You might experience a little sticker shock when you first peruse the menu at the new Bob’s Clam Hut in Portland. The food seems pricey at first, until you start comparing it to other seafood shacks in southern Maine and realize they’re all about the same.
There are exceptions. The clam chowder is a buck or two more at Bob’s. But a lot of the combination plates, rolls and baskets are comparable to what you’ll pay elsewhere.
Still, it was tough to eat dinner here on our “cheap eats” budget of $15. I chose the fish tacos, two for $9.95, and a cup of clam chowder for $5.95. That still put me a dollar over, without the cost of a drink to wash it all down.
The quality of the food was fine though. Yes, the clam chowder was filled with chunks of potatoes, but this wasn’t one of those situations where you order clam chowder and feel like they gave you potato soup instead. Plenty of clams are in that cup too, and as someone who has judged a lot of chowder contests in my career, I can say the flavor was on point. It wasn’t the best clam chowder I’ve ever had, but it was good for a casual “clam hut,” which also was very generous with the chunks of fried fish in the fish tacos. They came in corn tortilla shells filled with taco slaw, pickled onions and smoked paprika aioli for a little kick. My only complaint was the taco shells were apparently fried on site, and they were a little greasy.
The menu includes a selection of rolls (oyster, scallop, whole clams, etc.) ranging from $14.95 for northern shrimp to $24.95 for a jumbo lobster roll. And like other seafood shacks, there are combination plates, baskets and seafood by the pint and quart. Baskets contain one item, such as clam strips, calamari or a lobster tail, served with fries and cole slaw. Prices range from $10.95 for a chicken basket to $24.95 for scallops. Combination plates also come with fries and cole slaw, but include a mix of seafood. One plate, for example, contains clams, scallops and fish for $35.95 – and it serves two to three people. You can also choose your own mix of seafood; prices vary depending on your choices.
If you want something stronger to drink than soda, beer and wine are served here. The night I visited, Allagash and Maine Beer Co. were on tap. Bob’s also offers beer in cans, including Lone Pine, Banded Brewing and others.
Bob’s is a family place that stocks high chairs, coloring books and crayons for the kids. It’s very clean, and seating is casual; you order at the counter, then go find a seat until your number is called. The inside of the restaurant has about a dozen small tables for two, but if you’d prefer to sit outside and watch the traffic go by on Washington or Cumberland Avenues, there are several picnic tables available.
Finally, at a time when restaurants in Portland are struggling to find good help, I have to give a big shout out to Bob’s for the great service. When I forgot to ask the tablet I signed for a receipt, one employee went out of his way to help me. He had not learned how to perform this task yet on the point-of-sale system, but he worked with it until he was able to print out my receipt. I saw another employee go out of her way to help customers coming in the door, and a third came around and picked up trays from customers who were done with their meals, even though throwing out trash and putting up trays is supposed to be self service.
Hey Bob, there’s a big restaurant labor shortage in this town, and you are very lucky to have these people.
WHERE: 111 Cumberland Ave., Portland. (207) 536-7608. bobsclamhut.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Wednesay, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
WAIT: 5 minutes
PARKING: A few spots in back, along with street parking
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes