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Vacation in Maine


Varmint
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Two years ago, we spent a week in Bar Harbor, ME for our summer vacation. We totally fell in love with the town and its surroundings, including Acadia National Park. When we were deciding where to vacation this year, the choice was obvious -- Maine. Instead of staying in Bar Harbor, the largest and busiest town on Mt. Desert Island, we rented a house on the "quiet side" of the island in Southwest Harbor.

It's exactly 1,000 miles from Raleigh to this heavenly place, and we're a driving family (it gets mighty expensive to fly a family of 6 anywhere these days). With children aged 3, 5, 8 and 10, we also need to have a fair amount of patience and not be overly concerned with how quickly we get up there. Moreover, we'd be taking two cars, leaving NC at different times. I got the 3 and 5 year old L'il Varmints and left early Friday morning. Mrs. V got the older two, left at 4 PM, and had our dear family friend to help with the driving.

On Saturday morning, we finally hit Maine, and at the last minute when I realized we were making very good time, I decided to take the coastal route so I could try a lobster roll from Red's Eats in Wiscassett, ME. Red's is pretty famous for their lobster rolls, primarily because of the amazing amount of lobster in each sandwich. Two years ago when I went through this town, Red's was closed. When I pulled into Wiscassett this year, it was closed again. However, we were early -- it was only 11:10 AM, and Red's would open at 11:30. I saw a restaurant across the street from Red's and decided to let the most l'il of the L'il Varmints have lunch there. This little eating establishment is Sarah's, and it was a very pleasant surprise. First, they bake their own bread, and about a dozen varieties at that. They also have great looking house-made desserts. Even their kids' menu (egad) was a bit different. Finally, they have a strong variety of soups. My 5 year old son ordered a kids' calzone, and it was quite a surprise, filled with lots of cheese and pepperoni. Although I wanted to save my total appetite for Red's, I felt compelled to order something, and had a very strong bowl of haddock chowder. As I left the place, I was a bit saddened that I didn't try any of their desserts, but a lobster roll with my name on it was waiting for me across the street.

Well, the line at Red's wasn't moving very quickly. Why? Because their deep frier had just gone on the fritz. Nevertheless, I ordered a lobster roll, noticed a sign acknowledging all the great publicity Red's has received (the sign mentioned Holly Moore, which should never surprise anyone these days), and then paid my $13.78. I was about to eat the most expensive sandwich of my life. Fifteen minutes later, I had my lobster roll in hand with some drawn butter on the side. The bun was overloaded with lobster -- both tail and claw meat.

Folks, I hate to say this -- perhaps the fact that I'm not someone who is completely enamored with lobster is shining through -- but the sandwich just didn't do it for me. I think that it has something to do with the purity of this lobster roll -- it was lobster and bread and no more (except for whatever butter you added). I've come to the realization that I prefer my lobster rolls to have some other "stuff" in them -- more of a lobster salad than just lobster. Plus, the tail meat was also overcooked and very tough. It was a pretty sandwich, and for a lobster maniac, it might be orgasmic. It was an ok expensive sandwich to me.

There are four other places that deserve some attention. First is Beals Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, ME. There's a running debate about whether Beals or Thurston's has the best lobster poind on Mt. Desert Island. We went to Thurston's last trip and hit Beals this time, and we prefer Thurston's. The lobsters are good at both places, but Beals just didn't give us the right "feel" to it. However, you wouldn't go wrong at either place.

Another popular destination for food is the Jordan Pond Lodge which is smack dab in the middle of Acadia National Park and is operated by the National Park Service. The restaurant itself isn't anything great, but the views are super. Plus, their popovers may alone support the entire existence of this establishment. Now, I won't claim these are the best popovers in the world, nor are they consistently great, but when you walk into this restaurant after hiking for several hours, having a hot popover with some strawberry preserves puts you into a unparalleled state of bliss -- particularly when it's cool outside and a large fire is roaring in the center of the dining room. My 5 year old son, Benjamin, devoured 3 of those suckers in about 15 minutes.

