Bite into Maine (Scarborough, ME)

If there’s one New England tradition I rather like, it’s that of the Lobster Roll. Our local contribution to seaside fast food, it involves taking a hot dog bun (top-split being the best), and loading it up with lobster meat (preferably, with a few big chunks of claw meat), lightly dressed with lemon, celery, salt, pepper, and, sometimes, mayo, it’s a great way to enjoy fresh lobster, and at times it seems just about every restaurant in New England gets in on the action. You can read about one of my other favorite lobster rolls in my review of Latitudes down the shore in New Castle, NH, but even Panera and McDonalds get in on the action (and actually, for the price, the short-seasonal special McLobster usually is pretty good.) So one idea we had for our second car-shopping trip to Portland was to duck in and get a lobster roll on our way home at one of the better-recommended places in the Portland area: Bite into Maine. There was just one little problem with that plan…. Bite into Maine, primarily being a food truck, with locations at Allagash Brewing and Fort Williams Park (and the occasional special event) is a seasonal production, and during our late April visit, their food trucks weren’t out for the season. But the great folks at Bite into Maine happen to have a solution for this: they maintain a commissary for their trucks off Route 1 in Scarborough, and the commissary now has a small dining area, so you can have your favorite Lobster Rolls any time, including the off-season!

Walking in the door, it’s immediately obvious that this is indeed a “commissary” and not a restaurant: the space itself is actually quite large, with a very large range (for you know, boiling lobsters) and several large industrial refrigerators, but they’ve also got a handful of tables and some counter-top seating looking out the window. Menu-wise, it’s pretty simple: the vast majority of the menu is either lobster rolls or sides, although for those not wanting a lobster roll, they also offer a few soups, bisques, and sandwiches (Lobster BLT, anyone?). But the star here is definitely the lobster roll, with options ranging from traditional Maine (light mayo and chives), Connecticut (the purist version, basically just lobster and butter), the picnic version (butter, celery salt, and just a bit of cole slaw), or one of three versions with flavored mayo (curry, sriracha, or wasabi).

I ended up going for the picnic style, I’m generally not that much of a mayo fan, but I adore celery salt, so for me, that was a natural choice. And just a few minutes later I get my roll delivered: a solid 4.5 oz portion of lobster meat with a lot of claw (so the fork it was served with was required, this wasn’t a “pick it up and eat it” roll, at least not without making a mess), all mounded up over a little bit of cole slaw, and right as they serve it, they top with clarified butter from a little teapot and sprinkle the celery salt on it, so the roll doesn’t have much of a chance to get soggy. This was a solid lobster roll: perfectly tender lobster, not at all rubbery, and the clarified butter and light celery salt really leave the focus on the lobster. A little bit of crispiness from the toasted roll, and a slight bit of crunch from the cole slaw, and this was easily one of the best lobster rolls I’ve had. The potato salad on the side was no slouch either… any of my regular readers have heard my many ramblings about how potato salad should taste primarily of “potato”, and this didn’t disappoint: perfectly cooked and salted potatoes with a light, tangy mayo dressing. Delicious.

Carol opted for the sriracha mayo lobster roll, and it didn’t disappoint, either: the same large portion of lobster meat, nicely tender, and lightly dressed with a competent mayo that was lightly sriracha-spiced so as not to overwhelm the relatively delicate taste of the lobster. Again, quite satisfying.

Overall, I loved Bite into Maine, and for those not heading to Cape Elizabeth or the Alagash Brewery, while it lacks the scenery (it’s in a light industrial park), the Commissary is a great option to pick up a roll, especially off season.

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