Last month, while laying on a beach in Greenport, Long Island, I stumbled across New York Magazine’s summer road trip guide. While all four of the adventures in their summer guide seemed pretty fantastic, I was particularly excited about their seafoodie itinerary from NYC to Maine. Because I’ve never been to Maine (and because road tripping out of NYC is much easier/more affordable now that I’m a car owner), I decided almost immediately that I wanted to make this trip before heading off to California.
Joanna, Stacy, and I started a weekly girls’ night tradition about a year ago, so this trip was also a good way for the three of us to have a weekend of quality time together before I leave on August 5th. (This is, of course, assuming that the jokes/threats they’ve made about slashing my tires on August 4th are actually jokes.) While NY Mag had done most of the work, it was obviously necessary to make a modified itinerary so that a) we could eliminate stops we wouldn’t have time for and b) my type-A planning side would have an excuse to make another road trip Google doc.
This past Friday morning, the three of us, along with two handsome pups, piled into the Trezmobile and began our seafood adventure. Our first stop was Ipswich, Massachusetts, about 5 hours up the road and home of the Clam Box. Famous for their fried clams, as well as the fact that the facade of the restaurant actually looks like a clam, they have a pretty straight forward menu – fried seafood, and lots of it. The food itself was pretty tasty, albeit a bit pricey. (An order of big belly clams, strip clams, shrimp, and some coleslaw cost us about $80. Considering the portion size and the lack of booze, this was definitely the most expensive meal per person of the trip.) I’m glad we had the chance to go, but I’m not sure I’d make the trip again, as I think you end up paying more for the reputation than the actual food. Nonetheless, lunch hit the spot after being in the car for a good chunk of the day , and the chance for all five of us to stretch our legs and eat outdoors was definitely appreciated.
Next up we headed into Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Initially we’d planned on swinging by the Smuttynose Brewery for their 5:30pm tour and tasting, but by the time we got settled into our classy Motel 6 (so pet friendly!), we were cutting it short on time. Plus, we’d all been out late the night before for the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, so the only thing we could think about by that point was a nap.
Once we were all a bit better rested, we left the pups in so we could hit the town. Set on the water front with glowing white lights at night, all three of us instantly fell in love with the cozy charm of downtown Portsmouth. We dined and drank at the Portsmouth Brewery, the sister brewery to Smuttynose. Dinner was local beers (we had the Gose and the Murphy’s Law Red, both of which were excellent), mussels, chowder, monk fish, and pork kebobs. We were seated in their back patio area, which was breezy and cool, and our waitress gave top-notch recommendations with regards to both beer and morning breakfast spots.
On Saturday morning, Stacy, Cop and I did a 3-mile run through Portsmouth, which was just as adorable in the daylight. After that, we stopped by Breaking New Grounds for some post-run breakfast, which had great coffee and tons of adorable pups on the patio. A bit later, the three of us had the chance to make it out to the Smuttynose Brewery for their 11am tour and tasting, because nothing says good morning like delicious microbrews. I’ve been on a few brewery tours before, but this one was by far the most in-depth and interesting tour I’ve ever had. I’ve always been a fan of their Old Brown Dog ale (and not just for the obvious reasons) but was definitely less familiar with their other brews. After tasting all 6 of the beers they had on tap that morning, I’m happy to report that you should feel free to mail cases of their Old Brown Dog ale and Finest Kind IPA to me in California whenever you’d like.
Next we picked up the pups, checked out, and hit the road for Five Islands Lobster Co.in Georgetown, Maine. If you have any desire to eat the freshest lobster of your life, please do yourself a favor and make the trek to this spot. Five Islands Lobster Co. is comprised of two seafood stands in the middle of a dock in Sheepscot Bay. Which means that your lobster travels, oh, about 30 feet from the boat to your plate. To top it all off, the harbor view while you’re feasting on sweet, sweet lobster is almost as delicious as the food itself. Because the spot is BYOB and entirely outdoors, we were right at home with a 6-pack of cold Smuttynoses, one not-so-old brown dog, and one not-so-old-nor-not-so-brown black and white dog.
Still not convinced it’s worth a visit? How about the fact that about a mile down the road, there’s a gorgeous fresh-water swimming cove. After the most delicious and scenic lunch of your life, you can cruise down the road and take a dip. (Or, if you’re less inclined to sunshine and swimming, you can wear lots of sunscreen and take pictures of your friends while they swim so that they can remember the most glorious lunch of their lives forever. Thanks, Jo!)
With full bellies and happy hearts, we backtracked down to Portland, Maine for our next Motel 6. Which had the exact same bedspread as our Motel 6 in New Hampshire. We were hoping to hit up Fore Street in downtown Portland for dinner, but the only available reservation was for 5:30pm. Considering lunch was at 3:30pm, this seemed ambitious. We decided to try our luck with a walk-in table around 8pm. Luck was not on our side, so we’ll be back for you one day, Fore Street.
We wandered through downtown Portland which was pleasant (though not as adorable as Portsmouth, NH) and instead wound up at the Dry Dock Tavern for dinner, which was a good find with a great view. We ordered some oysters, followed by chowder and salad, followed by scallops and seafood sandwiches. For some reason, after about three courses of food, our waitress assumed we had no room for dessert and brought us the check. We quickly showed her the error of her ways when we ordered three different desserts for the table. (Obviously, we all lost a lot of weight on this trip.) After dinner we had an outdoor drink at the Porthole before heading back to the pups.
On Sunday morning, Stacy, Cop, and I did about 4 miles on the Eastern Promenade Trail. There were about a 1,000 other people out there running the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon & 5K (Congrats, runners! Your medals were sweet!), so the run took a bit longer than expected, but it was definitely worth it. After our run, we picked up some celebratory lobsters to take back to our friends Chris and Jon, and began the journey home.
We had about 340 miles to cover and two more stops before the trip was over. First up was a visit to Old Lyme, Connecticut, where Joanna’s relatives on her dad’s side of the family helped settle. Not far down the road from one of the Old Lyme exits on I-95, there’s a beautiful cemetery dating back to the 1700s where you can find Joanna’s ancestors.
After that, we stopped in New Haven, Connecticut for our final destination – the legendary original Frank Pepe’s pizzeria. The white clam pizza here (fresh clams with grated cheese, olive oil, garlic, and oregano) was probably the second best thing I ate all weekend, second only to Five Islands Co. lobster. While the Clam Box seemed more hype than taste, Frank Pepe’s, by comparison, was even more delicious than I’d heard, which made it the perfect end to our culinary adventure.
All in all, we covered about 700 miles across 4 states in 3 days. While we weren’t able to make every destination on our list, and not every meal was a home run, I’m still happy as a clam that we made the trip.