Every summer since I was a wee baby, my family has traveled to Kittery Point, Maine. It’s a glorious reunion that brings together my mom’s two best friends from college and all of our families. It is absolutely one of my favorite weeks of the year. We lounge, we chat, we hang at the beach. And most importantly, we eat.
There’s something about being at the beach that makes food taste exceptional. I also argue that food just tastes better when you’re eating it with the people you care about the most. Generally speaking, eating in Maine consists of standing around the kitchen island in sandy beach clothes and snacking. Snacking on cheese, bread, homemade chicken salad, fresh hunks of fruit. It’s heaven.
When we do venture out into nearby Portsmouth, NH or Kittery to eat, we pretty much stick to our favorite places, returning year after year with ritualistic determination.
BOB’S YOUR UNCLE
Bob’s Clam Hut is a gem of all gems. Planted right on Route 1, which in recent years has emerged as an outlet shopper’s haven, Bob’s continues to stand out in its classically New England, no-nonsense approach to serving up superb seafood. Bob’s opened back in 1956, and as its name suggests, is famous for its clams. Fried clams to be exact.
First and foremost, the clams at Bob’s are super fresh. Plucked- that-morning-from-the-ocean fresh. Secondly, they are fried to perfection. That means you actually taste the clams! There is nothing more satisfying than biting through a delicate crispy exterior to reach the briny, flavorful, melt-in-your mouth texture of the clam belly. It’s certainly enough to get us coming back year after year.
UP CHAUNCEY’S CREEK
For those of you like Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood, a pair who are known for seeking out phenomenal local food stops, you may have heard of Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier.
Chauncey Creek achieved modest fame from this well-deserved shout-out, but I still feel pretty great that our friends discovered this spectacular creek-side joint years ago and we’ve been dining there every year ever since.
Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is special in so many ways. For starters: the setting. The restaurant sits right on Chauncey Creek and boasts one of the most serene and beautifully quintessential Maine views.
Though the food they serve up–fresh Maine lobsters, ocean-fresh Steamers, New England Clam Chowder, etc.–is, in my opinion, as good as you can get anywhere in the country, the ambiance and attitude are as casual and welcoming as can be. You won’t find white tablecloths here. Instead, the deck is lined with large wooden communal picnic tables, which are as worn and sea-streaked as the old-timer cooks who prepare the fantastic food.
Chauncey also allows for diners to bring their own salads and other side dishes to round out their seafood feast. You’ll see guests toting their own tablecloths and candle sticks. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own wine, which can be enjoyed without a corkage fee.
Though I’m a lobster girl, I can’t go to Chauncey without ordering the steamers–hot, meaty clams first rinsed in briny broth, then lightly dipped in melted butter. I don’t think there’s anything that could bring your mouth closer to the sea.
If you find yourself in southern Maine, Chauncey Creek is an absolutely perfect way to experience the glory of fresh seafood without the pretentiousness.
Maybe its these outstanding food offerings or perhaps its the beauty and calm that Kittery Point exudes, but after years of summertime visits, my parents have decided to permanently relocate to Maine. I have to admit that after 26 years of enjoying my summertime food traditions, I’m looking forward to taking the plunge and having more time to explore what else the burgeoning food scene has to offer.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be returning to my favorite digs. Old habits die hard, especially when they are this tasty.