Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Taste Testing Lobster Rolls: Someone's Got to Do It

You've heard of a pub crawl but how about a lobster roll crawl?  While in New England, plans called to start one in the late afternoon and eat our way through three restaurants known for their lobster rolls.  By the end, I guarantee I was the one with a roll-- hanging over my belt.

Perkins Cove

It all started in the quintessential Maine town of Ogunquit. Ogunquit with its Perkins Cove would win the contest for a look-alike Cabot Cove, the charming hamlet of Jessica Fletcher on the old TV series, "Murder She Wrote".  It's upper class, preppy, clean and oh so Maine.  Rocky coastline, lighthouse, walking trails and adorable little shops. 

 The Taste Test

The Lobster Shack, Ogunquit, Maine
First stop: the Lobster Shack. Yes, that is its official name, and an adroit one at that. The seafood shanty has been in operation since 1947, the oldest restaurant in Perkins Cove. Originally built around 1900, the simple lobsterman's shack housed traps, rope, buoys and other fishing equipment.  Over time the building was updated and added to, but was still little more than a storage shed, with no running water, heat, or electricity. In 1947, the shop was converted into a restaurant called Maxwell Perkins Lobster Pound and remained much the same through the 1950's-60. In the winter of 1977 a storm surged through Perkins Cove and did quite a bit of damage to the building, but the original frame remained. This prompted a major renovation that reorganized the kitchen and updated the plumbing, electrical work, and dining room. The “Shack” has been owned and operated by the Evans family since the 1980s.
Live lobsters caught by local lobstermen wait in tanks filled with ocean water pumped straight from Perkins Cove. Can't get more local than that!
Serving chowder at the Lobster Shack
We started off with a cup of seafood chowder made from an old New England family recipe. The kitchen uses no thickening flour, just the perfect combination of clams, haddock, potatoes, onions and spices in a milk and cream base. After the chowder, I dove straight in for the traditional lobster roll sandwich.  It comes on a buttery toasted roll, mostly lobster meat with or without mayonnaise. I gobbled down about half of it knowing I was in for more. The lobster tasted fresh, tender and juicy- exactly what I wanted.
Lobster Roll at the Lobster Shack

Lobster Roll Price: $17.00

Satisfaction: 10

Next we drove on to Jake's Seafood Restaurant in Wells, about two miles north of Ogunquit. The family-run restaurant stays open year-round and is extremely popular with locals, especially at breakfast time. Believe it or not, they open at 5 a.m. for breakfast, seven days a week.
Jake's Seafood Restaurant in Wells, Maine
Jake's  claim to fame comes from their fried clams and onion rings, but I thought the lobster roll was mighty fine. Only owner Ky makes the seafood chowder because she wants to make sure it comes out right. Jake's lives up to their motto, "Five star dining on a paper plate." The restaurant is also a favorite stop for ice cream, available from the outdoor take-out counter as well as in the restaurant.
Fried Clams

Lobster Roll Price $14.99

Satisfaction: 9

Finally, we headed in the opposite direction and ended up at Shore Road Restaurant and Market, a seat of the pants operation with a fantastic product. The restaurant is in its first year with a new owner, Jason Johnson, and he is working to make it a go.  By all rights, he should succeed.  The lobster roll is brimming with succulent meat and sells for an amazingly low price of $9.99. You can't beat it.
Shore Road Restaurant
The little restaurant rests just minutes from York Beach and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as offer a wonderful little market with fresh produce, dairy, meat, snacks, and wine and beer.
Shore Road Lobster Roll with homemade chips

Lobster Roll Price: Only $ 9.99

Satisfaction: 9

The Results

Debi says: Could be that I liked the atmosphere in the Lobster Shack and hence rated their product the highest with a 10. Honestly, I would be more than thrilled to eat any of these lobster rolls any day. They were all fantastic. 
Judy says: I wanted transplant them all back to Florida's First Coast so we could take turns dining on lobster rolls year' round. If I had to pick one it would be Jake's. Loved the overflowing lobster and the no-gimmicks family atmosphere. I've had better onion rings but their clams were the best.

Nubble Lighthouse, Cape Neddick, Maine

To walk off the feast, we drove to nearby Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick, another spectacular photo-op in Maine.  Didn't have time for a tour but this location is gorgeous. We also passed by what looked like fair grounds. 

Lastly,  we returned to the venerable Cliff House Resort standing high above a rocky ledge (Bald Hill Cliff) with thunderous waves below. The Cliff House has been welcoming guests since 1872 and is the place to stay for an Ogunquit vacation. However, the resort is closing after this season for a MAJOR renovation, so next July and August (2016) it will be even better. But, remember: location is,as they say   everything, and the panoramic vista at the Cliff House won't change.
View from my balcony at the Cliff House, Ogunquit, Maine

My spacious room overlooked coast, but the highlight of the visit was my facial at the spa. The therapist used Maine ingredients to make a blueberry smoothie mask. Wish I had a photo of my Smurf-like face. The additional sensation of smooth hot and cold rocks sliding across my skin made a fantastic indulgence, highly recommended.  
The Cliff as seen from the Cliff House Dining Room

To finish  our trip we attended a sold-out performance at the Ogunquit Playhouse. For 82 years it has been staging quality summer theater and the current facility is excellent. We watched an amazing cast perform "Victor Victoria" to a standing ovation.  No wonder tickets are hard to come by.
The Ogunquit Playhouse
The next morning the Good Girls were driven to Boston where they hopped a plane and returned to Jacksonville and St. Augustine.  We are still raving about our Two Nation Vacation to anyone who will listen; Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine make superior summer getaways. Go soon!
Nighttime View of the Cliff House

No comments:

Post a Comment