In 1983 Bruce and Myles Henry of Drake’s Island bought an old diner in Wells, and spiffed it up. They devised a menu of Yankee shoreline cooking – the kind of food travelers crave when traveling the Downeast coast. The menu has expanded in recent years to include much landlubber fare as well as flawlessly executed comfort-food classics, but the main Maine attractions still headline.
Fried clams, for instance, are vigorously oceanic, just a wee bit oily, so fragile the crust seems to melt away as your teeth sink into them. And lobster, most especially a hot lobster roll that the menu immodestly describes as “FANTASTIC!” The menu is not exaggerating. It is what we have always thought of as a Connecticut-style roll, meaning that it is hot, as opposed to a lobster-salad roll, which is served cold, with mayonnaise. You get nothing but plump, resilient chunks of lobster meat spilling out of a grilled weiner bun with plenty of butter to pour on as desired. Once buttered, it is impossible to eat with one’s hands like a sandwich, because the bun disintegrates under the weight of its filling. But you do eat it with your hands, and fingers glisten as they pick smooth strips of claw and knobby knuckle meat, and occasional shreds of butter-sopped bread. Cool lobster salad rolls also are available.
The lobster roll is glorious, but the most amazing lobster dish, and one of the best regional dishes we’ve eaten anywhere, anytime, is the Henry brothers’ grandmother’s lobster pie. Of all the good Downeast things you can eat along the coast, this casserole, elegant yet elementary, is one that mustn’t be missed. Your ceramic dish contains plump sections of lobster – soft claw and chewy tail meat – drenched in butter, topped with a mixture of cracker crumbs and tomalley. It is a strange-colored dish, monstrous green and brown and pink, shockingly rich.