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Jul 28, 2010 12:48 PM

Kittery to Camden, Maine: Who has thick, creamy style of clam chowder and the best of other seafood items?

I'm about to make my first vist to Maine for a week staying in Ogunquit, Rockport and 1 night in Portland and want to know where to get the thick clam chowder, or tell me where to avoid the thin stuff.

Also in general, every restaurant offers nearly the same seafood choices, but they probably each only do a few well so where do I order what? I have the names of every popular place on the coast, but don't know where to focus at each one other than that I have plenty of info regarding lobster rolls so we can skip that subject here. For example, are everyone's steamed mussels and clams the same or do they stand out somewhere? Are all lobster chowders basically the meat sitting in butter and cream and sometimes bread crumbs? It sounds like those are always thin? Will I find any good crab cakes? Anyone have great broiled or fried scallops?

I've tried to research so here's the few things I think I figured out:

Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery - good fried clams, bad thin chowder

Lobster Cove - food is ok but no items stand out

York's Best Seafood - good fried clams

Lobster Shack Ogunquit - chowder is thin style

Perkins Cove - good steamed lobster and rolls, but chowder is thin

Fisherman's Catch - great lobster stew

Dolphin Marina - great seafood chowder

Cappy's - great chowder - but I don't know what style

Five Islands Lobster - great steamed lobster and fried clams

Mabel's Lobster Claw - good steamed lobster

Lobster Shack near Two Lights - very good clam roll, fried clams, whole lobster and roll

Shaw's Fish and Lobster Wharf - good whole lobster and fried clams

I hope you guys can help me really expand this list. Thanks!

Dolphin Marina and Restaurant
515 Basin Point Rd, Harpswell, ME 04079

Fisherman's Catch Restaurant
Landing Rd Lowr Lowr, Wells, ME 04090

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  1. Please, thin chowder is not "bad," (though maybe Bob's is, I haven't had it) It's typical and traditional. At the risk of starting a difficult discussion, I'll point out that most thick clam chowder, even in Maine, comes from big cans that say "Sysco" on them.

    And yes, lobster stew is basically lobster, butter and cream. Flour-thickening it would be wrong.

    With fresh steamed (or even fried) seafood, it's mainly a function of the quality of the actual product, which can vary, even in the same spot, depending on what comes off the boat that day, which can be affected by the weather, the season, the level of demand, etc. Pretty much a steamed lobster is a steamed lobster, there are differences between hard-shell and soft-shell, and whether they are fresh or not, and whether they are overcooked.

    There have been a lot of discussions about the merits of battered vs. crumbed fried foods. Mainly a matter of preference.

    1. "Thick" clam chowder is what you'd find out west. I don't think you'd find it in any good restaurant in New England., but I suppose you could bring your own cornstarch or flour paste and "thicken" it up if you want that west coast "pastey" soup that they call chowder.
      At any of those places that you mention, the chowder is going to be authentic "thin" not floury thick like you seem to be looking for.

      PS Everything is good at the Dolphin, not just the chowder. Two Lights Lobster Shack does a great maine Crab roll.

      You've missed Fox's Lobster near York for the baked stuffed lobster and fried clams, and Keag's market near Thomaston/Rockland for the lobster roll. And why aren't you also asking about the great Maine ice cream shacks?

      2 Replies
      1. re: jackattack

        Darbey's in Belfast.....little up the coast. But the owner always advertised "no filler" chowder and he named flour & corn starch.

        Just whole milk cream....not sure if it's the same owner now but worth a try.

        We had to interview a local for a job and I picked Darbey's....first thing out of the guys mouth was...."sooooo who from around here?".....he order the cowder as an entree.

        Sorry to say we did not hire him.....but we all had a good dinner!

        I always enjoyed the chicken chashew chilli to.

        1. re: jackattack

          Don't know where the "western" came from. Authentic "thin" turns out to be a pile a fresh seafood in warm milk with a butter float.

          I like my chowder cooked....many restaurants in maine advertise made to order chowder and you get a warm milk seafood cereal.....yuk.

          Cook the damn stuff.

        2. Black House Sushi in Ogunquit is incredible, assuming that sushi falls within your 'other seafood items' criteria. Their food is not traditional sushi but is outstanding. If you're not a sushi fan then stop in for one or three of their oyster shooters, served on the half shell & outstandingly good.


          3 Replies
          1. re: FishTales

            Sorry that the idea of creamy chowder is offensive to some of you. I am like westernmaine, I don't want to feel like it's clams soaked in warm milk. To me the whole point of chowder is that it's thicker or it would just be a soup or broth. I'm sure they use a small amount of flour and butter, but it also thickens from the cream and potatoes. I am not looking for a floury thick sludge, but certainly some body. I have had clam chowder in Boston and loved it, so I know what I'm looking for exists in the northeast but it sounds like maybe not in Maine. I'm terribly disappointed because I don't find it much here in Texas and crave it.

            To the person who wondered why I didn't ask about ice cream, I just thought I'd already asked for so much that I didn't want to over do it. I am aware of Red's Dairy Freeze in South Portland for soft serve and Brown's near Nubble Lighthouse. I grew up in NJ with lots of roadside stands for soft serve and they don't have them here other than Dairy Queen so I want to find one of those. We don't need tons of funky flavors and really favor chocolate and coffee ice cream. Feel free to suggest somewhere else you think I'd like.

            Since I mentioned NJ, I also grew up with deep fried hot dogs. Nobody does that in Maine, do they? I know, most of you are gasping at the idea. First thick chowder, now this? We all grow up with a few funky things.

