Not all lobsters and not all lobster shacks are created equal. While it is probably very difficult to find a bad one in Maine, some indeed stand out above the rest. I was recently in that fine state for a quick and sultry Fourth of July weekend with my soccer playing youngest son. We had the pleasure of visiting two coastal shacks. Both were good and each had its charms, but one was ultimately much better than the other.
Set directly on the rocky promontory of the shore of Cape Elizabeth just outside of Portland, Two Lights Lobster Shack stakes a claim for having one of the most stunning locations anywhere. The restaurant sits directly above spectacular sedimentary rocks that gradually descend directly down to the Atlantic Ocean, where, if one has better eyesight than I do, can see all the way to Europe. The day we visited was blessed with blue skies and cumulonimbus clouds, but it was cursed with scorching high 90’s temperatures. Though they are becoming more common, these are historically rare days in Maine, which manifests itself in a lack of air conditioning.
Two Lights is a popular spot, never more so than the afternoon we visited. I overheard someone saying that that particular day was the busiest they had ever seen. There at what would typically be the off-time of 3PM, the crowds snaked outside the door of the restaurant. Finally making it to the ordering spot, I placed our order and we waited in the main dining room, which was more stifling hot than the direct sun outside.
My son and I split a lobster roll, a boiled lobster and fried clams. The lobster roll was a good, but not superlative representative of the genre and the boiled lobster (about a pound and a quarter) was good, although it had been a touch overcooked (like us). The fried clams, though, were excellent. Full belly clams were crisp and juicy. If only we had some fresh lemon to squeeze on them. I couldn’t bring myself to use the lemon juice packets that they offered. Fortunately, the clams were good enough that they really didn’t need any embellishment.
Our meal was satisfactory, but the real pleasure was he view and exploring the rocks and tide pools after we ate. Two Lights Lobster Shack would probably have been a better culinary experience on a less oppressive day, but they still take too many short cuts to ever be in a class with the very best lobster shacks. Still, the combination of satisfactory food and the spectacular setting made the visit worthwhile.
The other lobster shack we visited was also nestled in a lovely coastal setting, although not as spectacular as Two Lights. Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier just over the border from New Hampshire in Kittery Point, Maine has a lovely setting, but the real reason to visit is the lobster.
Unlike Two Lights, at Chauncey Creek one gets to pick out the specific lobster one would like to dine on, paying market price based upon weight. These bugs are frisky, lively and have a wide range of sizes available. On a Friday evening not long before closing time, we each chose a two plus pounder and also ordered oysters (Prince Edward Island), cherrystone clams and onion rings.
The oysters and clams came first. These were good, but not what I would recommend the place for. The shucking was not the cleanest, but they did offer real lemon wedges as well as mignonette and cocktail sauces. We stuck to the lemon.
The onion rings were outstanding, though I only had a few, leaving the bulk for my son.
As lovely as the restaurant is, if the lobster was just ordinary, it would be just another lobster shack. These lobsters, loaded with roe, were not merely ordinary, though. They were as delicious as lobster can get, which is pretty damn delicious. The shells were jammed with succulent, sweet meat and there was plenty of drawn butter for dipping. My son and I demolished our lobsters leaving not a speck behind. The beauty of larger lobsters is that they provide plenty of meat in the oft-neglected carapace and legs.
Though we were not able to take advantage of it, Chauncey Creek has a liberal BYOB and picnic policy. Many people brought their own beverages and even supplemented their meals with items from home. We did not find the latter necessary, but the generosity of the restaurant is good to note and reflects that they take few, if any, short cuts. Chauncey Creek is the real deal and will likely be on my itinerary whenever I visit Maine again.