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Mary Pols

Mary Pols is a staff writer for the Portland Press Herald.

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Posted: October 30, 2017

Linda Kate’s takeout lobster roll rivals any sit-down in town

Written by: Mary Pols
Exterior of Linda Kate Lobster and Seafood in Portland. Photos by Mary Pols

Exterior of Linda Kate Lobster and Seafood in Portland.
Photos by Mary Pols

“Do you like clam chowder?” my editor asked. I could have told her I was opening cans of Snow’s clam chowder when I was 5, but I settled for a simple yes. She’d had some chowder from Linda Kate in Portland at Harvest on the Harbor the week before and thought it was possibly the best she’d ever had. Would I go check?

The next day I pulled up in front of Linda Kate Lobster and Seafood Company on Ocean Avenue. I was expecting basic, or even grotty, because your usual retail shop for lobster tends to be more focused on what is in the tanks than curb appeal. Instead I found a cute, shingled, shack-sized place off to the side of a low-slung red building. The door is purple, there were pumpkins and holiday decorations out front; it’s a welcoming spot.

 The interior was clean as a whistle, with the aforementioned tanks done up in an intriguing sort of surround-stone case that looked like the floor of a shower in a good spa. The counter is framed in a warm, light colored wood and is built around glass cases filled with ice and oysters. It is all simple, and yet thought had clearly gone into Linda Kate.

Its owners, the Nappi family, has two lobster boats, and they bring lobsters directly to the store, according to the friendly young woman who rang me up. They also sell lobster to local restaurants like The Purple House and Eventide Oyster Co., according to their menu. A photo on the wall showed the stern of the lobster boat the place is named for, with an exceptionally handsome golden retriever looking out over some traps.

The menu was on one chalkboard, the market prices for lobster, oysters and Jonah crab on another. Quarter pound lobsters were $6.99 a pound, Pemaquid Point oysters $1.60 each and live Jonah crabs $1.50 a pound. So far, so good.

Obviously, I had to get the chowder ($5 a cup, $8 a bowl, cold quarts $18). But the descriptions on the chalkboard made me want to sample something else from chef Sam “Sammy” Bergeron, like maybe a lobster taco (one for $6 or three for $17) or a fried oyster taco (one for $7 or three for $18). I ended up with the “Mainer” lobster roll ($15). With a small tip, my bill came to $24.60. Not a cheap lunch by any means, but I was there to see if it was worth it.

Linda Kate isn’t allowed to have any seating because it is an industrially zoned area, my server told me. I would have lingered if it had – this stretch of Ocean Avenue is leafy and pleasant. The Nappis are considering adding a brewery out back, my server said, which would add seating possibilities, even with the zoning matter.

I stopped at a friend’s to eat, opening a paper clamshell to reveal a fairly spectacular lobster roll with a side of pickles that looked homemade in the best way. The roll was brioche and evenly browned, the meat piled high and dressed lightly in a citrus basil mayonnaise, with a dusting of minced fresh herbs on top, maybe parsley, possibly basil. Whatever it was, it didn’t interfere with the delicate flavor of the meat. This was a better lobster roll than I’ve had in some famed Portland restaurants. I didn’t love the shaved lettuce below the meat; it teamed up with the crumb of the brioche to seem slightly dry. This is a personal preference, though. In my kitchen, I’d never put lettuce on a lobster roll. Also, my own jury is out on brioche as a cradle for lobster; sometimes I think it sounds better on paper than it tastes.

Linda Kate, which also offers catering, has only been serving this menu on Ocean Avenue since July. I arrived at there late in the morning on a Friday, before the lunch hour had started, and I was the only person there; I doubt seriously whether this will be true in a year.

About that chowder? It’s really hard for me to use the superlative “best” when it comes to clam chowder. For me, they break down more into, will I seek this out to have again? The answer is, 90 percent of the time, nah. Most clam chowders aren’t good. Linda Kate’s was very good. Meaty clams (no bellies though, and I do like a belly), thick but not gloppy, and with an intense flavor that included a hint of smokiness, perhaps from bacon. I’ll have to seek it out again, and then let you know. Not even remotely a hardship.

Linda Kate Lobster and Seafood

WHERE: 1035 Ocean Ave, Portland,
WHEN: Mon. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Tuesday, Wed. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m..
CONTACT: 747-5304 lindakatelobster.com
WAIT: Brief and pleasant, with just enough time to browse the freezer case with packed stuffed clams, lobster mac & cheese and other treats
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: YES

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