While cold weather lingers, summery clam-shack food promises brighter days; Kittery’s fried clam roll might be the best medicine for winter doldrums. Crunchy-crusted, juicy clam bellies are piled high on a big, soft, buttery roll—it’s like taking a bite out of a warm sea breeze. The creamy, hearty coleslaw accompaniment makes the most of winter greens, with some julienned red bell peppers and carrots for sweetness and crunch, but the other sides are clam-shack classics—potato chips and a plain ol’ dill pickle, which is especially refreshing in a borough of exotically spiced pickled-everything. The food at Kittery isn’t terribly adventurous, but that’s not the point.
With high ceilings, roomy booths, and sunny windows, it might be Smith Street’s most family-friendly restaurant, whether you’re dining with your kids or your parents. (In the early evening, the little guys are offered crayons and invited to scribble on the brown paper that lines the blue madras tablecloths.) The traditional, straightforward menu has plenty of options for relatives who aren’t looking to expand their horizons—steak and burgers for the seafood-adverse, and a kids’ menu featuring some particularly delicious chicken fingers. And if you’ve got a toddler who enjoys watching cars and trucks, a highchair positioned at the end of a booth facing the traffic on Smith is the hottest seat in town.
Though Kittery offers a small selection of oysters and clams from the raw bar, it’s hard to resist the “stuffies”—clams baked in their shells with a tasty sausage stuffing and a light, crispy, buttery breadcrumb crust. The broth of the New England clam chowder was creamy and rich with the fresh and briny flavors of the sea, but it was light on actual clams, as though our bowl had been skimmed from the top of a unstirred pot. For purists who like their lobster as lightly dressed as possible, the lobster roll may seem a bit over-seasoned with Old Bay and mayo, but it paired perfectly with a tall, cold, fruity and fizzy Allagash White. The only problem with lobster and clam rolls is that they tend to leave you hungry for more, but here you’ll be glad you were left room for dessert. We finished up with a big, steamy bowl of apple-blackberry crisp a la mode. As vanilla ice cream melted over the crunchy, walnut-studded, cinnamon-laced crust and down onto the warm, sweet fruit, we knew warmer weather would be here soon.
Photo Austin McAllister