315 Route 1, Kittery | 439-4233 | bobsclamhut.com | $$$
Never mind the outlet shopping, Bob’s is reason enough to make the trip to Kittery. Open since 1956, the once tiny shack has grown to include indoor and outdoor seating, and is famous well beyond Maine for pristine fried clams, shrimp, scallops and fish. The clam chowder and lobster stew are equally praiseworthy.
2 Western Ave. (on the bridge), Kennebunk | 967-2560 | theclamshack.net | $$$
The winner of the Lobster Roll Rumble in NYC in 2012 and 2013 (among many other accolades), this shack, which does a find job with fried clams, specializes in more than its name would suggest. That award-winning lobster roll is round, rather than hot-dog bun style; the bread is made fresh daily for The Clam Shack. If the adjacent picnic tables are full, you can sit on the bridge and watch the summer bustle of Kennebunkport.
Route 27 (on the town square) Boothbay | No phone | No website | $$
If you’re on your way to Boothbay Harbor, you can’t miss Bet’s on the left side of Route 27. The menu is limited to fish sandwiches, “fish in a dish” (i.e no roll) and freshly cut fries. The fish — haddock caught by owner Bet Finocchiaro brother — is super fresh and the portions are huge. Two mere mortals can share a “Half.” Grab plenty of napkins and a soda from the machine, choose a picnic table on the lawn behind the shack and dig in to some of the best fish you’ll find anywhere.
602 Gurnet Rd. (Route 24), Brunswick | 729-7300 | gurnettrading.com | $$$
Here between town and seashore, you sense the presence of the water more than see it, but it’s there, glimpsed through the trees from the outdoor seating areas. Most tourists are going to blow right by this quaint spot on their way down to Orr’s and Bailey Islands looking for open vistas and more direct sunshine. Locals, however, know the Gurnet as a reliable stop for first-class fried clams, lobster rolls and other seafood classics.
200 Downeast Highway, Ellsworth | 667-2174 | jordanssnackbar.com | $$$
A quintessential, family-owned roadside shack loved by locals, Jordan’s is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the effort to find. Fans love the thin, crispy onion rings and the generous scoops of Gifford’s ice cream. A grassy area offers picnic tables, plenty of trash cans and a well-kept play area for kids.
The approximate cost of two dinner entrees (not including appetizers, drinks, tax and gratuity).
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up