Although it’s small, you can’t miss The Clam Shack on your drive into Kennebunkport, Maine. The famous spot, which appears in USA Today’s 50 Great Plates of America and on the Food Network, is one of the premier destinations in the state, thanks to its mouth-watering lobster rolls, fried scallops and other tasty New England treats. We stopped by for lunch on a hot Saturday afternoon, and The Clam Shack meets and definitely exceeds the hype.
First, prepare to wait! Kennebunkport is one of the busiest towns in Maine for a handful of reasons, chief among them the gorgeous Bush compound, summer home of the 41st President, George H.W. Bush, and family. You can’t walk up to the front door and knock (Secret Service will make sure of that), but you will get an incredible view from Ocean Avenue.
With all respect to the former commander in chief, back to the lobster! The Clam Shack is always busy in the summer months, and today was no different. There were at least 20 people in line at all times, but to the credit of the employees inside of the Shack, these hard-working college kids made sure people didn’t wait long to order and then receive their food.
The menu has a surprising number of options for a seafood place, including a burger, chicken fingers and even a hot dog, but we came for the lobster roll. The verdict? Wow!
First, you have three options: butter, mayo or both. Yes, both, and you can’t go wrong with any of these. Butter is your Connecticut style lobster roll. Meanwhile, mayo is traditional Maine. Don’t confuse this with a New England lobster roll, which comes with lots of mayonnaise, some chives and may even rest on a bed of lettuce; more lobster salad, really.
In Maine, they lightly coat the lobster in mayo to let the delicious meat stand on its own. Great idea, since the locally-caught lobster doesn’t require fancy dressings to enhance its flavor. From there, The Clam Shack piles the lobster onto a yeast roll and tops with a lemon wedge. That’s it!
Is this the best lobster roll we’ve had? After careful debate… yes. The switch to a round yeast roll instead of the popular split-top bun caught us off guard, but the bread pairs perfectly with the lobster. Not into carbs? Ditch the roll and you’ll savor the lobster without the guilt.
Side note… we didn’t have appetites big enough to devour the whole menu, but we strongly recommend the fried scallops, which come lightly battered and perfectly cooked. Ditto with the clam strips. We also have high praise for the crinkle cut French fries. Lobster rolls usually come with potato chips, but we’d choose crinkle cut fries every time because they remind us of elementary school lunches. Lobster roll plus nostalgia is a hard-to-beat combination.
OK, so the lobster rolls taste amazing. Now it’s time to prep for your visit.
Clam Shack Tips
- If you see an open table inside, grab it! Otherwise you’ll eat outside. Not a deal breaker, but it’s a bit cooler in there. Plus, you can grab a beer on the way through the front door.
- Even if you don’t get a table inside, check out the store. You can buy all sorts of Clam Shack souvenirs.
- There is one benefit to eating outside… people watching!
- Beware of seagulls! They know a good lobster roll when they see one.
- Get the lemonade! Cold… refreshing… it’s arguably the best we’ve tasted.
About The Clam Shack
- The Clam Shack first appeared in 1968, and current owner Steve Kingston bought it in 2000.
- The restaurant uses locally-made butter for its lobster rolls.
- There’s no such thing as frozen lobster at The Clam Shack. Fifth generation fishermen Eric Emmons pulls the lobster from Kennebunkport waters, and it’s a quick five-minute trip back to the Shack, where the chefs boil the lobster in saltwater.
- The Clam Shack gets its rolls from a bakery that’s been in business for 100 years.
We hope you visit The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport (2 Western Avenue). If you don’t plan to vacation in Maine, no problem. We’ll tell you how to make lobster rolls right now. We also have a recipe for cooking scallops your guests will love.