The big start to Maine’s summer and seafood season begins this (and every) Fourth of July weekend. Tourists pour into Vacationland seeking lobster; fried haddock; clams, steamed or fried, bellies or strips; fresh scallops; and oysters, along with the traditional accompaniments of slaw, biscuit and fries.
One of the quintessential places to satisfy a hankering for fried and steamed seafood is the Maine drive-in. These are not to be confused with the hamburger stands of 1950s fame. You will not likely find skate-clad waitresses (most of the parking lots are gravel — ouch) or paper hats (these cooks cover their crowns with caps touting high school baseball teams and lumber suppliers).
However, much like the reputation of the old-school drive-ins, there is something innocent and serene about these seasonal eateries. Maybe it’s just Maine in the summer with the smell of warm salt air, or the fact that everyone gets out of their cars to order at the stand-up window and plops down on often-sticky picnic tables to feast on a sea of golden yellow fare.
(And in typical Maine fashion, locals rarely refer to these places as “drive-ins.” They just call them by name, so if you don’t know the closest one, good luck getting directions!)
My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner at the Bayview in Penobscot. It was certainly not fancy, but when it came to choosing how to feed all of my family from across the country and all of his family, mostly from right here, it was a no-brainer. Who can complain about delicious, fresh seafood at the brink of the water in perfect summer weather with just enough breeze to keep the bugs at bay?
Whenever I think about that day, I am so glad I shared that place with so many people who had never been to Maine. It’s just one of the little things that makes this state and our country a great place to live.
Here’s hoping your Fourth of July, wherever you are, is a celebration of something unique about this great nation.