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Summer Travel

19 picks for best summertime food in New England

From fried fish sandwiches to lobster rolls, from blueberry pie to ice cream, we highlight the must-try options in the region.

This story was reported and written by Kim Foley MacKinnon, Patricia Harris, Nancy Heiser, David Lyon, Christie Matheson and Lise Stern

Where to stop for lobster rolls, fried clams, ice cream, and other delicious foods.

winky lewis

BEST LOBSTER ROLL

The Clam Shack

  • In busy downtown Dock Square in Kennebunkport, you’ll find The Clam Shack. Tiny, no-frills, and strictly takeout, the eatery won the fan-favorite award at New York City’s 2012 Lobster Roll Rumble, hosted by e-newsletter Tasting Table, besting sandwiches from Boston, New York City, and California. No doubt it was the bakery-fresh, grilled hamburger bun (it’s specially made at Reilly’s in Biddeford) holding nearly whole sections of cold tail and claw meat from lobster harvested that morning. Choose butter or mayo or both.

  • > 2 Western Avenue, Kennebunkport, Maine, 207-967-2560, theclamshack.net


Patricia Harris for The Boston Globe

BEST FRIED FISH SANDWICH

Bagaduce Lunch

  • Lobster may be king on the Maine coast, but even lobstermen queue up at Bagaduce Lunch for Mike Astbury’s fried haddock sandwiches. Astbury uses only freshly caught fish. He cuts his own fillets, breads them lightly, and fries them golden brown. Each piece is so large that it curls in the fryer basket, creating the illusion that the fish must have jumped into the fat by itself. Head around back for picnic tables by the Bagaduce River’s reversing falls.

  • > 145 Franks Flat Road, Penobscot, Maine, 207-326-4197, facebook.com/bagaduce

BEST HOT LOBSTER ROLL

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

  • Many New England lobster rolls contain mayonnaise and a little diced celery, but Connecticut folks look down their noses on that concoction as a mere “lobster salad roll.” The Nutmeg State hot lobster roll contains a mound of chunked meat heated on the grill, doused with melted butter, and heaped on a toasted bun. Abbott’s uses a full quarter pound of meat per roll — more than a small lobster contains — to enjoy on the Noank waterfront.

  • > 117 Pearl Street, Groton, Connecticut, 860-536-7719, abbotts-lobster.com

David Lyon for The Boston Globe

BEST LOBSTER ROLL VARIATION

Tinys Local Food

  • Ever try to eat a juicy lobster roll only to have the lobster plop out onto the picnic table or, worse, dribble down your arm? Seeking to spare her diners such mishaps, chef-owner Kristyn Samok corralled the lobster into a fat sausage that she could saute with butter and serve in a bun with a dill slaw. She calls it a “lobster dog.” We call it genius. Savor the taste of fresh lobster in the sunshine of the second-level deck above bustling Commercial Street.

  • > 336 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, 508-413-9582, tinyslocalfood.com

Laurie Swope

BEST FRIED CLAMS

Clam Box

  • A New England landmark, the Clam Box of Ipswich — shaped just like its name — has been dishing out this summer favorite for decades. The fresh (never, ever frozen) local clams served here are lightly battered. Order the clam plate, piled gloriously high with the crispy bivalves, atop a mound of french fries or onion rings. Though the owners don’t claim to have invented the fried clam, they do assert that they perfected it. No argument here.

  • > 246 High Street, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 978-356-9707, ipswichma.com/clambox

BEST SEAFOOD FINE DINING

Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea

  • Dine inside or on the deck at Sea Glass, the restaurant of the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, and soak in the splendid ocean views. Executive chef Mitchell Kaldrovich, who has Argentine roots, uses the freshest local produce and seafood only from the Gulf of Maine, and each day he offers a special with an underutilized fish as the centerpiece. Among the summer offerings are roasted mussels with sofrito and jumbo scallops with parsnip puree. Paella is the signature dish. A five-course lobster tasting menu also awaits. Kick off your shoes and stroll on sandy Crescent Beach before your meal.

  • > 40 Bowery Beach Road, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 207-799-3134, innbythesea.com

Winky Lewis

BEST BLUEBERRY PIE

Waterman’s Beach Lobster

  • Any lobster shack where the crustaceans were caught that morning can serve great steamed lobster, but most give barely a thought to dessert. It’s worth seeking out the obscure stony beach where the Weskeag River meets the Muscle Ridge Channel just to order the blueberry pie at Waterman’s Beach Lobster. Based on the founder’s recipe, it is the apotheosis of pie: tart, lightly sweetened wild blueberries in a crisp old-school lard-based crust. Garnish with a scoop of Maine-made ice cream.

