What taco stands are to Southern California and barbecue joints are to Texas, lobster shacks are to Maine. Indulgences at these casual culinary shrines tend to linger in your vacation memories long after the suntans have faded.
Fresh lobster is readily available up and down the Maine coast, of course, but the relative accessibility and scenic seaside setting of tidy resort town Ogunquit make it an ideal place to get your fill of the clawed crustacean. Located less than two hours by car from Boston and Portland, Ogunquit is not only easier to get to than many other popular Maine coastal towns, but it also offers a surprisingly rare attraction along the state’s rugged coastline: a 3.5-mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean–facing white sand that’s a magnet for summer beachgoers.
Although summer is peak season to visit, Ogunquit’s appeal extends well beyond Labor Day into fall, when crowds thin, hotel prices dip, and visitors can still enjoy shows at the renowned summer stock Ogunquit Playhouse, strolls along the mile-long Marginal Way cliffside path, and fresh lobster at the town’s most popular eateries, which stay open into late October.
Outside of Maine, lobster is often considered a delicacy. But on its home turf, it’s at its best when served without fanfare. Here are the five top spots to get your lobster fix in Ogunquit:
At the southern end of the Marginal Way, Perkins Cove is a small, postcard-perfect harbor with a whitewashed wooden drawbridge that opens whenever a tall mast glides in. Of the handful of seafood restaurants here, the most beloved is Barnacle Billy’s. Order the steamed lobster—plated simply with a side of drawn butter—or the lobster roll, which comes on a hot buttered bun, full of claw meat and not overloaded with mayo. Grab a table outside on the wraparound deck overlooking the lobster boats and sloops, and enjoy Maine dining at its best. 50 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit, barnbilly.com
A fixture in Ogunquit since 1931, the first stop at Main Street’s Lobster Pound is its large outdoor tank, where you select your own live lobster to be promptly boiled in Maine seawater and served cut and cracked. The sides–freshly baked bread, steak tips, corn on the cob, and more—are delicious, but be sure to leave room for deep-dish blueberry pie. 504 Main St., Ogunquit, ogunquitlobsterpound.com
Named for the large golden kelp found along the rocky Atlantic coast, The Oarweed boasts a fabulous location with a dozen or so small café tables lining the last few yards of the Marginal Way. The menu includes burgers and other non-seafood choices, but lobster is the star of the show, steamed to perfection so that the tender meat slides right out of the shell; come early to snag an ocean-view table. 65 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit, oarweed.com
The no-frills Lobster Shack is a solid, good-value bet in Perkins Cove. Place your order at the counter, pay upfront, and plop down at one of the wooden picnic tables where a waiter will deliver your food and drinks (including free soda refills). The space is small, the crowd laid-back, the steamed lobster divine. 110 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit, lobster-shack.com
For an exceptionally good lobster roll or the chewy indulgence of fried whole-belly clams or lobster tail, queue up at Footbridge Lobster, a walk-up shack across from the Perkins Cove drawbridge. While there’s no seating at the eatery, you can dig in while leaning up against the dock railing and watching the dinghies and sailboats bob gently in Perkins Cove. Or settle into an empty bench on the Marginal Way and enjoy a lobster feast to go while marveling at the rugged Maine coastline, complete with beach plum trees, dwarf pines, soaring cormorants, and salty breezes. 108 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit, Footbridge Lobster on Facebook
Further Afield in Kennebunkport . . .
Hungry for even more lobster indulgence? Spend an afternoon in Kennebunkport, a scenic, dyed-in-the-wool fishing village about 30 miles up the coast from Ogunquit that’s perhaps best known as the summer home of President George H.W. Bush. These two delicious Kennebunkport lobster shacks rank tops:
Mabel’s Lobster Claw
Don’t be swayed by the simple exterior of Mabel’s Lobster Claw, a tiny, one-room joint that’s said to be a favorite of President Bush. Mabel’s is renowned for its steamed lobster, seafood plates, and peanut butter ice-cream pie. 124 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport, mabelslobster.com
Justifiably heralded by every food writer who passes through Kennebunkport, the Clam Shack’s lobster roll—packed with tender claw and tail meat—may very well be the best in Maine. 2 Western Ave., Kennebunkport, theclamshack.net