If you're in Bar Harbor, you have to go to Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, which is equally well known for its candy and its ice cream. They make hundreds of different truffles and all their own ice cream, including the grotesque lobster ice cream. It is Maine, you know.

Finally, I have to mention what may be one of the more unusual hot dog joints I've ever seen -- The Down East House of Dogs, with is just south of Southwest Harbor on Seawall Road. First, the people who own this place enjoy their work and like dealing with people. When they take your order, they, like many places, give you a number -- in the form of a bingo ball. They yell out order numbers as if it were the jackpot winner in the St. Agatha's Tuesday Night Bingo Extravaganza. They just have a lot of fun. What makes the place really unusual is that they carry about 15-20 different types of franks on their menu. Want a Sabrett's? A Usingers? How about a Vienna Beef or Fenway Frank or a Nathan's? They got 'em there. Steamed or fried? They'll make your dog as you like it, and we liked this place so much, we ate there 3 times!!!

We don't go to Maine for the food, but we always manage to find some decent places. Now we need to figure when to go back.

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Sarah's in Wiscasset.

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Haddock Chowder from Sarah's

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Some of Sarah's bread

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A few desserts at Sarah's

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The kids' calzone at Sarah's

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Red's Eats

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THE Lobster Roll from Red's

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Beals Lobster Pound

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Lobster under wraps.

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Lobster, some clams, corn and butter. A nice cold beer went very well with this meal!

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Happy diners at Beals.

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A view from Beals' docks.

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Popover and tea at the Jordan Pond House.

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"What am I supposed to do with that thing, Dad?"

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View from just in front of Jordan Pond House.

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Interior of Ben & Bill's

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Some ice cream varieties

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An ice cream flavor that should never have been invented.

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Down East House of Dogs.

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Foot long, anyone???

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Acadia in the fog. I love this place!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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These pictures and the commentary top even your barbecue thread, Varmint! Incredible details which I would print out and take with me were I to visit Maine. The lobster roll looked just marvelous to me and I have my own doubts as to the sagacity of making a lobster ice cream ... :rolleyes: Your kids look as if this was quite a food trip for them ... thanks for the travelogue, Dean!!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Thanks for the report, Varmint. Great update!

The hot dog joint sounds new. From the photo and your description, sounds like they took over the old soft ice cream stand by the small trailer park just before you hit Seawall. Wonderful idea. And love the selection of franks!

I concur with your lobster pound evaluation. I've yet to be disappointed by ANY lobster pound in Hancock County; the only issue is the view, and in this category, Thurston's wins in a head-to-head with Beal's.

From all reports, it seems that XYZ in Manset has closed. (I'm told the owner sold out; whether she has opened another restaurant or not, I know not.) Too bad. Superlative margaritas and pretty good Mexican food, including lengua.

Get any sandwiches or pizza at Little Notch in Southwest Harbor?

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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We don't go to Maine for the food, but we always manage to find some decent places.

I'm partial, I live here and I think there are plenty of reasons to come to Maine for the the food. Great decision to stay in Southwest Harbor as you get all the benefit of being near Acadia without all the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor, which can be very, very crowded this time of year.

If you come again in a couple of years (or even sooner) feel free to post ahead of time and I'd be happy to suggest some weigh stations farther south that would make both you and the little varmints happy.

I'm with you on the lobster roll at Red's. Opinions vary, but in my mind a lobster roll should be made with lobster salad....not a heavily dressed lobster salad, mind you, but at least a small bit of mayo and a squirt of lemon to hold it all together. Next time on the way through Wiscasset, could stop at the Sea Basket on Route 1 a mile or so before you hit town. Great fried clams.

Glad you had a good time here and thanks for the pix...We jaded natives need to remind ourselves every now and then that we live in a remarkable place.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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Ahhh.... We are long overdue for a trip back to Maine; thanks for the memories!

