Jul 13, 2015
Where to Find the Very Best of Maine Food Right Here in Brooklyn
While we rarely stop talking about the supremacy of Brooklyn’s dining scene, all bets are off when we’re on vacation, when we invariably turn zealot over British pasties, Caribbean conch, Nashville hot chicken, or Cincinnati chili-smothered spaghetti. And it’s especially easy to fall head-over-heels for the ocean-fresh fare associated with Maine (where we blissfully spent the last two, glorious weeks) which is pretty much the platonic ideal of what summer food should be—an all-out orgy of steamed seafood, fried seafood, ice cold beer and pie. That being said, since Brooklyn is undeniably an epicenter of global cuisine, it’s easy to uncover a number of Maine-worthy dishes with just a bit of borough hopping, from devastatingly sweet wild blue mussels to luscious, mayo-kissed lobster rolls.
Best Lobster Dinner: Nick’s Lobster
Granted, this low-key, Mill Basin-adjacent neighborhood is a bitch to get to without a car. But as any Mainer will tell you, the most authentic lobster pounds are frequently found in tourist-free, resolutely blue collar fishing communities, well off of the beaten trail. Founded in 1955 by a genuine lobsterman known as “Big Nick,” who sold his Atlantic-caught specimens from a shack located at the very same Flatbush spot, his kids carry on the tradition by peddling hard shell, 1 ½ pounders (i.e., selects) shipped in daily from Maine, served with drawn butter, corn and potatoes—or, in a tip of the hat to Brooklyn, a plate of red sauce-sluiced linguine.
2777 Flatbush Avenue, Marine Park
Best Lobster Roll: Red Hook Lobster Pound
There’s not a whole lot to lobster rolls, which is why it’s shocking how many places—even in Maine—get them appallingly wrong. All that’s needed is a ¼ pound or more of sweet, fresh meat (mostly generous hunks of tail, knuckle and claw) bound with the faintest whisper of mayo and piled in grilled, buttered, split-top hot dog buns. Steer clear of rolls made mainly with pale strands of pre-frozen flesh culled from the lobster’s walking legs, or bolstered with that dreaded layer of watery, shredded lettuce, designed to obscure a paltry serving size. Needless to say, the sandwiches at RHLP are a paragon of form, and at $16 a pop, are pretty much comparable in price to what you’ll find in Maine.
284 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
Best Mussels: Extra Fancy
While everyone loves lobster (and for good reason) if you ask us, mussels are Maine’s unsung shellfish. In fact, two straight summers along the coast were enough to effectively turn us off of insipid PEI’s for good, in favor of their fantastically stout and succulent wild blue counterparts. Sadly, it’s taking NYC restaurants an awfully long time to get wise—which is why we’ll continue to seek solace at rarities like Extra Fancy—the only place in the borough serving highly prized bivalves from Bangs Island, steamed with shallots, garlic and verjus, accompanied by grilled, house made bread.
302 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Steamer Clams: Randazzo’s
True soft-shell steamer clams—also colorfully referred to as piss clams, due to their long, rubbery siphons that filter and spit muddy water—are even tougher to find in Brooklyn than a decent plate of mussels. And beware the bait and switch; some spots claim to serve so-called steamers, only to send out far more pedestrian littleneck clams. But the tender longnecks at Randazzo’s are the real deal, and are accompanied by twin pots of drawn butter and salty broth for rinsing off the grit.
2017 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Best Blueberry Pie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Found in abundance throughout the state, either cultivated on sprawling, sweet-scented farms, or growing wild on the side of the road, blueberries are Maine’s most beloved fruit, incorporated into pancakes, ice cream, cocktails, jams, salsas, salads and, of course, pie. But frankly, Brooklyn runs rings around Maine when it comes to its wealth of truly notable bakeries, chief amongst them, the venerable Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which currently counts a mean blueberry streusel amongst its seasonal, summertime offerings.
439 3rd Avenue, Gowanus
Best Whoopie Pie: Batter and Cream
The official “state treat” of Maine (blueberry pie is its official dessert), the appealingly retro whoopie pie—a pair of moon-shaped chocolate cakes, sandwiching thick globs of vanilla frosting—has experienced a real Brooklyn renaissance in recent years, becoming a pastry case staple at places like Baked, One Girl Cookies and Robicelli’s. But Batter & Cream is the only shop dedicated exclusively to the highly saccharine sweet, offering up to 15 variations at a time through their website… think banana salted caramel, lemon sage, fig honey goat cheese, and lime and mint-infused mojito.
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