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.
BEST LOBSTER ROLL
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
BEST FRIED FISH SANDWICH
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
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
BEST LOBSTER ROLL VARIATION
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
BEST FRIED CLAMS
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
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
BEST BLUEBERRY PIE
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
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
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
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
BEST HOME-GROWN OYSTERS
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
BEST FRIED DOUGH
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
BEST HOT DOGS
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