Whether you prefer metal crackers and a bib or silverware and white porcelain, Maine restaurants serve up the state’s famous bottom-dwellers with ceremony and flair. Take a seat on the wharf with a local brew, vats of melted butter and a lobster so fresh you saw its antennae curl as it hit boiling water. We discover ten top places that make Maine lobster renowned for being the best in the world.
‘Eat in or take out cooked or alive’. Young’s Lobster Pound gives you options. The restaurant overlooks the Penobscot Bay and has docking for your boat, with both an inside dining room and an outside deck. Young’s encourages guests to bring their own beer, wine, and appetisers and even dinner for those who don’t like seafood. For the lobster-enthusiasts however, the ‘Shore Dinner’ comes with a large steamed lobster, clams, potato chips, butter, corn on the cob or coleslaw and your choice of lobster stew, fish chowder, or clam chowder. If that seems like too much, select a lobster from their tank and choose your sides á la carte.
An elegant and reliable favorite in downtown Portland, 555 offers stellar service, an intimate atmosphere, and inventive dishes focused on local ingredients. A must-try ‘savory plate’ is 555’s truffled lobster mac & cheese, a rich and delicately flavored combination of butter-poached Maine lobster, artisanal cheeses, white truffle oil, and black truffles. 555’s weekly Sunday brunch menu often features lobster in breakfast-fare such as ‘traitor’s eggs’ – poached eggs with lobster, spinach, lemon-chive hollandaise and a home-made biscuit.
Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, American, Gluten-free, $$$
The new and modish Portland-based Eventide Oyster Company reinvents the centuries-old American oyster bar with its bright lights, blue walls and a granite slab covered in ice and gleaming oysters. Eventide’s popular half-shell lobsters sourced from local harbors are not the only shellfish on the menu. Try the brown butter lobster roll served on a Chinese-style steamed bun, or the lobster stew with sherry, paprika and a biscuit.
Operated by a local fishermen’s cooperative in mid-coast Maine, this restaurant steams fresh lobsters as they arrive off local boats. Pemaquid Lobster Co-op is located on a hill that slopes down to Pemaquid Harbor and if you come by boat, you can tie up on the restaurant’s temporary floats. The co-op has outdoor seating at picnic tables, as well as a covered pavilion. Bring your own beer or wine for a festive lobster dinner with friends. First-timers should try one of several versions of the ‘lobster shore dinner’ comprised of your choice of a softshell or hardshell lobster, corn on the cob, fresh steamers, coleslaw, a roll and melted butter.
Chef Masa Miyake draws from French and Italian culinary traditions to create imaginative Japanese food at Miyake Restaurant in Portland. Miyake presents a nightly menu of four courses (each also available as an à la carte option). The restaurant spotlights local farms and fishermen, including meats and produce from its own Miyake Farm. Try the restaurant’s version of the Maine lobster roll – a Japanese-style roll with spicy mayo, a black sesame soy paper wrap, tobiko, and truffle oil.
Perhaps the most famous spot in Maine for lobster rolls, Red’s Eats’ red and white striped shack has received national acclaim for many years running. A favorite of tourists and certainly some locals, Red’s Eats is located on the scenic Sheepscot River in Wiscassett. Whilst it is a convenient lunch spot for anyone making their way along the coastal Route One, be prepared for long lines. Red’s classic lobster roll appears at the shack window with heaping claw and tail meat and extra mayo and butter on the side if so desired.
Located on a small island connected to the mainland by a swing-bridge, Robinson’s Wharf offers what Mainers know to be the most inexpensive fresh twin lobster meal in the USA. The ‘twin lobster’ features two lobsters, steamed corn, and coleslaw. For those who dislike the process of cracking claws and the prospect of squirting lobster juices, Robinson offers the ‘Lazy Lobster’ – fresh picked lobster sautéed in butter, served with a starch and vegetables. For those visitors who can’t get enough lobster or want to share with friends at home, the Robinson’s seafood market ships anywhere in the States.
The cafeteria-style Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf, overlooking New Harbor, serves fresh steamed lobsters from traps hauled to shore just feet away. The ferry from Monhegan Island docks next door, so Shaw’s is the perfect spot for hungry day-trippers. Before climbing the stairs to the restaurant, stop by Shaw’s open tanks to view clambering live lobsters or to select one for dinner. The ‘Single Lobster Dinner’ comes with drawn butter, salad, a roll, and a steamed lobster. Sit outside on the patio to enjoy a view of the harbor or to watch lobstermen unload their catch at the pier below.
Street and Co. is nestled between establishments on a narrow cobblestoned lane in Portland’s historic ‘Old Port.’ Its brick interior is rustic and chic and the kitchen serves up garlicky grilled seafood and pasta dishes that echo the restaurant’s ambiance. In the summertime you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres or dinner enjoyed on outdoor seating on the street, and one third of the restaurant is always reserved for walk-ins. Try ‘grilled lobster on linguine, butter, and garlic’ or the house specialty for two, lobster diavolo – linguine in a spicy sauce topped with mussels, clams, calamari, and a whole lobster sliced down the middle.
Zapoteca injects local flavor and new techniques into old-style Mexican recipes. The kitchen showcases Maine lobster in playful plates like ‘ceviche de langosta’, lobster ceviche with grapefruit salsa, and ‘sopa de langosta’ – lobster soup with fire-roasted tomatoes, jalapeños and cream. The lobster taco, one of Zapoteca’s most popular dishes, punches up Maine’s cold-water crustaceans with enough tang and spice to match their color. Chef Shannon Bard drew from her own exploration of regional specialties in Baja, Mexico, to create Zapoteca’s take on the taco, incorporating fresh Maine lobster, silver tequila, and rich duck fat.