For Steve Kingston, owner of the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, “natural” is more than just a word, it goes into every aspect of how he runs his restaurant. And when we stopped by during our New England road trip with the new Lincoln MKX, we learned just how deep that commitment runs.
Steve buys his products directly from local lobstermen, ensuring that he serves the freshest seafood to all of his customers. He prefers buying from locals because he knows the source directly. “When you buy from a dealer, sometimes you’re not sure where it actually comes from,” he explains.
The star of the Clam Shack menu is the lobster roll, which has won awards at the Lobster Roll Rumble in New York City three out of the last four years. Steve credits its success to the homemade bun – sourced from a local bakery – and the locally sourced lobster, which just happens to be boiled in locally extracted seawater.
“It’s incredibly fresh. That comes from buying local lobsters from buddies that I grew up with in town, who fish for me exclusively all summer long,” Steve explains.
His connection to the local lobstermen extends beyond their business relationship. He makes their presence known by representing the colors of their individual buoys in the colors of the restaurant’s stools and the tables. And he reserves the best table in the dining room for a 97-year-old friend who still fishes for him twice a week.
When you dine at the Clam Shack, you’re getting more than just a good meal, you’re getting a taste of the local culture and of the local history. Steve Kingston has owned and essentially preserved the Clam Shack for 15 years, but the restaurant itself has been around since 1968. And its seafood market dates back to 1938, making it the oldest continually operated seafood market in Maine.
It’s a neighborhood staple that counts former presidents as frequent diners. But locals are still very much at the heart of the business.
“The locals love us. It starts with the locals. We serve locals all spring, then July hits [and] we get very busy with both (locals and visitors),” Steve says.
It’s rare for a restaurant to appeal to out-of-towners and still be loved by locals. But that’s what happens when you stay true to the integrity of the food and where you come from. This ethos isn’t something that the Clam Shack manufactures, it just happens… naturally.
We discovered Clam Shack on our road trip in the Lincoln MKX. Discover more about the MKX here.