Monday, October 7, 2013

Not Red's Eats

Red's Eats and its line; Sprague's in the background.
Wiscasset has a few claims to fame.  First off, it calls itself the prettiest town in Maine.  That's debatable, especially if you're from Camden or Castine.  What's not debatable is Wiscasset's famous traffic.  Anyone knows if you're going to the Midcoast, and it's a summer day, you'd better be prepared to sit in an epic traffic jam from about the time you get to Big Al's until you hit the bridge over the Sheepscot River.  There's no obvious reason for this traffic jam, but a prime suspect is Red's Eats.  Now this is a subject of discussion by the good citizens of the Wiscasset; the people sitting in the traffic jam (especially them), and the state government.  Either way, I've never quite figured Red's out.  Could it possibly be so good it's worth waiting in a line that stretches to the end of your vacation, all the while sucking in the exhaust from Route 1 traffic?  And isn't there a perfectly good lobster shack within lobster-cracker throwing distance?  Is there something wrong with Sprague's?

When it comes to food, there's nothing I like more than investigative reporting -- by me.  On my way home from my trip to Bar Harbor, I decided to stop in Wiscasset and check out Sprague's.  I must have been due some good karma because I got a parking spot right away, and off I went, past the line snaking around the corner of Water and Main at Red's Eats, across Route 1, and down to the waterfront.  There was a line at Sprague's but not an unreasonable one; just a line long enough for me to catch some of the late September sun and debate on whether I wanted fries with the lobster roll or not.  Once I ordered (sans fries) I wandered around the picnic-table strewn deck to check things out.  Sprague's is set back from Route 1 (ie, reduced traffic noise and smell) but is right on the train tracks.  The Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway Museum is right there -- a small restored rail car with photos, timetables, and artifacts from days gone by. 

"Eighty-five, eighty-five please."  That was me.  I picked up the lobster roll and a diet Coke (much needed; the sun was beating down and Sprague's was pumping out heat from the fryers) and found an umbrella to sit under.  The lobster roll looked as good as any I can remember having (surely as good as one from Red's) and was positively stuffed -- clearly at least a whole lobster was in there.  It was very lightly dressed in mayo -- just the way I like it -- and the roll was buttered and grilled to a lovely golden brown. 

I can't compare this roll to Red's, since I'd never have the patience to join the crowd waiting for a roll there, but I can't imagine my lobster roll at Sprague's was sub-par to any other roll in Maine.  The filling was cool and delicious; the bun hot and buttery.  And thank god I didn't get those fries -- that roll filled me right up. 

Sprague's was great.  A big porch right on the river, plenty of spots to sit down and eat, a great view, and great lobster shack food.  A parking lot.  The crowd seemed satisfied, especially since they spent their time eating and not standing in line (I did catch a bit of smugness in the air).  There was even a dog wandering around the porch; calmly looking for a handout (wouldn't Dory have liked that?) 

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