            Red's Dairy Freeze
            167 Cottage Rd, South Portland, ME 04106

            1. re: d_from_tx

              There's a shack in Winthrop, near Augusta, that rips them doggies.
              Sorry, we only eat my chowder.

            2. re: FishTales

              Have to second you on Black Sushi House - love the lobster x2 sushi! Two things you should know before you go: there is no air conditioning & it's B.Y.O.B. - but there is a grocery store across the street so you can grab wine or beer.
              Here's the link:

              Black Sushi House
              259 Main St, Ogunquit, ME 03907

            3. This is a thick clam chowder , Maine style....thick with clams and potatoes but made with milk, broth, maybe a little cream, and a little butter.


              Below is a west-coast clam chowder, they don't have any clams out theyah so they thicken it up with flour. Lots of people like it, but it's not authentic chowdah. You won't find much of it in Maine so don't disappoint yourself by trying the chowder everywhere. Maybe try Lobster Pie, that's nice n thick.


              You won't be disappointed at Brown's ice Cream, however. On route 1 as you're headed from York to Kennebunk, there's also Scoop Deck, Sundaes at the Beach, and Daddy O's. And The Daily Scoop in downtown Kennebunk has a good coffee ice cream, too. Branch out a bit though, at least have a taste of Maine's famous Grapenut ice cream, or the Indian Pudding flavor at Browns.

              Sundaes at the Beach
              231 Post Road, Wells, ME

              Scoop Deck
              Eldridge Rd, Wells, ME 04090

              4 Replies
              1. re: jackattack

                Thanks for the chowder photo comparison, unfortunately I guess I do lean a little west coast but I do want lots of flavor, which too much flour would ruin, so my ideal is probably in between the two. Thanks also for the ice cream ideas, I definitely will try some.

                1. re: jackattack

                  We have LOTS of clams out here. They just do not know how good NE clam chowder should be, as in the country.
                  I believe that "thick" chowder (especially when made with flour) was created by ignorance. If you do find it in NE that is a shame.

                  1. re: chefj

                    beg to differ....LL Bean puts a little flour in their recipe....milk with clam/crab/lobster sucks...get a clue northers...if you skip the flour then all milk and the potatoes will add the starch.,,,,,milkey chower ....yuk ooooo...the damn taste is weak

                    1. re: westernmaine

                      "A little flour" is key to your statement. Many "chowders you get out side of NE are as thick as oatmeal.
                      I wouldn't look to a "outdoor and home outfitter" for cooking advice.
                      The taste comes from the clam broth not the milk.
                      Potatoes will thicken soup look at Vichyssoise for example.
                      The use of cream,light cream, 1/2&1/2 or milk are all perfectly unacceptable.
                      No one is advocating warm milk with precooked seafood and no flavor that I see on this post including my self.

                2. In June we spent a weekend in Ogunquit and liked Mike's Clam Shack on Rt 1 so much we went back twice (it's north on Rt 1 so might be next town). Mike's is a big family restaurant and not really a shack. I had a lobster roll and chowder the first night but DH scored with fried clams and scallops which we decided were The Best we've ever had. The next day we went back for the mid-day $ 12.95 steamed lobster special. Came with big servings of french fries. We live in NH so we've grown up with fried clams but Mike's batter is different (or maybe it's crumbs). The big difference with scallops is if the place uses dry scallops (no chemical preservatives). A local place does a good batter but the scallops have a tinny taste to them. I only buy dry scallops when I cook at home.

                  Tookie Mills in Hillsboro NH (not a coastal town) makes the best steamed mussels because there is so much wine/garlic in the steaming liquid that I sop up as much as I can with bread. I think that would be the big difference when it comes to mussels. Steamed clams are usually come with a plain broth that we use to clean the clams with in case there's any grit in them.

                  What you do is try as many different places as you can. We usually go with lobster first and then go out for fried clams when we've had too much lobster. We don't care for Bob's in Kittery mostly because it's in the middle of outlet mall/traffic congrestion.

                  One thing I've notice in many places is terrible cole slaw although years ago when we visited Mabel's, I liked their's very much.

                  The ideal lunch combination if you aren't getting steamed lobster is lobster rolls and a shared small order of fried clams. To my mind, most french fries aren't worth the calories so if we aren't hungry and fries come with the lobster roll we ask to substitute onion rings.

                  Last year during a June visit it was too rainy to go to our favorite lobster place, Waterman's Beach so we started following signs for a lobster dinner to benefit a volunteer fire dept. This was an excellent value - lobster, choice of mussels or crab, chips, etc. Pie was extra. We sat at long tables under a tent.

                  Mike's Clam Shack
                  RR 1, Wells, ME 04090

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: dfrostnh

                    Ted's Fried Clams in Acton is another top spot in my book. From Wells or Kennebunk it's a good 25 minute drive, and you have to go through dreary Sanford...but after great fried seafood at Ted's you can venture a few miles further and find a very enjoyable lakes region for an afternoon drive. On the way back, Shains of Maine ice cream hits the spot!


                    Ice Cream Wells Rd, Sanford, ME 04073

                    1. re: jackattack

                      Thanks, none of that was on my radar and seeing a lakes region would be nice.

                    2. re: dfrostnh

                      gonna try Mike's Clam Shack this weekend - thanks for the nudge! ;D

                      Mike's Clam Shack
                      RR 1, Wells, ME 04090