Cape Elizabeth, a spectacularly scenic town along the Maine coast south of Portland, has long been a favorite destination for its Lobster Shack, a restaurant with picnic tables perched dramatically above the waters of Casco Bay. On a recent trip meandering about town near Kettle Cove Beach, I found another irresistible Roadfood attraction. Kettle Cove Creamery & Cafe lacks the breathtaking optics of the Lobster Shack, but it has Downeast summer charm all its own.
It is a modest little eat shack with an ice cream window on one side and a coffee bar / cafe on the other. There are no indoor seats, but there is a sand-strewn patio with umbrella’d tables. Customers who don’t stay to eat on premises take their cups and cones of ice cream on a walk down to the nearby beach.
It’s dandy ice cream, more fun than outlandishly butterfatty, available in such echt-Maine flavors as Grape-Nuts and blueberry pie with ribbons of crust winding through the mulberry-blue custard. There are silly flavors such as birthday cake batter, cotton candy, and double bubble gum as well as such modern faves as salty caramel, coffee Oreo, and ginger.
Coffee is terrific — a repertoire of lattes and mochas in addition to dark roast Sumatra and Mexican decaf, and there are a handful of made-to-order sandwiches and salads. What blows my socks off is Kettle Cove’s lobster roll. Loaded with big, resilient hunks of claw and tail in a mere haze of mayo, it is served in a remarkable bun. It looks like a regular, split-top hot dog bun that so many lobster rolls come in — the kind that get buttered on both sides and griddle cooked so they’re golden-crisp outside but soft and tender where the meat is bedded. But those regular split tops can be pretty flimsy, whereas this is one buff bun. And by that, I don’t mean that it’s chewy. It’s simply more substantial, and a perfect match for the copious amounts of meat it contains. “Made in Maine!” exclaims the barista whose job it is to toast the bun on a pint-size griddle behind the counter.
By the way, I ate this lobster roll during a weekend when it was my duty to sample and judge some of Maine’s finest for Down East magazine’s First Annual World’s Best Lobster Roll Contest. Kettle Creek’s version really could (should) have been a contender, or maybe the champ.