I spent the better part of late September exploring down east and mid-coast Maine, surveying the Lobster Trail and enjoying the region's post-summer exhale. With the help of friends who knew coastal Maine well, I armed myself with an extensive list of not-to-miss shacks, luncheonettes, and white-tablecloth eateries. I soon realized, though, that after Labor Day, many of these establishments shutter their windows and lock their doors.
My most aching stretch came on the St. George Peninsula, where I'd traveled to visit two much-anticipated places: the Tenants Harbor seafood shack and market, the Cod End, and the Port Clyde waterside eatery, Dip Net. Both were closed for the season, and in fact, I subsequently learned that Dip Net, having lost its lease, might be shuttered for good. Finding boarded-up and empty buildings, I went into shock, partially due to having skipped breakfast to save room for this failed feast. Making my way back to my cabin in Rockland, a 40-minute drive north, I resolved to pull over at the first food I encountered—which ended up being at a roadside booth in the front yard of modest house along the highway.
Doug's Seafood is the type of fresh seafood place you see over and over again as you travel along Maine's coast; mostly, travelers breeze by them because there isn't enough time, aren't enough meals in the day. Happenstance intervened in this case, and I found myself scanning the menu, written in Magic Marker, while waiting in line behind locals ordering up clam tenders on their lazy Wednesday lunch break.
I ordered a platter of fried scallops with a cup of haddock chowder on the side. When my order was ready, I ambled over to the lawn, parked myself at one of the Rubbermaid picnic tables, and started on the chowder, which contained the most tender and fresh fish I had had all week. And my scallops? They were crispy, light, and plenty succulent on the inside.
As I made my way further south along the coast, I found myself comparing my meals to this one, and they all fell short. It turns out Doug's Seafood isn't just your ordinary roadside stand: after a 21-year hiatus (surely accruing a legend in its absence) it reopened this past summer in its new location. When future visitors pull into the shack's pebbled lot—by chance or on purpose—their impressions of Doug's quick, and truly local, meals will likely be as happy and lasting as mine.
Doug's Seafood, 686 Port Clyde Road on Route 131, Port Clyde, Maine 04855 —Matthew Chamberlain, SAVEUR