Portland Lobster Company
No food quite encapsulates Maine like lobster. In the summer, all those ubiquitous lobster shacks that looked eerily abandoned in the winter suddenly overflow with throngs of hungry diners. Many towns throughout the state boast multiple eateries dedicated solely to seafood, which can make it hard to tell one shack apart from another, especially when each one claims to have the best lobster roll in town.
Seafood aficionados understand there are two schools of thought when it comes to the lobster roll. There are those who believe using mayo yields the tastiest version, and there are those who believe in leaving well enough alone, using just a drizzle of melted butter to enhance the natural flavor of the crustaceous meat.
Portland Lobster Company is in the latter school of thought, and it’s precisely what makes theirs so robust, so sweet. ”If you have a great product, why mask it with unnecessary additions like mayo and filler?” says co-owner Dave Pulido. The Portland Lobster Companys lobster roll is refreshingly simple with tail and claw meat enhanced by just a touch of butter and piled on a bed of romaine lettuce.
It’s no wonder the Commercial Street eatery goes through several hundred pounds of lobster every day. It is just that good. Every morning, mounds of freshly caught lobster are delivered to the Portland Lobster Company from South Portland-based Klenda Seafood, who carefully selects the best from local lobstermen. Every ingredient is used the same day it is delivered, and that commitment to fresh food applies to everything else on the menu, from their homemade fries and light-but-meaty fried clams to the steamed lobster dinners and perfectly balanced clam chowder.
Apart from the food, the Portland Lobster Company also created an ambience that is attractive to tourists and locals alike. It may seem tiny from the outside, but its outdoor picnic tables and outdoor bar extend half the length of the pier behind the main building. There is even a stage for daily offerings of live music from a range of New England bands, like the Jason Spooner Band and Will Mallett of the Mallett Brothers. And if you’re feeling adventurous, Lucky Catch Cruises will take you on a lobsterman tour of Casco Bay, where they talk about the lobster industry while pulling up traps from the Atlantic. Afterward you can bring your catch to the Portland Lobster Company, and for $10 they’ll steam it up and serve it with potatoes, corn, and coleslaw.
This was exactly the kind of dining experience that Pulido and his wife, Deb, envisioned when they took over ownership in 2006. The restaurant had already established a reputation for offering good seafood, but they wanted to find a way to attract locals as well as out-of-towners.
Summers in Portland are gorgeous, and we have this amazing outdoor space, says Pulido. So we thought, why not build a bar outside? Why not have live music every day? Why not take advantage of this great location and make it a place anyone, not just tourists, would want to come to?
So they did all of this, and maintained the great aspects already in place, such as their adherence to offering only the best local seafood, sourced from Harbor Fish, Maine Seafood, and other local distributors. Their consistently warm, attentive service is in large part thanks to the committed staff of 34 who return every season, including kitchen manager Chris Wilson and general manager Ethan Morgan.
On this particular July day, groups of families are enjoying their food on the picnic tables, dogs are basking in the sun, and a group of young twenty-somethings are at the bar enjoying a mid-day drink. My dining companion, photographer Nicole Wolf, who happens to be the daughter of a lobsterman, shows me the proper way to crack open a steamed lobster and retrieve its meatsans tools. The scent of the ocean fills the air and it makes my Allagash White and lobster roll taste that much more like summer.
180 Commercial St. | Portland | 207.775.2112 | portlandlobstercompany.com