I've had a lot of great food in Maine, but my favorite establishment is the Mariners Restaurant in Camden. It's a tiny diner right on the main drag, and when you go in for breakfast some of the old salts are still finishing up... They have bluberry muffins as big as your head, great eggs and potatos, and something on the menu that I've yet to try but have never seen anywhere else -- grape nuts pudding. When I first visited in the 80s they had a sign in the window: "Down home, down east, no ferns, no quiche." You gotta love a place like that! The lobster pound in Lincolnville Beach was fun, too, but it's been so long ago I can only hope these places are still around...

I love a good lobster roll, and am also in the lobster salad camp. I'd be very surprised to order a lobster roll and receive what you did, Varmint.

Thanks again!

Amy in Michigan
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We had the best lobster stew in Lincolnville Beach last year. It wasn't a lobster pound, but a restaurant right on the beach by the ferry - The Lincolnville Inn?. The Maine coast is just a wonderful place to eat and view the incredibly beautiful scenery. We bought a map of Maine lighthouses and use that as our guide. We have lots of great lighthouse photos and wonderful meals to remember our many Maine trips.

Two spots we enjoyed for breakfast in Bar Harbor are Cafe This Way and 2 Cats Inn. Unfortunately they are very crowded this time of year as Bar Harbor has become increasingly popular. The cruise ships in the harbor have added to the congestion in the shops by the waterfront. We spent a week in Maine last year at the beginning of September. Bar Harbor is a pleasure once the peak vacation season is over. The weather is still good and you can enjoy yourself without the crowds. Just one of the perks of not having to travel when the schools are closed!

KathyM

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Sounds like you guys had a great trip. It's beautiful up there - Blovie and I are thinking of going up there at the end of the summer.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Nice. My brother just today emailed me about his recent vacation at "Baa-ha-ba," with photos. They look much like yours, with some amazing shots of fog at Acadia. He said it was the first time he watched fireworks on the 4th of July with a jacket on and fog in the sky. Of course he spoke about the food, too, including their first experience with lobster rolls. Sound like a great place to go!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Hi,

Can anyone suggest how I can get from Boston->Portland,MA->Bar Harbor->(Arcadia National Park) in a week, and a suitable/memorable gastronomic trail?

..without the use of a car?

Very difficult or expensive. If you can rent a car, that's best. If you can't, here are the options:

Trian. You can take Amtrak between Boston's North Station and Portland. It's a 2-3/4 hour trip. It runs four times a day in each direction; I believe weekends as well as weekdays, but check Amtrak's schedule. That's as far into Maine as a passenger train will get you.

Air. Commuter planes connect Boston with both Portland and both Bar Harbor. The Bar Harbor airport (code: BHB) is about 10 miles from "downtown" Bar Harbor. but Mount Desert Island has an excellent subsidized bus system that will get you from the airport to the village green, and then to most other points on the island; the local bus system has a reasonable frequency (every half hour at the airport). There is also usually a taxi waiting for all arrivals at BHB, which is located in Trenton just off the island on the mainland. Once upon a time there were direct/nonstop flights between Portland and BHB. No longer. Todah, you cahnt get theah from heah: you have to fly back to Boston! And fares for Portland-Bar Harbor are up near and above $500, never a discount. As it is fares are pricey between Boston and either Maine city. The lowest between Boston and Portland is above $200, and to Bar Harbor above $300.

Bus. There's one bus a day from Boston that goes to Portland, Bangor, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. Round trip fare is $78. Go to greyhound.com to check schedule.

As for gastronomic offerings in Bar Harbor and environs. you can read this message string, which includes a rather lengthy post by your truly.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Thanks, Rlibkind, for the superb info.

Planes, trains or automobiles...on the account of the enthusiastic food travelogue on this post, I think I'll just have to go and experience it myself...a couple of those lobster rolls already have my name on it (hold that mayo, I like mine neat).

Let's see if my pics will match up with the sumptuous ones here!

