Thursday, September 20, 2018

Beal's Lobster Pier - Southwest Harbor, Maine

As the first stop on a Holland America cruise from Boston to Montreal, we were in Bar Harbor to visit Acadia National Park. Six of us (one of Judy's sisters and her brother, and their spouses) booked a five hour non-ship tour with At Your Service Tours and Car Service in Bar Harbor. We got a great guide, Bill, who showed us the highlights of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. However, the best of the day was saved for last when he took us to Beal's Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor. It was away from the heavy tourist scene, about 17 miles and a 30 minute drive from Bar Harbor. 
The restaurant is at the left end and the boats come up to the right end to unload their lobsters. 

I learned for the first time about new or soft-shell lobster. An article in Serious Eats, "Taste Test: Hard Versus Soft Shell Lobster" explains that lobsters molt their old shell each year and get a larger new shell that they can grow into. The new shell lobsters have less meat in them than the hard shell lobsters and are easier to shell for two reasons: first their shells are softer; and second, there is a gap between the meat and shell which makes the meat easier to extract. Further, it is generally agreed that the soft shell lobster is more tender and flavorful (sweeter). 

At Beal's we ordered in front of several tanks full of live lobsters. The restaurant is on a pier covered with lobster traps. Lobster boats bring the lobsters up to the pier where the restaurant is and unload, so the lobster we were eating were about as fresh as lobster gets. The soft shell lobster was cheaper per pound than the hard shell. I believe it was about a $2.00 per pound difference: $12.00 vs. $14.00 (much cheaper than what we pay in California). I've always wanted to order a real large lobster, so I decided this was the place to indulge that fantasy. I ordered the largest soft shell lobster they had, which was 3.2 pounds. I asked them to under-cook it so that it was just turning color from being translucent. They put the lobster in a net bag then hung it over the side into a huge steamer, the size of several huge chest freezers. They put a time on the bag indicating when it needed to be pulled out. 

For good measure I also ordered a grilled cheese sandwich which included lobster meat, cheddar cheese and tomato on thick grilled bread. It was something our guide told us about and highly recommended. 
Grilled cheese sandwich with lobster.
The lobsters (both shell and meat) were more orange/red than any lobsters I've ever seen. The shells were almost phony looking and the shell of my big lobster shucked far easier than any other lobster I've ever had. The big claws can sometimes be really hard to get the meat out of, but I was able to break these apart with my hands (they do put a slit into the shell to help). There was a notable gap between the meat in the claw and the shell, but the meat in the claw was moist and flavorful, as good or better than the tail meat, something I would never say about any other lobster I've ever eaten. 
My 3.2 pound lobster.
My lobster had some great tomalley with a wonderful salty flavor. 

The grilled cheese sandwich was good, but not even close to the flavor of the whole fresh lobster. 
My 3.2 pound lobster compared to Judy's 1.26 pound lobster. 
Others in our group got mussels, etc., but I did not have much interest in that, not with these incredibly large, beautiful lobsters. Beal's was good enough that I would go to some length to go back again. It has set the bar for me as to what lobster can be. 


  1. I think this has to be in our top travel twenty eating experiences. Delicious!!

  2. Wow, top twenty, that is definitely saying something for the Cannons. My favorite lobster is Baja style. I like steamed lobster but a lot of time it gets overcooked. Maybe I need to ask for it slightly under cooked.