  • > 343 Waterman’s Beach Road, South Thomaston, Maine, 207-596-7819 and 207-594-7518, watermansbeachlobster.com

Bob O'Connor

BEST WATERMELON

Oleana

  • Having dinner in the garden at Oleana on a warm summer night is a fragrant, delicious, and slightly exotic experience. So it’s fitting that Oleana’s watermelon salad is similarly fragrant, delicious, and slightly exotic. This isn’t the ubiquitous watermelon-and-feta combo. In chef Ana Sortun’s version, the sweetness of watermelon is balanced by kisir, an earthy, nuanced Turkish bulgur salad flavored with red pepper and tomato pastes. Mint leaves, walnuts, shaved in-season vegetables (such as cucumber and watermelon radish), and lettuce round out the dish. It arrives on the menu in mid-July, when the key ingredients are in season at Siena Farms (Sortun’s husband’s 50-acre sustainable farm in Sudbury) — and when every evening is warm enough for eating it outside.

  • > 134 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com

Rob Benchley for The Boston Globe

BEST TOMATOES

American Seasons

  • Nantucket’s edible bounty includes much more than seafood. Chefs (and their customers) rave about the local produce, too. Among the stars are the luscious tomatoes from Bartlett’s Farm. Menus all over the island feature them; the most tempting preparation, in salad form, comes from chef Michael LaScola at American Seasons. He combines the tomatoes with watermelon, basil, Bartlett’s beets, an earthy chickpea emulsion, goat cheese wedges, and a dusting of black olive “soil” — using a judicious hand with the other elements, so the tomatoes shine. The salad is available as soon as Bartlett’s first greenhouse tomatoes are picked in June. Try it again in August, after the field tomatoes have been harvested.

  • > 80 Centre Street, Nantucket, Massachusetts, 508-228-7111, americanseasons.com

BEST COTTON CANDY

Jed’s Maple Products

  • The Wheeler family makes all kinds of maple goodies from the syrup they tap each spring, and their cotton candy is head and shoulders better than any other we’ve tried. It’s not pink or blue, but pale tan. Don’t let the lack of artificial color throw you — this is spun sugar at its glorious maple best. Located in the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont, Jed’s is most definitely worth the road trip; you can also order the fluffy sweetness online.

  • > 259 Derby Pond Road, Derby, Vermont, 802-766-2700, jedsmaple.com

Paul Kandarian Photo

BEST HOME-GROWN OYSTERS

Matunuck Oyster Bar

  • The restaurant’s own oysters from Potter’s Pond — a saltwater basin barely separated from Block Island Sound by East Matunuck State Beach — have a subtle, nutty flavor. Compare them on the raw bar with up to eight other bivalves from different Rhode Island oyster farms. Although Matunuck Oyster Bar also serves Point Judith calamari, scallops, lobster, and fin fish, oysters are the house specialty, whether they come on the half shell, battered and fried, roasted, or as oysters Rockefeller.

  • > 629 Succotash Road, South Kingstown, Rhode Island, 401-783-4202, rhodyoysters.com

Paul Kandarian for The Boston Globe

BEST FRIED DOUGH

Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowderhouse

  • Perched just off the sand at Oakland Beach on Greenwich Bay in Warwick, the original Iggy’s exalts the fairground tradition of fried dough into a daily fix. The eponymous doughboys are French toast-size rounds of deep-fried batter, usually doused with cinnamon and/or powdered sugar. When chopped clams are stirred into the batter, the doughboy is magically transformed into a savory Rhode Island clamcake, which is dunked in chowder or eaten with tartar sauce. A seasonal outlet of Iggy’s also sizzles roadside in Narragansett.

  • > 889 Oakland Beach Avenue, Warwick, Rhode Island, 401-737-9459, and 1157 Point Judith Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island, 401-783-5608, iggysdoughboys.com

David Lyon for The Boston Globe

BEST HOT DOGS

Gilley’s PM Lunch

  • Getting into this 1940 Worcester diner — rooted in place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, since 1974 — can throw first-timers who don’t realize that the door doesn’t swing. It slides open. Although there are other items on the short menu, most customers come for old-fashioned steamed or grilled hot dogs. There’s even a system for ordering. Ask for the “works” if you want mustard, relish, and onions on your dog. Ask for “loaded” if you also want ketchup. Ask for “everything” and the server will pile on mayonnaise and pickle as well.