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Hi All-

A few days in Maine was part of our whirlwind three week road trip that started in Boulder, Colorado. We drove from Boston to Maine, OK - anyone else totally confused about the change in road names -- the old 95, is now 495 etc. etc. -- We spent a chilly evening at the wonderful Norumbega Inn in Camden, Maine. Happy hour at Cappy's Chowder House was a treat -- 1/2 price appetizers at the bar made number #1 son happy with huge baked stuffed clams. Daughter and I shared a mug of Cappy's Clam Chowder which is the best New England Clam chowder I have ever had . . steaming hot, full of clams, potatoes, rich and creamy and great oyster crackers on the side -- $5 well spent! That fortified us for walking along the shore and in and out of shops until it was time to head over to Rockland to Cafe Miranda for a very enjoyable and entertaining dinner as we watched the chef in action in his tiny open kitchen. As previously posted, the menu is extensive and eclectic, particularly the full page of handwriten appetizers. # 1 son insisted on stone crab claws, even though I knew that meant that I would be struggling with them, instead of him. He followed with the sweetbreads, which were delicious. Daughter had a very healthy portion of duck breast. I did not take notes and seem to have forgotten what I had. Breakfast at the Inn the next morning, eggs florentine and microwaved bacon (not my favorite). We took Rt.1 to Boothbay Harbor and stopped for home made ice cream. Next stop was in Wiscasset at Reds -- The lobster roll was definetely chock full of lobster and tasty but, I agree, 13$ was just too much for something that disappeared in 30 seconds.

We spent the next two days in Wells at the beach. Great kayaking in the Rachel Carson Wildlife preserve. Took a lovely walk on the path in Ogonquit, although the town itself is way too crowded for my taste. Lobsters from the Lobster Pound in Wells. It was a wonderful part of our trip.

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Oh you all are making me jealous...no, wait a minute....I'm going to Maine in September!! Yay!!! So, other than all this luscious food and hiking and scenery...where did you stay? I know it's not food, so if you'd rather keep it off the board and PM me, that'd be most helpful! :biggrin:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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lala,

September is the best time to come to Maine -- less crowded and the weather can be spectacular.

If you give an idea of towns you want to see. I might be able to help with where to stay.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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lala,

September is the best time to come to Maine -- less crowded and the weather can be spectacular.

If you give an idea of towns you want to see. I might be able to help with where to stay.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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Thanks, CSASphinx. When I get it narrowed down, I may PM you! Right now I'm thinking about the Acadia area (not necessarily staying in Bar Harbor), Ogiquiset (sp?), around Boothbay Harbor, and Portland. Never having been, I'm having a hard time narrowing it down, because it all looks so lovely!

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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  • 4 weeks later...

Another popular destination for food is the Jordan Pond Lodge which is smack dab in the middle of Acadia National Park and is operated by the National Park Service.  The restaurant itself isn't anything great, but the views are super.  Plus, their popovers may alone support the entire existence of this establishment.  Now, I won't claim these are the best popovers in the world, nor are they consistently great, but when you walk into this restaurant after hiking for several hours, having a hot popover with some strawberry preserves puts you into a unparalleled state of bliss -- particularly when it's cool outside and a large fire is roaring in the center of the dining room.  My 5 year old son, Benjamin, devoured 3 of those suckers in about 15 minutes.

Yes!

Only been to Acadia twice in 30 years of summer trips to Maine - and the first time, Jordan Pond House was still closed from the fire. Second time, it was nirvana after a good hike, you caught it perfectly.

Lobster rolls - thanks, I think you just saved me $13.78. All the hype Red's has gotten had made me curious, but no more. I'll stick with the lobster rolls at Five Islands, they do it right. (Next time you're up that way, just drive south on rt. 127 from Bath, 14 miles, out to the end of the road, where if you go any further, your car will be in the ocean. There are a couple of shacks & a few picnic tables on a working dock there. That's the place for lobster rolls & lobster dinners.)

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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  • 1 month later...
This little eating establishment is Sarah's, and it was a very pleasant surprise.  First, they bake their own bread, and about a dozen varieties at that.

