The Clam Shack, voted as making Maine’s greatest lobster roll, has served locals, celebrities and three presidents. We chatted with owner Steve Kingston about the 47-year old Kennebunkport business and why he thinks it is a beloved mainstay. The Clam Shack scored the win with 59 percent of the vote in the final round of the Maine’s Greatest bracket-style competition.
How long has The Clam Shack been in business?
It was started in 1968 and I bought it in 2000, so I’ve owned it for 15 years. We’re open seasonally from Mother’s Day to Columbus Day, and we have a loyal following.
Why do you believe you have such a loyal following?
If you’re putting out good food, it becomes a tradition for families. I have three generations of customers now. I’m serving the children and grandchildren of people who came to the shack in the ’70s. It is incredibly special to see them in line for the first time of the season.
Who are your lobster suppliers?
We buy exclusively direct from local lobstermen. We get most of our lobster from Eric Emmons, a fifth-generation lobsterman out of Cape Porpoise. We also have a few other guys, including Byron Swett, a semi-retired guy who is 97 years old. He goes out twice a week to bring me lobster. He is amazing.
What celebrities have visited The Clam Shack?
We have had a ton. We do all the seafood for the Bush family, and we did a luncheon for Bill Clinton. We also had Quentin Tarantino come this year, Bobby Orr last year and Terri Hatcher. Clay Aiken came to the shack, and he really enjoyed it with his kids. I think people are tired of getting stuck in traffic in the Hamptons and Cape Cod so they come to Maine now.
When did you coin the term “shackers”?
It came about on social media a few years ago. We have another term we use because we shuck our own meat, which is a hard part of our day, so we started saying “so shucking fresh” about how fresh our lobster was. It’s cooked, shucked and an hour later you’re eating it. All our employees have T-shirts with “so shucking fresh” on the back. My wife thought it was too edgy, but after selling a couple of hundred T-shirts, we own it.
How do you make your lobster roll?
It’s all about the meat and a homemade bun. We give customers a choice – mayo, butter or both – and don’t believe in any other ingredients. We have won the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” and the Tasting Table’s Lobster Roll Rumble in New York City. We do a little bit of both (mayo and butter) and it’s awesome.