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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: January 6, 2015

Dining Guide: Five seafood ‘shacks’ open in the off-season

Buttery lobster rolls and fried clam baskets are what we crave on Maine summer days. But if you’re looking for a respite from hearty winter soups and stews, you’re in luck — not all casual seafood eateries close up for the winter.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.

3Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille

3Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille on the corner of Cumberland and Washington avenues in Portland. Press Herald file photo

3Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille on the corner of Cumberland and Washington avenues in Portland. Press Herald file photo

111 Cumberland Ave., Portland | 207-619-7565 | No website | $$
At the corner of Cumberland and Washington avenues, you can’t miss this brightly painted seafood shack, festooned with nets, buoys and other nautical objects. Inside, it’s clean, homey and comfortable, an ideal setting for tucking into sandwiches and platters of excellent seafood. Clam strips and fish tacos get especially high marks, and for gluten-free diners, there’s a separate fryer.

Susan’s Fish & Chips

Susan's Fish & Chips on Forest Ave. in Portland

Susan’s Fish & Chips on Forest Ave. in Portland. Press Herald file photo

1135 Forest Ave., Portland | 207-878-3240 | No website | $$
Susan’s Fish-n-Chips is a local treasure on outer Forest Avenue, having achieved cult status since it opened in 1989. The buoys and other fishing decor straddles the line between charming and junky, but you’re not there for the atmosphere, you’re there for the fried fresh seafood. Homemade tartar sauce comes to the table in a Mason jar with a spoon, the batter encasing your haddock, clam strips or bellies is crisp and greaseless and the fish inside perfectly cooked.

Docks Seafood

Paula Coppersmith of Docks Seafood in South Portland delivers trays of the restaurant's fresh seafood. Press Herald file photo

Paula Coppersmith of Docks Seafood in South Portland delivers trays of the restaurant’s fresh seafood. Press Herald file photo

15 Evans St., South Portland | 207-899-4433 | dockseafood.com | $$
This fish market and restaurant has plenty of tables, and a bright, light atmosphere, with lots of windows — a plus for wintertime diners. The menu includes chowders and seafood stews, baked and grilled seafood, but it’s the fried fish that’s the star. The prices are quite reasonable; most lunch plates, with fries and coleslaw, are about $10.

Gurnet Trading Co.

Gurnet Trading Co. Lunch and Lobster in Brunswick. Press Herald file photo

Gurnet Trading Co. Lunch and Lobster in Brunswick. Press Herald file photo

602 Gurnet Rd., Brunswick | 207-729-7300 | gurnettrading.com | $$
Despite its kitschy seafood-shack decor, the Gurnet never feels like a tourist trap; you sense the presence of the water more than see it. The excellent fried clams are shucked on the premises; the lobster roll gets raves, too. The seafood is super fresh and portions are generous.

Bob’s Clam Hut

The order window at Bob's Clam Hut. Courtesy photo

The order window at Bob’s Clam Hut. Courtesy photo

315 U.S. 1, Kittery | 207-864-2883 | 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.

Key to prices

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

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