Along with fiddlehead ferns and the shedding of hats and gloves, a quintessential sign that the long Maine winter has finally come to an end is the reemergence of lobster shacks. Beginning along the southern coastline, traps are returning to the water, while the folks who keep us in steamed lobster dinners and buttery lobster rolls are stocking kitchens and hiring staff.
In Southern and Midcoast Maine, many of these seasonal eateries are already up and running; others will open Memorial Day Weekend, and some as late as mid-June.
Anticipating the return of everyone’s favorite season in Maine, we put together a guide to 21 noteworthy, waterside lobster shacks from Kittery to Quoddy Head. Some of them have more varied menus than others, but all offer the authentic experience of tucking into a Maine lobster dinner at a picnic table, outdoors, under the clear blue sky of a summer day or as the sun is setting. Just don’t forget the bug spray.
Maine has many restaurants and snack shacks serving lobster in one form or another. For this list, we chose well-respected, seasonal places on the water that offer the traditional, steamed lobster dinner. If you don’t see your favorite, please tell us about it in the comments.
16 Chauncey Creek Rd., Kittery Point
Right on pretty Chauncey Creek (which admittedly is not quite as pretty at low tide), this no frills shack offers a basic menu and both indoor and outdoor seating at brightly painted picnic tables.
50-70 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit
You’re not exactly roughing it at Barnacle Billy’s, where the deck is surrounded by a lush garden and the view is of white-painted homes and green lawns extending to the water. In addition to a traditional, lobster shack menu, you’ll find fish, chicken and steak.
79 Pier Rd., Cape Porpoise Harbor, Kennebunkport
At the very tip of Cape Porpoise, the deck here offers spectacular views of the harbor. There is inside seating too, and the menu includes fried seafood plates and sandwiches as well as lobster.
Beer and wine.
On the Bridge, Kennebunkport
The winner of the Lobster Roll Rumble in NYC in 2012 and 2013 (among other accolades), this shack specializes in more than its name would suggest. Its lobster roll is round, rather than hot-dog bun style. Take-out only: eat at a few picnic tables or on the boardwalk next to the river.
9 Mills Rd., Kennebunkport (Cape Porpoise)
It’s all about the lobster at Nunan’s, whose motto is: “We catch ’em, we cook ’em, we crack ’em, you eat ’em since 1953.” In addition to steamed lobster dinners, lobster rolls, salad and stew, the menu includes a Delmonico steak dinner, burgers and even a PB&J. Cash only.
Beer and wine.
225 Two Lights Rd., Cape Elizabeth
No quaint fishing village or lobster boats to see, just an sweeping expanse of rocky coastline, a lighthouse and the wide open Atlantic. Eat outside at picnic tables or, indoors, where most tables still have a good view.
1269 U.S. Route One, Yarmouth
Don’t be put off by the right-by-the-highway location. Take your lobster to a picnic table out back and look for herons, egrets and other wildlife on Cousins Marsh.
36 Main St., S. Freeport
Escape the shopping crowds and tuck into a steamed lobster dinner, lobster roll or fried seafood basket while enjoying the harbor view. Cash only (ATM on site)
984 Cundy’s Harbor Rd., Harpswell
Now operated by Gilmore’s Seafood, the menu here includes everything you would expect and some things you wouldn’t, such as fish tacos and imaginative salads.
BYOB (if you forget, the store next door sells wine and beer).
1906 Harpswell Neck Rd., Harpswell
Expansive views and a patio with a fire pit, with wool ponchos to keep you extra warm, make this 60-plus year old icon stand out from the rest.
1447 Five Islands Rd., Georgetown
Bring a cooler of beer, order from the the “Love Nest” grill or the the lobster building and park yourself at a picnic table on one of Maine’s most picturesque harbors. Finish up with an Annabelle’s ice cream cone.
OPENS SAT. AND SUN. ONLY UNTIL MAY 28
22 Main Rd., Wiscasset
You could wait in the long line across the road at the famous Red’s Eats, but why, when Sprague’s offers great food, more room, easier parking and a better view of the Sheepscot River.
49 Atlantic Ave., Boothbay Harbor
Bigger than a classic shack, The Lobster Dock makes the list because it offers the same basic menu and no frills ambiance. The substantial deck is an ideal spot to watch the bustle of Boothbay Harbor.
OPENS MAY 27
Route 27 (Hendricks Hill Road), Southport
Just over the swing bridge from Boothbay Harbor, Robinson’s Wharf sits on Townsend Gut, one of the busiest and most scenic waterways in midcoast Maine. There are expansive seating areas both indoors and out, but choose the upper deck for the best views. Tugboats belonging to the Winslow family, who own Robinson’s, share the wharf with the local lobstermen landing their catch.
343 Waterman’s Beach Rd., South Thomaston
Winner of an America’s Regional Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation, this popular destination has its own beach to explore while you wait for dinner. Seating is outside on the patio or undercover on the deck.
OPENS JUNE 18
129 State Route 32, New Harbor
The real deal, not fancied up for tourists, Shaws is still plenty picturesque, with a true shack vibe and killer views. The same dock is where the Hardy boat leaves on trips to Monhegan Island and other tours, so expect a crowd in high season.
28 Landing Rd., Round Pond
In addition to lobster dinners, seafood rolls and clams, this is one of the few lobster shacks to offer local oysters. (Note to visitors, the picturesque village is pronounced ROUND Pond.)
Eagle Quarry Rd., Spruce Head
Surrounded on three sides by water, Miller’s offers a traditional lobster shack menu, with hot dogs as the only non-seafood option.
Beer and wine.
9 Thurston Rd., Bernard (Bass Harbor)
Sit under the sunny yellow awnings and watch the boats bringing their catch into Mount Desert Island’s busiest harbor. Lobsters are sold in 3 different sizes, lobster rolls in 2 sizes. A favorite of visitors, locals and the national travel and food media.
Beer and wine.
OPENS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
2 Fairview St., Belfast
Young’s is open ‘year round, but if you want the best seats in the house — on the huge deck with a view of Penobscot Bay, summer is the time to visit. Everything about the place is enormous, from the 30,000 gallon lobster tanks to the seating — indoor as well as outdoor — for 500. Since the menu is limited, you’re welcome to bring appetizers and options for non-seafood eaters.
7 Sea Street, Eastport
Should you find yourself waaay down east and hankering for steamed lobster, a well-made lobster roll or chowder, this is where you should head. No alcohol.