  • > 175 Fleet Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 603-431-6343, gilleyspmlunch.com

  • ***

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

BEST ICE CREAM IN NEW ENGLAND

  • MASSACHUSETTS

  • Richardson’s Ice Cream

  • Eating an ice cream doesn’t have to be an event, but you can make it one at Richardson’s. The dessert at this family-run farm (nine generations and counting) is about as fresh and creamy as it gets. Out back you can see the cows where the milk comes from, and next door you can play mini golf or hit balls at the batting cages or driving range. Choosing from a wide range of basic and more exotic flavors can be a challenge, as can finishing the generous portions. It’s a delicious problem to have. (A second location is inside Jordan’s Furniture in Reading.)

  • > 156 South Main Street (along Route 114), Middleton, Massachusetts, 978-774-5450, richardsonsicecream.com

  • VERMONT

  • Artesano Ice Cream

  • Artesano specializes in “all the fruit flavors that our landscape can offer, beginning with rhubarb and ending with pumpkin spice,” says Mark Simakaski. He and Nichole Wolfgang fashion both ice cream and mead (honey wine) in the facility. Premium Vanilla and Deep Chocolate are staples, though customers also crave Sweet Monkey (banana ice cream with dulce de leche swirl). Bee’s Knees brings both sides of the business together in peanut butter ice cream with a swirl of honey.

  • > 1334 Scott Highway (Route 302), Groton, Vermont, 802-584-9000, facebook.com/artesanoicecream

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Hayward’s Ice Cream

  • Everybody and his Labrador retriever swings into Hayward’s for ice cream — doggies for dishes, while owners usually get a big waffle cone made on the premises. A Nashua fixture since 1940, Hayward’s also has a Milford branch at the former family dairy farm. Classics like cherry vanilla endure, but complex flavors like Coffee Trax — coffee with a fudge swirl and peanut butter cups — are also popular; some flavors are not available at both locations. To gild the lily, ask for jimmies: Hayward’s goes through 1.5 tons per year.

  • > 7 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, New Hampshire, 603-888-4663, and 383 Elm Street, Milford, New Hampshire, 603-672-8383, haywardsicecream.com

  • MAINE

  • Gifford’s

  • In 1980, a Skowhegan dairy farmer, Randall Gifford, added a small ice cream stand to his business. Now five Gifford’s takeouts are sprinkled across Maine. In addition to its super-creamy classics, Gifford’s has pioneered flavors such as Mt. Katahdin Crunch and Maine Wild Blueberry. Old-fashioned vanilla and chocolate have both taken home the grand prize at the World Dairy Expo. For sheer popularity, Gifford’s stands probably beat the Maine competition, serving nearly a million cones each year. The Waterville takeout has 13 windows, mini golf, and a batting cage. The website lists all five stands, but Skowhegan’s is the original.

  • > 307 Madison Avenue (along Route 201), Skowhegan, Maine, 207-474-2257, giffordsicecream.com

  • CONNECTICUT

  • Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream

  • Mystic Drawbridge has the perfect location to watch the span over the Mystic River open and close — and it has the most inventive flavors to lick while you watch. In fact, a new flavor usually debuts annually. In 2012, it was SeaportSaltySwirl (caramel ice cream with salted peanuts, caramel and peanut butter swirls, and chocolate-covered pretzels). The new kid for 2013 is Holy Mole: chocolate with a hit of cayenne pepper. All the dense ice creams and frozen yogurts are made in single batches.

  • > 2 West Main Street, Mystic, Connecticut, 860-572-7978, mysticdrawbridgeicecream.com

  • RHODE ISLAND

  • The Daily Scoop

  • Daily Scoop’s rich ice cream comes in some fascinating flavors that are always in demand but sometimes in short supply — like Fresh Peach or Carrot Cake. Co-owner Bob Saunders says: “Anything you liked as a kid is a good seller — like Banana Peanut Butter Cup.” Even classics get special attention. Vanilla made with extract from Madagascar is a bestseller, and the chocolate begins with an intense paste made from Dutch cocoa.

  • > 230 County Road, Barrington, Rhode Island, 401-245-0100, and 446B Thames Street, Bristol, Rhode Island, 401-254-2223, dailyscoopicecream.com

  • DID WE LEAVE OUT ONE OF YOUR NEW ENGLAND FAVORITES?Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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