Ayuh, Comestiblog heads Down East to sample some of Maine's attractions. The first thing to greet us upon crossing the Piscataqua River from New Hampshire into Maine on U.S. 1 is the sign for Warren's Lobster House in Kittery. Founded by Warren "Pete" Wurm in 1940 (when the price of lobster was 25¢ a pound), this waterside eatery has evolved from a six-stool, walk-up clam-and-lobster stand into a 350-seat restaurant—replete with its own lobster pound and full-service bakery—serving seafood as well as landlubber fare. In addition, Warren's has a 200-foot boat dock for those arriving by water.
The New England clam chowder, salad bar, "wicked good lobstah," and fresh fish we enjoyed during our first visit last winter occasioned our return this August. Since I'm not a crustacean aficionado and because my dining companion wanted to try something different, neither of us ordered lobster this time. Besides, we were headed further up the coast deeper into lobster mecca.
Unfortunately, our hostess was somewhat abrupt and curt. (When will restaurants learn to put friendly people on the front line?) Once we were seated, however, things improved slightly. We started with a couple of trips to the soup and salad bars. Warren's purports to have "the seacoast's finest salad bar." With more than 50 fresh items from which to choose—including such Yankee staples as pickled Brussels sprouts, mustard pickles, and baked beans—this alone could constitute a meal. Among the many mayonnaise-based salad options, the coleslaw was particularly good.
My Comestaccomplice ordered the mussels, which came with a lemony wine broth containing lots of garlic, while I chose the naked salmon, broiled with just a "touch of oil and spice." The mussels were extremely fresh and tasty, though the broth was thin and underseasoned. The abundance of garlic, however, rescued the dish. The naked fish, on the other hand, was overcooked and would have benefited from a little dressing up. To make matters worse, my vegetables, whose flavors had been thoroughly annihilated during the cooking process, arrived long after I had finished my main course. They were certainly not worth the wait … or anything else, for that matter.
Overall, this experience was mixed. Though my friend's meal was rather good, mine was mediocre. The unfriendly receptionist's deportment earned Warren's a demerit and resulted in a less satisfactory visit than our first one.
Despite the bribe to visit the gift shop (a key, presented with the check, that may unlock a treasure chest prize), the kitschy and overpriced tourist trap is best avoided. Far more rewarding is a leisurely perusal of the entry to Warren's dining area. It features an interesting montage of early menus and other restaurant memorabilia.
Warren's Lobster House
11 Water Street-U.S. 1
Kittery, ME 03904-1629 (map)