In Brooksville, Maine, Bagaduce Lunch is the catch of the day
Another in a series
on James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Eateries
in New England.
BROOKSVILLE, Maine — Contrary to popular image, it’s not all lobster all the time in Maine. Bagaduce Lunch does offer a lobster roll and a lobster salad plate, but diners in the know queue up for a basket of fried clams and especially for the fried haddock sandwich.
Judy Astbury says that her husband, Mike, insists on using only fresh local fish — nothing frozen. He mans the fryolators, where he cooks perfectly golden, very lightly breaded fillets that hang way over the edges of the buns used for fish sandwiches. In fact, the fillets are an entire half fish, and the tail end even curls a bit in the fry basket, as if the haddock were so fresh that it jumped into the fat by itself. The extremely large and plump fried clams have a similarly Bunyanesque quality. Regulars consider them to be among the best around — browned just enough and meltingly tender.
Judy and Mike took over Bagaduce Lunch 15 years ago, and their daughter Abby often works at the order window during the short season between Mother’s Day weekend and mid-September. Judy’s grandparents Sidney and Bernice Snow founded the roadside fish shack in 1946 and her parents later ran the establishment. Just as Bagaduce Lunch represents Judy’s family history, the little spot is equally important to generations of customers who flock to it from all over the Blue Hill peninsula. “We see the kids grow up,” says Judy.
The building has been enlarged several times, most recently three years ago after the James Beard Foundation named Bagaduce Lunch one of its America’s Classics in 2008, but Judy and Mike still sell a vintage postcard of the original for 50 cents. Enlargements have never gone so far as to create indoor seating. There is a small parking strip out front and some customers take their orders to dine in their vehicles. But it’s more fun (and more scenic) to walk behind the building and grab a waterside picnic table along the rocky shore. The Bagaduce River pinches into a tight narrows here, separating the Brooksville lobe and Cape Rosier from the rest of the peninsula. This section of coastline is one of Maine’s most disorienting, for water appears where there should be land and vice versa. Downriver is north, and the river is saltwater. In fact, Bagaduce Lunch happens to sit at a “reversing falls” between Brooksville and Sedgwick, which is little more than a small stream that flows backward when the tide comes in. This natural spot is arguably one of the most beautiful on a coast that is laden with them. Protected from strong currents and waves, the shore combines a rocky marine coast with the flat water, shore grasses, and reduced salinity of an estuary. As such, it teems with gentle wildlife.
Last time we stopped at Bagaduce Lunch, Meg Donohue and Chris Nelson had driven over from Blue Hill with their children Miriam and Calvin to celebrate the end of the school year. The kids kept jumping up from the table to pace along the water’s edge to spy horseshoe crabs in the shallows. (It was mating season, so the crabs were especially active.)
“You can watch seals here a lot. They come right up on the rocks,” said Chris.
“And a bald eagle just flew by,” said Meg. “The kids love it.”
What’s not to love?
Bagaduce Lunch 145 Frank’s Flat Road, 207-326-4197, daily Mother’s Day until mid-September, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. except 11-3 on Wed. Sandwiches, rolls, and baskets $3.25-$19.
Patricia Harris and David
Lyon, who write the Hungry
Travelers.com food and travel blog, can be contacted at harris