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What Is a Maine Lobster Pound?

My wife and I enjoy traveling and spending time at our camp on a lake in Maine. Sharing the beauty and wonders of Maine is our passion.

The sign for a lobster pound.

The sign for a lobster pound.

Lobster Pounds, or Lobster Shacks, Are All About the Lobster

When summer arrives in Maine, there seem to be more lobster pounds than Dunkin' Donut shops. Some have been around forever, and some are new each year. They all look different. Some look like a shack. Some look like a restaurant. But what are they?

So, What Is a Lobster Pound?

The first time the term “lobster pound” was used was on Vinalhaven Island, Maine, in 1875 to describe a method of storing live lobster by running fresh seawater through their storage containers. It would only be a matter of time before the enterprising lobster pound owners would add outdoor kettles of seawater heated over wood fires to boil their lobsters to serve to tourists.

Lobster pounds, or lobster shacks, for me, are all about the lobster and the view. There is no better lobster than lobster right from the ocean. The salt air, the seagulls overhead, and the boats in the harbor help complete the experience. Everything else is secondary. If you have never been to a traditional lobster shack, you may be surprised by how much they differ from a seafood restaurant.

In Maine, the lobster is the lobstah. They are the same everywhere. It is the lobster shacks that are different.

What Do I Look for in a Lobster Pound?

When I think of a lobster shack, I picture:

  • A modest building, often cedar-shingled, with a walk-up window for ordering
  • Tanks of lobster, sorted by size and irrigated with fresh seawater
  • Large outdoor kettles of seawater heated over a wood or gas fire
  • Picnic tables with rolls of paper towels and buckets for shells

To me, a lobster pound should be located very close to the ocean. Aquariums in a grocery store or a chain restaurant do not qualify. If the lobster pound is close enough to the ocean to irrigate with fresh seawater, it is probably close enough to get their lobster directly off the boat. It would also be close enough to the ocean to have a great view.

What Is Served at a Lobster Pound?

  • The Classic Meal: Whole lobster with melted butter, dinner roll, an ear of corn, and sometimes a scoop of coleslaw.
  • Lobster or crabmeat rolls with chips or fries
  • Steamed clams and mussels
  • Chowder (clam, fish, or seafood)
  • Homemade desserts (blueberry pie, ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and cookies)
  • Soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water, and maybe a limited selection of beers or wine. Some are BYOB.
  • Bibs
  • Wonderful views.

The Dining Experience

At a lobster pound, you usually stand in line to order and then seat yourself at whatever table is available, sometimes sharing large tables with strangers. Occasionally, lobster pounds have waitresses to facilitate the process.

For me, a true lobster pound does not have cloth table coverings (paper tablecloths or even newspaper are fine), napkins (a roll of paper towels on the table is preferred), or silverware (crackers or a mallet and a small lobster fork is enough), and it may not even have a ceiling or windows (an umbrella over a picnic table is perfect).

When Does It Become a Restaurant?

The meal at a lobster pound includes, well, lobster. When the menu expands to include salmon, haddock, fried seafood baskets, salads, chicken, tacos, and sushi, it becomes a restaurant. Add cloth tablecloths, a wine list, and microbrews on draft, and it certainly is no longer a lobster pound.

Seafood restaurants often offer "lazy man's lobster" (lobster meat removed from the shell). At a lobster pound, this would be a lobster roll.

Whole Maine Lobster

Whole Maine Lobster

Lobster roll, Taste of Maine Restaurant, Woolrich, Maine.

Lobster roll, Taste of Maine Restaurant, Woolrich, Maine.

It Is Not as Simple as It Looks

While the menu may seem limited, eating at a lobster pound involves several decisions.

Whole Lobster or Lobster Roll?

  • Whole lobster requires some effort on the diner's part to extract the delicious meat from the tail and claws of the crustacean. For me, this is the only way to eat lobster. But, it is not the neatest way. That is why they have bibs.
  • Lobster rolls usually contain the meat of a small (1 to 1 1/4 pound) lobster with or without a little mayonnaise to hold the chunks of meat together. The classic lobster roll is served on a grilled hot dog roll, but bulky or kaiser rolls are not uncommon. If you don't want to be bothered with shelling a lobster, this is a great way to enjoy one without the mess.

Soft Shell (New Shell or Shedders) or Hard Shell Lobster?

As crustaceans with an exoskeleton, lobsters have to periodically shed their shells, or moult, to grow. After shedding a shell, the lobster makes a new shell with room to grow. Until the new shell hardens over the next few months, the shells are soft and fragile.

  • New shell lobsters are sweeter and easier to shell but have less meat (and more water) than a comparable size hard shell lobster.
  • Hard shell lobsters contain more meat, and the meat is firmer but harder to get out.

Other Decisions

  • Small or large, single or multiple lobsters?
  • Clams, mussels, or both?
  • And the most important decision of all: What are you going to have for dessert?

