Shore dinner’s ancestors are Algonquin clambakes in which clams and corn were layered in seaweed over hot stones; the modern version is built around lobster and clams. Mabel’s is a good place to enjoy it. Start by spooning into creamy chowder crowded with pieces of clam and potato, then tackle a good-size lobster perched atop a pile of steamers and accompanied by broth and butter. Corn, potatoes, and beets are available on the side. If fudge cake is available, it’s top priority dessert; but even more essential is peanut butter ice cream pie.
Mabel’s lobster roll is served with fries and slaw on an actual, non-disposable plate. The meat in the roll, glazed with a thin film of mayo, is juicy, fresh, and copious, some chunks so large that you feel a little embarrassed picking it up and eating it out of hand; a knife and fork seem more suited to the task. And the lobster stew, generously apportioned with double-bite size pieces of claw and knuckle meat, is legendary.
The ambiance at Mabel’s is old-fashioned, summer-resort serene. Wood-paneled walls are decorated with autographed pictures of the many celebrities who have visited here, including local householders George and Barbara Bush (he likes baked stuffed lobster; she goes for eggplant Parmesan). But you don’t have to be a big name to feel right at home in this comfy shoreline dining room where paper place mats explain how to eat a lobster and the staff of swift waitresses just naturally suggest that any piece of pie you order ought to be had à la mode.