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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ogunquit Restaurants: Favorites Featuring The Lobster Shack

I've just returned from a week's vacation in Ogunquit, ME, the idyllic seaside town where I go every year to sample as much lobster-centric New England cuisine as possible while still fitting into my tankini.  
Cove Café
Yes, there are pristine beaches, lush flower gardens, and breathtaking cliffside views to enjoy in Ogunquit too; visit my photo scrapbook to see pictures if you like. But this is a food blog: let's talk tasty.

Irish Benedict at Amore Breakfast
Ogunquit is a breakfast kind of place.

  Wild blueberry pancakes at—where else—Wild Blueberry Café and Bistro shouldn't be missed, likewise all the Benedicts (or pretty much anything else) at Amore Breakfast,
now at 309 Shore Road.  Another favorite is the simple, friendly 
Cove Café, where everything from crab cakes to croissants is homemade, locally-sourced, and delicious. 
These generous breakfasts will keep you going all day like the Energizer Bunny...well, maybe with a quick midday stop for clams and hand-cut fries at Charlie's On The Beach.

Dinner options are many.
Gravlax at MC Perkins
Among the more upscale choices, Katie's On Shore Road, and Five-0 both distinguish themselves for easygoing elegance, and also both showcase the kind of seasonal, regional cuisine you find in the best restaurants nowadays.  

Pot de Crème, 98 Provence Bistro
MC Perkins Cove (run by the owners of the nearby nationally-famous Arrows Restaurant) has a light-hearted menu featuring local produce and seafood, "evil carbos" and the like, and also some of the best gravlax I've ever tasted.  

Interior, 98 Provence Bistro
Then there's the grande dame, 98 Provence Bistro, gallantly weathering recession with her precise, glorious French soul intact—yum, the line-caught cod with fresh corn risotto!
And the lemon pot de crème: sublime!

And these are just the highlights.  Unlike Colin in Houston, I'm not even going to mention most of the restaurants we tried (with apologies to those that got left out: trust me, they were all terrific).  But there is one place that stands apart from all the others, and it is...drumroll, please...The Lobster Shack in Perkins Cove.  
 the Lobster Shack
This humble little shed would be easy to miss: tucked away at the back of a very touristy corner, it's not much to look at from the outside; inside, the decor is a mix of rustic pine and utilitarian, fish-market ambiance.  But these people really care about the food, and it shows in everything they do.  The lobster roll is chock-full of tender tail meat, barely kissed with mayo, on a perfectly-grilled roll; the chowder that comes with it mingles rich flavors of clams and fish in a buttery milk base; the steamed lobster is succulent; my ear of corn was the sweetest I've had all summer.  Even the burgers and hot dogs are good: quality ingredients prepared with care.  
Lobster Roll, the Lobster Shack in Perkins Cove
There are no taciturn Down East stereotypes here: the people behind the counter will discuss fishing and cooking in passionate detail, and you may get a lecture about the life cycle of the lobster from the kid who brings the food to your table; I say again, they care about the food!  It's all done in such an unpretentious, practical way, that you start to think, Why not?  Why shouldn't food be like this everywhere: fresh, and honest, and thoughtfully prepared?  If these folks can do it —and inexpensively, to boot—why can't every restaurant and home from the modest to the mighty do as well?  That bracing thought is a rare and wonderful thing: an inspiration to take back home and keep in mind as we begin a new season of cooking and dining out.
Let's all try it.  Repeat after me, "We care about the food...we really care about the food..."

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  1. The French,(and Michael Pollan), say we are what we eat. So, I would much rather be an ear of tasty fresh corn than a tainted egg from the uncaring and cruel Jack Decoster. He is well known for his habitual and cruel treatment of employees and animals. It just must be true that giving our money to the places that care and trying to avoid products from those who don't has to matter.

    Thanks for spreading the love and care of food and for all the great tips!


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