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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: July 10, 2017

Find the flavors of summer at Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls in South Portland

Written by: Ray Routhier
Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls is seen Monday, June 27, 2017 in South Portland, Maine. Staff Photos by Joel Page

Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls is seen Monday, June 27, 2017 in South Portland, Maine.
Staff Photos by Joel Page

Sometimes I drive by a fun-looking eatery with a name like “Nibbles” or “J.T. McHungry’s” and wonder aloud what they serve there.

I’ve never had to do that when driving down Main Street in South Portland. The cute little storefront with a pink picnic table and benches on the sidewalk is called Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls. I’ll give you one guess as to what they serve. But here are a couple things you wouldn’t know. The lobster rolls are only $9.95, with a bag of chips. That’s about half of what most cost during summer in Maine. And the place has on hand, most of the time, about 50 flavors of Gifford’s made-in-Maine ice cream. Yes, 5-0.

A lobster roll from Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls in South Portland.

A lobster roll from Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls in South Portland.

First, the lobster rolls. The owners of Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls used to run an ice cream and lobster roll stand attached to a gas station on Meeting House Hill in South Portland. But a few years ago, they moved to Main Street (Route 1) and have found that the same simple formula works.

The secret to the low price, management told me, was that there’s no tail meat and not a lot of claw either. So instead of big (and expensive) chunks, it’s the smaller bits you really have to pick out of the lobster. And it’s mixed with a good amount of mayonnaise, like lobster salad you might get at a church social. The lobster salad is then heaped into a golden and fluffy roll. Not toasted, by tasty.

So if you want big chunks of lobster and just a dollop of mayo or a cup of butter on the side, this is not the place. But for $9.95, this was a value. It was fresh and tasted like a lobster roll should in June — like the beginning of summer.

Which brings us to ice cream. A lobster roll filled with mayo followed by a cone of decadent chocolate lovers chocolate might seem like too much for lunch. But it wasn’t. Turns out that chocolate ice cream with assorted chocolate morsels also tastes like summer. So, it was a perfect match.

I ate outside on the pink picnic table and took note of the improvements made to Main Street over the past few years. There are pretty Victorian-looking street lamps lining the roadway and colorful flowers planted on traffic islands. But it’s not the quietest place to eat, as trucks go past pretty often.

The extensive list of the Gifford's ice cream available at Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls.

The extensive list of the Gifford’s ice cream available at Maine Ice Cream and Lobster Rolls.

After eating the lobster roll, I went back in to order ice cream. This was not a simple task. I don’t believe I had ever seen so many flavors listed. I made it through the “A” and “B” sections easily (apple pie, black raspberry, butter pecan) but got bogged down on the “Cs”: cake batter, camp coffee, campfire s’mores, caramel Caribou, cherry blossom, chocolate, chocolate lovers chocolate and five others.

There are flavors listed on blackboards, but there’s a longer list, sort of like a menu, on the counter. The counter list has full descriptions of each flavor. This way you don’t have to get stuck behind someone who asks for each of 10 flavors to be described to them, in detail.

Not that it would be bad to hear 10 ice cream flavors described in detail. Come to think of it, it would sound like summer.

MAINE ICE CREAM AND LOBSTER ROLLS

WHERE: 530 Main St., South Portland; 541-3700
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
WAIT: Less than five minutes.
PARKING: On street.
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: No. There’s a slight step up.
INFO: Facebook: Maine Ice Cream & Lobster Rolls

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