Don’t get me wrong when I say that I like Ken’s Place better than Ken’s food. Some of the food is very good indeed. Crumb-crusted, whole-belly clams are classics, served in abundance, and the house-made tartar sauce available with them is a revelatory seafood companion. Its pickle bits are tart and crisp, making it so good that I was dipping French fries in it before the meal was done.
Haddock also is commendable — big slabs of it, either baked or fried. The latter version is a nice balance of crunchy crust and slick, flaky meat inside. The twin lobster plate is a righteous indulgence, even if the lobsters can be watery. At the raw bar, you can stand and knock back fine, freshly opened oysters by the dozen.
Some items I’ve sampled are less felicitous. Batter-dipped fried clams are for batter lovers only; the clams themselves are smothered by their coat. Ken’s lobster roll contains plenty of meat in a nicely toasted bun. It’s a decent roll, but in this region of lobster-roll excellence, decent doesn’t cut the mustard.
Having said all that, and re-emphasizing that a devotee of traditional Yankee drive-in fare will find plenty of yummy things to eat, I must admit that what delights me more about Ken’s is the place itself. It is a vintage roadside enterprise (dating back to 1927), the sort of breezy summertime restaurant to which generations of locals and regular visitors have come to eat, drink, and be merry.
Service is in-the-rough with a curious twist. Once you step up to the order window, place your order and pay, you are given a number, then you are told at which of four different windows your meal will be presented. It is your job to take it to a picnic table (indoors or out), and it is expected that customers will take their own postprandial debris to one of the large trash containers provided. All food is served on disposable dishware.