Lobster Pounds Offer an Authentic Maine Experience

You don't have to go to a lobster pound to enjoy Maine lobster. You can enjoy it even at home. For the most part, lobster is lobster, but when I want authenticity, tradition, a great view, and an experience, I head to a Maine lobster pound.

From Trash to Delicacy

My, how times change. In colonial days, lobster was so plentiful it was thought of as trash or poverty food, not the delicacy we think of today. It was fed to widows, orphans, prisoners, and indentured servants. Laws were even written to limit the number of times a week these poor souls would be forced to eat lobster. Today, we travel to Maine seeking lobster and enjoy the experiences that go with eating it.

If you want an authentic lobster pound experience, check out "My Favorite Lobster Pounds in Maine." If you want to enjoy lobster at home or at a nice restaurant, that is fine, too. In the end, it is all about the lobstah!

Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About Maine Lobster

© 2012 Mark Shulkosky

Comments

Dennis Jamieson on April 29, 2020:

Went to Ogunquit lobster pond several times at first for their excellent clam chowder. Also had steamed clams lobster and a blueberry desert possibly called blueberry “slump” All was delicious.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on March 17, 2019:

Glad the article brought back such fond memories. You must have been at the Lobster Festival pre Mary Tyler Moore. A few years ago lobster got down to about $2.99/pound but haven't seen $1.75. Nothing says fresh lobster like pulling the trap and putting the rubber bands on yourself. Hope you get a chance to come back soon.

Michael Jones on March 17, 2019:

Grew up in Rockland, Maine back in the 50s, 60s. Then spent every summer there, after moving to Misarable Missouri, lived with my grandma and aunts and uncles. Best time August for the Lobster Festival and Vinalhaven for lobster picnics right of the beach. Lobster only 1.75 a pound when I was a youngster. Neighbor of Grammy had a lobster boat and that was a blast.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on December 17, 2018:

Tom, thanks for your kind comments. Maine lobster is the best! I always know it is fresh when I put the rubber bands on it.

Tom on December 16, 2018:

Just my two cents...spent many summer vacations renting lakeside homes in Maine and our favorite thing to do when we were there was to go any Lobster Pound we could find (I'm talking about during the 80's!) and having quite possibly the best tasting lobster in the world. If memory serves, we also were able to buy them fresh, bring them back to the lakehouse and felt like we died and went to heaven. There is no greater tasting food than a freshly caught 'lobstah' from The Lobster Pound. I can no longer make the journey but your state and all the people in it are some of the most righteous, friendliest people on the planet...and the lobstah is 'off the charts'! Keep up the great work!!!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 28, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by ThelmaC. If you ever get to Maine, check out my favorite lobster pounds.

Thelma Raker Coffone from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on September 28, 2012:

Thanks for the lobstah education. I had never heard of a lobster pound but I sure do love lobster. Great hub.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 20, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Carol. Glad you liked the Hub. If you didn't see it, I have a Hub that lists all of my favorite lobster pounds. Lobster by my camp this summer sold as low as $3.85 pr pound. Hard to beat that. Lobster, the other white meat.

Thanks also for the votes and sharing.

carol stanley from Arizona on September 20, 2012:

I cannot tell you how envious I am of all these lobster places. You did a great job in creating a watering mouth. Great hub with photos. Voted Up and shared.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on August 12, 2012:

crookedcreekphoto, I know there is a different species of lobster in Florida/Caribbean and Alaska. You are right. You had the best. If you have been to Lubec, you have been to the real Maine. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

crookedcreekphoto from Ohio, USA on August 12, 2012:

The only lobster I've ever had was in Maine. Lubec (or Down East) to be precise. I haven't ate lobster anywhere else because I figured I had the best. I love Maine.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on August 10, 2012:

hockey8mn, I agree. The lobster is fresh when I put the rubber bands on.

hockey8mn from Pennsylvania on August 10, 2012:

It's not fresh lobster unless you pull it out of the ocean yourself.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on August 01, 2012:

beachbumaxp, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Now that you are more informed, I hope you'll be able to enjoy a lobster pound again soon.

beachbumaxp from Denver, Colorado on July 31, 2012:

Wow, what a great hub! I especially appreciated it after I had no idea what a lobster pound was before my first experience last September. This answers my questions and more. Good stuff!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on July 31, 2012:

Stay tuned Dan. My next hub is on my favorite lobster pounds. The best ones are out of the way. Soft shell lobster was $3.85 /pound at Day's near Freeport. The price is so low, lobstermen aren't going out.

I'm still trying to work out a trade of lobster for Anchor Bar Buffalo wings.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on July 31, 2012:

This Hub surely brings back fond memories of travels along the Maine coast. Lobstah, Lobstah everywhere...

Of course, when I get back home and still have a craving for seafood, I'm usually disappointed when the menu doubles in price. Back home restaurants don't have the same ambiance of a lobster shack either. They are one of those experiences distinct to New England.

Awesome Hub!