If you’re driving north on Coastal Route 1, destination Rockport, you will inevitably be struck by a combination of interest and dread, inspired by Red’s Eats on the Wiscasset bridge. You’ve been stuck for an hour in notorious traffic, idling in one of the most picturesque places in America. You’ve read all the articles in glossy periodicals. You know you should stop and wait on line to try their basic but brilliant take on the lobster roll. But you don’t. Because you are stubborn you sail past the serpentine tourists shivering in August. Regret sets in. You’re suddenly starving. Convinced there will never be another opportunity to eat, you sulk and look for Mentos in the glove compartment. Please stop. Take heart. You will be rewarded for your impatience and impertinence. You just have to get to Patty’s. It’s only a little further up the road.
Maybe one more mile. Or is it two? Near and soon you will see a modest shack, glimmering liminally like mythic Brigadoon. Set back slightly, on the left side of the road, surrounded by green trees and misty mountains sits Patty’s Seafood Takeout, a white wooden shack with shamrock accents, and four picnic tables in front. Patty isn’t in the business of pleasantries. So don’t be discouraged if she doesn’t hold your hand and tell you what a darling boy you are. Ask her for a lobster roll. Don’t dawdle. Pay what she asks, which is something like $17.00. It’s worth it. Don’t balk. Maybe, quickly, see if you can get a can of Mug root beer. Step aside and admire the countryside. It’s lovely. And then, it happens. At the second window to the right, next to napkins and straws, for you alone on a sunny Saturday in late summer, a vision of perfection will appear: the lobster roll.
Atop a buttered, toasted New England-style split top roll, the fresh flesh of a crustacean waits, dressed simply in mayonnaise and served with nothing but a small bag of Lay’s standing sentry beside it. (The flaccid dill isn’t worth a mention, sadly). This is the Platonic ideal of a Maine delicacy. It’s like a Bodhisattva on a bun, at once being already enlightened but staying behind to help you achieve the same bliss. I cannot express – and you may have noticed already that I am given to fits of description – how good this is. The meat is sweet. Whole claws are waving. The bun is overflowing with stuff that will spill onto your tray as you attempt to experience communion with the offering before you.
Close your eyes and take a bite. It isn’t hyperbole to say that birds are singing blithely and northern breezes blow as you first taste this food of the gods. This is what they serve in Elysian Fields and Valhallan halls. In Christian heaven they do not eat so well. This lobster roll makes ambrosia seem sour, milk and honey curdle and separate; manna is nothing but Wonder in comparison to this. This is awesome. Crunch a salty chip, slug a slurp of syrupy soda and go back again for more. It isn’t something you’ll want to share, in spite of your good upbringing. This is a piece of Avalon. And when you are done, you’ll feel sated, impeccable, ecstatic. You won’t have an ounce of compunction. Get back in your car and keep going, to the wedding to which you were heading. Patty’s is there. You will make this journey again.
Patty’s Seafood Takeout is located at 428 Rt 1, just over the Wiscasset Bridge in Edgecomb, on the Newcastle border. It’s possible they have all manner of fried fish and chowders [Ed note: they do.] but I will never know.