner. Drinks are BYOB, and plenty of diners take advantage.
One of Maine’s best lobster rolls is sold out of a humble red trailer just off the ferry pier on Vinalhaven island. It’s an hour and fifteen minutes from the mainland and worth every minute for a crisp roll that’s buttered just enough, a light touch with the mayo, and a generous fill of perfectly pulled lobster meat.
Another James Beard Award winner, this squat white stand on the tidal Bagaduce River has fans who’ll argue that it’s Maine’s best lobster roll, but the menu is less lobster-centric than at a true lobster pound. In fact, the place is arguably better known for its fried haddock sandwich. I say why choose? Get the surf-and-surf.