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If it's your first time to the Maine Coast, it won't be long before you stumble upon the famous and quintessential seaside eatery, the lobster shack. Also known as a lobster "pound," especially in other parts of New England, this humble establishment serves only two kinds of fresh seafood—lobster and clams. Lobster shacks are essentially wooden huts with picnic tables set around the waterfront. The menu is simplicity itself: steamed lobster or clams by the pound, or a lobster roll. Sides may include potato chips, coleslaw, or corn on the cob. Some pounds are even BYOB—no, not bring your own bib; those are usually provided—but bring your own beer or refreshments.
A signature item at a lobster shack is the lobster dinner. Although this can vary from pound to pound, it generally means the works: a whole steamed lobster, steamed clams, corn on the cob, and potato chips. If the lobster dinner sounds like a bit much, then go for the classic lobster roll, a buttered New England-style hot dog roll filled with chunks of lobster meat and a bit of mayo. Some pounds will serve it with lemon, some will serve it with butter, and some with even a touch of lettuce or herbs. Purists will serve no toppings at all (and why bother when the unadulterated taste of fresh, sweet lobster meat can't be beat). Most shacks will even have a tank with live lobsters; few will let you pick your own.
We can say this much: the best place to get a lobster dinner or lobster roll is at a shack, and the only authentic ones are right next to the water. There's a general sense that the "purest" pounds are the ones that are the simplest: a wooden shack, right on the water with wooden picnic tables, and perhaps most important of all, a beautiful unobstructed view of working lobster boats in a scenic Maine harbor.
Round Pond Fisherman's Coop. A few of our favorites sit on side-by-side piers right on Moscungus Bay: Round Pond Fisherman's Coop 25 Town Landing Rd., Round Pond, ME, 04564. 207/529–5725.
Moscungus Bay Lobster Co. (28 Town Landing Rd., Round Pond, ME, 04564. 207/529–5528. www.mainefreshlobster.com.)
Waterman's Beach Lobster. Waterman's Beach Lobster in South Thomaston is authentic, inexpensive, and scenic, overlooking islands in the Atlantic. You can eat lunch or dinner under the pavilions right next to the beach and pier, or get ever closer to the water at picnic tables. It's BYOB, and in addition to the seafood favorites, Waterman's also sells freshly baked pies and locally made ice cream. 343 Waterman's Beach Rd., Thomaston, ME, 04858. 207/596–7819 or 207/594–7518. www.watermansbeachlobster.com.
Maine Lobster Council. You can find out more about Maine lobster from the Maine Lobster Council. 2 Union St., Suite 204, Portland, ME, 04101. 207/541–9310. www.lobsterfrommaine.com.
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