If you’ve ever wanted to be the first to see the sun rise in the United States, pack a few extra layers, grab your camera, and set your GPS to Eastport, Maine.
You’ll also want to bring your appetite.
This quaint, coastal town is not only the last Eastern stop before reaching Canada, it is also home to some of the freshest seafood in the state.
Situated at the end of a working pier is Quoddy Bay Lobster, a family-owned fish market and takeout counter that has kept locals and visitors returning to their window for 12 years.
With outdoor seating under a permanent awning and various picnic tables shaded by umbrellas, the setting tickles your senses with all things Maine: the sight of lobster traps coming and going; the smell of a slightly salted breeze; the sound of gulls floating curiously above, and, of course, the tastes that make you slow down and close your eyes to savor every last bite.
“People come and sit on the rocks and watch the older gentlemen fishing and the children on the shore trying to jig up a mackerel,’’ said Shelly Griffin, who handles bookkeeping and other behind-the-scenes tasks, while also helping at the window during a rush.
Alongside Shelly is daughter-in-law Sara Griffin, who manages all other aspects of the operation. The men in the family spend their days on the water reeling in traps and making deliveries. In fact, Sara Griffin gets to see her husband on a regular basis, as he unloads lobster and crab from his boat onto the pier for Quoddy Bay’s menu items.
Ironically, from the moment Sara tried lobster on the first date with her now-husband, she didn’t like it. But as a marine biologist who married into a family of lobster fishermen, she found that the popular crustacean is a part of her passion and livelihood.
Over the Fourth of July alone, Quoddy Bay sells more than 1,200 pounds of lobster as the town of Eastport draws thousands to its annual Fourth of July parade. In election years like this one, the candidates for governor almost always come to walk in the parade.
Steph Sherburne, who lives almost two hours away, has been visiting Quoddy Bay for nearly 10 years and always gets the lobster roll, raving about the generous portions.
“I love that they are family owned and they’ve always treated me and my friends like family,’’ said Sherburne, who first visited the restaurant on a Fourth of July camping trip.
Lobster rolls are served in three sizes (junior, regular, and jumbo), with the choice of mayo, Miracle Whip, or drawn butter. The garnish? An entire lobster claw that rests atop a lightly toasted, golden-to-perfection, split-top hot dog roll. Each order comes with what this writer’s father calls the best coleslaw he’s ever had, along with a pickle and a bag of chips.
I was happy to hear of the butter option not just for the lobster roll, but also for the crabmeat roll. I’ve been daydreaming about having another one since I left Eastport.
According to Shelly, the haddock sandwich draws almost as much attention as the lobster rolls do. She notes that Quoddy Bay does not deep fry any of its seafood.
Should you have room for dessert, the younger members of the Griffin family can be seen scooping Gifford’s Ice Cream during the peak season. Also available: traditional Maine whoopie pies, which come individually wrapped so you can have a treat on the long ride home.