Driving from NYC to Maine, there are 3 things anyone in a car with me can count on:
1. Showtunes will be sung
2. Speed limits will serve as a gentle guideline, not a hard and fast rule
3. We will stop at Bob’s Clam Hut for fried whole belly clams.
Bob’s, around since 1956, is literally on the side of the highway – if you can call route 1 in Maine a highway. Really, it’s more of a slow-paced thoroughfare connecting the many outlet malls for which Kittery is known. Bob’s is well known in Maine, and has even been featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives on the Food Network. Bob’s serves all sorts of roadstop food – soft serve, chicken nuggets, french fries – but you come here for the fried fish, served with Bob’s insanely delicious tartar sauce. The seafood here is so fresh that if they don’t like what they see that day from their vendors, they simply don’t serve it.
Bob’s is kitschy and super casual – the kind of place where you order at the front counter, take a few paper napkins, then dine underneath fish mobiles in a large, extremely casual dining room. Be prepared to dine with lots of kids, a few senior citizens, college kids on lunch breaks from working at the outlet malls…kinda the whole kit and caboodle here. Though the place can get busy around peak times in the summer, the food comes quickly and the order is never wrong.
My fist time trying this, and I take full responsibility for not liking it. This is a roadside fried food stand, why the heck would I get lobster stew? This was just lacking in flavor – not enough salt, enough lobster flavor, or enough flavor in general. The texture is good, but texture does not a soup make. No matter, I know why I come here.
Fried whole belly clams with tartar sauce
Whatever you do, get these. Do not get the Lillian style fried clams, which come with a fluffy, bready batter. You want these suckers, the original way. A crunchy coating snapping between your teeth to give way to clams so fresh and creamy that they may make you weep. The clams are sweet and tender, never rubbery. The best thing is that this has just the right amount of grease – you don’t want your fingers sopping in oil, but come on…it’s a road trip…you want to know you are eating indulgently, right?! The only thing it needs is a generous swipe of tartar sauce, the best tartar sauce on the planet. Very thick and rich, with just the right amount of tanginess to cut through the grease of the fried food. You will need at least 2 containers for an order of fried clams, and if you are smart, you will get a pint to go. Order the zesty waffle fries for a minimal upcharge that bring this meal to the next level. You can also get fried scallops, oysters, or haddock, which are all delicious, but he clams are really not to be beat.
Bob’s is just the best. It hasn’t changed in over 50 years, nor should it. It’s the perfect mixture of fair prices, great atmosphere, and totally phenomenal food. Best of all, it’s open year round, so you can always get your fix.
On your way out, it’s nice to grab a soft serve for the rest of the drive. If for no other reason, then to apologize in advance for singing the entire score of Les Miserables until you get back home.
What, that’s just me?