Abbot's Lobster in the Rough
Noank, CT

If you've never been to a lobster shack in New England, you've never had good lobster. I mean, sure, you can go to a fancy-schmancy restaurant like The Palm (located in most big cities), or Legal Seafood in Boston or DC and have a really good lobster dinner, but nothing beats the good ol' lobster shack, and there is no better lobster shack than Abbot's.

Abbot's is located in Noank, CT... about three miles south of Mystic, which is a major tourist town. Mystic sports a major aquarium, a re-creation of the Old Mystic Village, and a replica of the Schooner Amistad... as well as a couple of thousand tourists looking for an authentic lobster dinner. Luckily, as you pass through Mystic on the way to Noank, there are dozens of seafood restaurants with neon signs in the shape of a lobster where all of the tourists turn off for their authentic lobster dinner where they usually end up getting a surf-and-turf dinner which consists of a frozen lobster tail, a small overcooked piece of steak and a dry potato. Those of us in the know pass right on by these places and head to Abbots.

Abbot's is on the water. It doesn't have a view of the water... it's literally in the middle of a marina, and people with boats can dock for free and bring their dinners to their boats. The choices are simple: steamed lobster, steamed mussels, steamed clams, steamed corn, clam chowder, cole slaw, potato chips and that's about it (actually, they have hot dogs and baked chicken for landlubbers). You pick the size of the lobster, pay, and then either sit in the 10 table restaurant or the picnic tables outside. When the lobster is ready, you walk over, pick up the tray with the aforementioned crustacean, haul it back to the table and dig in. No frills, no snotty waiters, just damn good lobster.

Abbot's hasn't changed since I was last there 11 or so years ago. The clam chowder is the best that I have ever had: rich and sweet, but not too thick or creamy. It's the only clam chowder that I've had that didn't need salt or pepper to bring out the flavor. Then there are the lobsters.

Abbot's lobsters are perfect for two reasons. First off, they are fresh. The lobster that you're eating was probably running around on the ocean floor that morning. They never sit for long in a tank, which keeps the meat sweet. Secondly, they are pressure steamed, which means that they don't need to be cooked as long, which keeps the meat from getting tough and leathery. We ripped into our 1.5lb lobsters with gusto, picking every piece of sweet meat out of every nook and cranny of the shell.

We finished, but were still feeling a little hungry, as we hadn't eaten much for the last few days, so after hitting the raw bar for one littleneck clam, we took the walk over to Costello's, Abbot's sister restaurant that serves all fried seafood for a plate of fried whole belly clams. Oy, were they good... sweet with the right amount of residual grease... and for $8.95, we got a portion so large that we couldn't finish them all.

We waddled back to Abbot's for a quick dessert (Abbot's set up with separate shacks that serve the desserts and a separate raw bar so you don't have to wait in the half-hour long line if you just want some raw clams or a slice of cheesecake), and then piled into the car to head back home. All in all, we spent less than we would for a single lobster that you would get in a fru-fru restaurant in San Francisco, and we were able to get some sun while we were at it.

If you ever get a chance to go to Abbot's Lobster in the Rough, go there... just remember, for this lobster dinner, ties, as well as shoes and socks, are completely optional.