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Mainers by Choice

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I am not from here. I've only lived in Maine a short while, but there are more than a few things I've come to learn and love during my brief tenure as a citizen of this great state. I'd like to think my arrival happened organically, because it was supposed to. It started a long time ago, like there was a little bird present at my birth whose flight I followed from Florida to Connecticut, eventually leading me to this northernmost and easternmost coast. I feel content but not complacent here; I suspect I am finally home.

When you've been elsewhere for a while and return to Maine you can expect to be received as a prodigal son or daughter. Once you are loved here you will always be welcomed back with joyful resignation, a collective character trait that turns out to be the most sincere form of family. The Mainers I know are plain spoken and sober, with a dry wit and deep connection to this place they don't call Vacationland.

On my first Fourth of July back in the U.S., after half a decade living abroad, I was invited to a lobster feed in a backyard near Damariscotta - a sleepy, pretty village of the MidCoast & Islands. In the tall grass under apple trees, a makeshift table was constructed from card tables and covered with brown butcher paper. For each guest a yellow bait bag was stuffed with steamed clams that undulate from their springy black necks as you let them linger in liquid butter. There were sweet mussels with light sienna morsels inside shells, tumbled smooth by icy waters. These unadorned offerings are truly the fruits of the sea.

Then our friends presented the group with a host of bright red lobsters, without fanfare or plastic bibs. You weren't expected to be precious about cracking into your personal crustacean with two hands, though there is etiquette and order. We were each encouraged to have three, at least. "They're small" our hosts proffered, "keep eating," they said. And they meant it.

As a guest you will be treated to the best. The Maine thing, I guess, is getting what's good, and knowing when you're onto something real. Amazing seafood all year round, strawberries for a few fleeting weeks in June, and potatoes all winter, dug up from the earth. What is here is freely shared, and generosity is always abundant.

Jillian's Top 5 Seafood Restaurants in MidCoast & Islands Maine

Beach Plum Lobster Farm

As you wind your way north from civilization and relax into the way life should be, let your car drift from Subaru-packed i-95 toward the leisurely road through Ogunquit. Summers here are idling with visitors strolling, eating, wearing pink polo shirts and whale belts. It's unadulterated seaside pleasure as city folk flock to the shore. Everything here is charming and gracious. Stop for lunch at Beach Plum Lobster Farm, where your choices are simple: lobster or clams. It's quirky, cute, and awesome, and perhaps the best lobster spot in a state swimming in perfected crustaceans.

Cook's Lobster and Ale House

Drive back in time to an island where laundry is strewn across the line behind the fisherman's house overlooking the ocean and children run free over the pine and salt smelling land all summer. Cook's Lobster and Ale House, located on historic Bailey Island, is a cozy place to hunker down in any season. We love to sit here for hours over craft beer and lobster dip and watch the boats go by, channeling life from a simpler era.

Robinson's Wharf Tug's Pub and Seafood Market

If you're spending a day on the shimmering waters off the MidCoast, this is the spot to dock for lunch. Step onto Southport Island to indulge in Glidden Point oysters on the half shell, pickled beets, and a lobster BLT. You will feel completely immersed in salt life as you relax on the top deck. Pop downstairs to the seafood market to pick up a packaged lobster bake to have for supper, when you sail to a secret island beach that appears just for you.

Claws

Located along a commercial strip of Route 1 in the working artist city of Rockland, Claws is a red shack of seafood bliss that calls like a Siren's song. Belly up to the window to order lobster dinners or a mountain of fried clams, shrimp, or haddock. Add a local beer in a bottle and sit for a while at one of the covered picnic tables overlooking the scenic, hardscrabble waterfront.

Corea Lunch on the Wharf

In a state of off-the-beaten-path places the Schoodic Peninsula near Acadia National Park is a work apart. It is wild, remote, and packed with sublime beauty. Our favorite, not too secret lunch destination is the Wharf Gallery, where art returns to its home in nature, we could spend an entire afternoon here, enjoying one of the greatest lobster rolls known to humankind with a cup of haddock chowder and Gifford's ice cream for dessert. 

Food & Drink