Lea Wait, here, wondering why none of us Maine Crime Writers have written about our favorite
lobster wharves. I’m sure those of us who live near the coast have them. At our house we visit several during the summer season, usually when we have out-of-state guests, but our favorite is Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf in New Harbor.
For those of you not from New England: a lobster wharf (sometimes a co-op run by local lobstermen, sometimes not,) generally combines a place you can buy lobsters, clams, and, often, fish, raw, to take home to cook, with a restaurant where cooks expert in the art of basic fried clams, steamed mussels, lobsters, lobster rolls, and often French fries and other accoutrements, will cook them up to order.
Usually the establishment is on a dock, with views of a harbor or river; many also have a covered area for bad weather dining. These are seasonal restaurants; most close by Columbus Day, although some sell fresh fish and lobsters throughout the year.
When my husband and I are craving a harbor view of lobstermen unloading their day’s catch, gulls keeping watch over the tables in case some customer should unwisely leave his food unguarded, and some lobsters or clams or mussels cooked the way we like them, we head for Shaw’s. The first floor is the fish market, a raw bar, and a local drinking spot. Climb the stairs to the second floor and you have a view of the working harbor (lobsters and fish in summer; shrimp in winter,) and out to sea. There’s seating inside or out, but on a good summer’s day we want to be outside. Inside, you order up your choice of food (and, yes, they also have non-seafood choices,) pick up a glass of beer or wine or soda, and then claim your table and wait for your number to be called.
You may, in fact, have seen Shaw’s before – but not known it. Shaw’s became “Chet’s Grill” in the 1999 romantic film, Message in a Bottle, starring Paul Newman and Kevin Costner. Although set in North Carolina, many of the scenes were filmed in New Harbor, where local fishermen changed the “ME” on their boats to “NC” for the duration of the shooting. If you visit Shaw’s, check out the cast pictures and signatures in the bar. Word locally is that Newman became quite fond of Pemaquid Ale during the shooting, and dropped his empties off at the local bottle redemption place himself.
My favorite Maine beer is Shipyard. But Pemaquid Ale’s not bad, especially when consumed with lobster and butter on a wharf overlooking one of Maine’s prettiest harbors. And who am I to argue with Paul Newman?
So — what’s your favorite lobster wharf?