Great to see Sarahs on here. I used to eat there in high school. They have a hot dog baked in bread which is great, and also some calzone style sandwhiches (sprouts and cheese baked in dough). Good stuff.

They eat, they drink, and in communion sweet

Quaff immortality and joy.

--John Milton

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Hi guys,

Just back from my vacation in Maine, thanks for the travel and food tips.

Thought I'll give my two cents worth of the eats sampled.

Travel facts: I flew to Portland and then hired a car, up to Bar Harbor.

It started off relatively well at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights, south of Portland, where I savored a oh-so-sweet lobster and nicely crisp fries, though not to have fresh lemon available is sacrilege. (lemon pouches, what!).

Anyway, albeit much-hyped, I had to try Red's at Wiscasset for myself. Yes, it's confirmed. A lobster roll (though bulging with lobster meat) is not worth the $14 and nearly 1hr wait, especially in the sweltering heat.

I would, however, recommend Mache Bistro on Cottage St in Bar Harbor. If you're sick of seafood, and longing for Californian/Mediterranean style cuisine, this is the place. I had pickled cucumbers in a beet reduction with a nice fresh local goat's cheese, as a refreshing appetiser (very suitable in the humid conditions). Then followed with pan-fried duck (crisp skin), roasted mash and al dente string beans. I wasn't so sure about the peach reduction though.

Oh, and please be sure to walk off dinner by heading towards the harbor. Whilst taking in the sea air and the environs, stop by Ben and Bill's for Oreo Mint ice-cream.

Other unmemorable meals came and went.....

..then came Cafe This Way, just off the beaten path on Main St (we're still in Bar Harbor, if you're losing track...). Just catch sight of the wonderful pies on display as you enter, and you know you're in for a good night. Imaginative menu indeed, with prawns/scallops & seaweed salad, spring rolls with crab/lobster in orange/ginger dressing etc...start with a 'trio of melon' and lime cocktail as you decide what to order. Can someone let me know what the pies are like? I had to pass..the brunch there looks very attractive too.

..signed off with another lobster/clam dinner at Young's in East Belfast, and some decent fried clams at Jake's Seafood in Wells. The views at Young's, perched on the water, overlooking the bay, really helps lunch go down...also neat that you actually order your lobster from the actual lobster pound..I thought I had missed the order counter, until I found it hidden beneath the tanks! Go late in the middle of the week to have the place to yourself..

.oh..and I climbed and biked Acadia in between eating bouts!

A wonderful trip albeit too short. All your recommendations on this site certainly helped make my vacation worthwhile. I hope I have helped someone with theirs!

Before I sign off, please be sure to stay at Hearthside Inn in Bar Harbor where you can exchange travel/food tips at the breakfast table..the breakfasts and cakes are just delicious. The place is really well-cared for and the owners are just darling.

Bon Vacances!

Where to next...any suggestions?

Chow for now.

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Lobster rolls - thanks, I think you just saved me $13.78.  All the hype Red's has gotten had made me curious, but no more.  I'll stick with the lobster rolls at Five Islands, they do it right.  (Next time you're up that way, just drive south on rt. 127 from Bath, 14 miles, out to the end of the road, where if you go any further, your car will be in the ocean.  There are a couple of shacks & a few picnic tables on a working dock there.  That's the place for lobster rolls & lobster dinners.)

We tried Five Islands Lobster pier on our way up to Mount Desert. It was lovely, what a beautiful spot! I think the lobster rolls were around $13.00 and very good. The setting was idyllic. Thanks for the tip.

We also passed Red's on the way to and from MDI and the line was very long, it looked completely not worth it to me. There was a place accross the street advertising 10.99 Lobster rolls, but no one was in line there.

We stopped at a little shack in the parking lot at the Camden town pier on the way back home. I'm not sure of the name, may be Jimmy's or something like it, founded in 1963. The lobster rolls were chock full of Lobster and a bargain at $7.75. The crab roll was also great and less than $6.00.

Edited by chowfun (log)
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