Returning from a day trip during our Maine vacation, we noticed a small take-out by the side of Route 1, in Wiscasset. The line outside the unpretentious building stretched down the sidewalk and around the corner.
We decided to check the place out and came by the following afternoon. The line was shorter, but then we noticed that the last woman in it was dragging behind her a folding chair with a sign saying that no more orders were being taken for the day.
Rejection—and appetite—only sharpened our determination to see what drew so many folks to the little shack. Next afternoon we joined the very long waiting line that led to a place called Red’s Eats. For 81 years Red’s has been serving up its signature lobster roll, plus a variety of other seafood items. When it comes to ingredients, the watchword of Red’s Eats is “fresh” and “local.”
From mid-April to mid-October, Red’s serves approximately 14.5 tons of fresh lobster meat in its lobster rolls; 4-6 gallons of fresh, shucked Maine clams per day; 12-14 pounds of fresh crabmeat daily; 20-25 pounds of deep fried or grilled haddock daily; and deep fries about 200 pounds of onion rings per week.
Red’s Eats is proud to source everything on its menu from Maine producers. The same holds true for their branded apparel (T-shirts, hats, aprons). Red’s is a great corporate citizen, sponsoring everything from cheerleading squads, to race car drivers and tractor pullers. The business also contributes to a wide range of charitable causes, plus libraries and school programs.
During the two hours it took for us to reach the ordering window, we encountered not just New Englanders but people hailing from all over the country. While being stuck in a line can bring out the worst in human beings, at Red’s Eats that was anything but the case. Repeat customers waxed eloquent over their prior gustatory experiences, and newbies talked about how they heard about Red’s, and what they planned on eating.
The convivial conversations helped the time go by a smidgen quicker than it might have otherwise. At last, we stood before the window, where a friendly staffer wrote up our orders and took our payment. Whilst waiting I’d purchased a bright red Red’s Eats ball cap, which resulted in my scoring a free order of onion rings.
Was the time spent in line and the wad of cash we shelled out worth it? The answer: an unequivocal yes. The Maine lobster piled high on the soft, butter-soaked open roll was fragrant and succulent. Best of all, our stomachs were full for the balance of the day.
No doubt there are many places in The Lone Pine State where one can buy a fine meal of fresh, locally harvested seafood. But we think Red’s Eats is hard to beat.