View Mobile Site

Good to the last clam

Posted: July 21, 2011 11:07 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2011 5:00 a.m.

On the coast of Maine, a couple of hours down from Acadia National Park, there’s a village with the wonderfully euphonious name of Wiscasset, and on its outskirts sits the Sea Basket.

The Sea Basket is a restaurant, but it’s not just any restaurant. It’s the restaurant where the finest fried clams in the world are served.

If you want to nitpick or split hairs, if you’re one of those people who can’t accept a simple statement as fact without having some sort of government edict backing it up, then you might challenge the fact that the Sea Basket has the planet’s best fried clams.

Trust me on this one.

Wiscasset is located in mid-coast Maine on U.S. 1, the same U.S. 1 that begins at the very top of the United States and wends its way all the way to Key West, the same U.S. 1 that brings travelers through the middle of Kershaw County. It is known far and wide -- at least in Maine, if you can consider that far and wide -- for the quality of its seafood.

Scallops. Fish. Shrimp. And those tender, succulent, juicy, scrumptious, golden fried clams.

You won’t find white tablecloths and candles at the Sea Basket. It’s one of those place-your-order-at-the-counter-and-wait-for-your-number-to-be-called eateries, with the menu printed on big black chalkboards over the counter.

Everything is prepared when ordered, not pre-cooked and then placed under those red lights to go stale and greasy. And it ain’t fast food; you won’t get your order in 30 seconds. Therein lies part of both its wonder and its frustration.

On a recent day, I had timed a trip so I’d arrive in Wiscasset as close to noon as possible. When I pulled into the parking lot at quarter till 12, people were already lined up inside.

I placed my order, then sat down on a bench to await Nirvana. My mouth was watering, my eyes a bit glazed in anticipation. Every time I saw an order being brought to the microphone, my pulse quickened.

My number was 241. By the time 237 was called, rivulets of slobber were running down my chin. When 238 was called -- still three more orders till mine -- a little gray-haired lady shuffled forward to retrieve her food. I was consumed with a sudden notion to leap up, strike the woman a glancing blow that would daze but not seriously injure her, then grab her clams and flee before others could realize what had happened. I could consume the evidence before the police caught me.

Common sense prevailed after I imagined the headlines: “Defendant gets life sentence in Great Clam Heist.”

And so I waited, and watched.

The Sea Basket is painted white, and it’s achingly, squeakingly clean. The walls are covered with framed reviews extolling its excellence, ranging from regional magazines to The New York Times.

Anyway, back to my order:  just as I was about to faint in frustration and impatience, a woman stepped to the microphone and uttered the number I’d been waiting to hear.

I retreated with my basket of clams to a back booth, not wanting to be disturbed in my reverie. And by golly, they were so good I wanted to weep. Better than the last time. Better than I remembered.  I made it to the last clam before my stomach resisted, protesting that there was absolutely no room left.

But I had been in this situation before. I was a clam veteran, and I knew what to do. Leaving even a single, lone clam on the plate was never even an option. I patted my stomach a few times, opened my mouth and waited. Finally it came: a burp -- no, a full-fledged belch, much louder than I had intended. So loud, in fact, that it startled a delicate little lady at the next table.

She looked directly at me and chuckled, and I know she didn’t expect an apology.  I smiled, and my fork made its way to that last wonderful clam on my plate. I knew that she understood.

In a few months, it’ll be time to drive through Wiscasset again, this time headed south. You can bet I’ll make it a point to be there around noon.

Be still, my heart.

Interested in viewing premium content?

A subscription is required before viewing this article and other premium content.

Already a registered member and have a subscription?

If you have already purchased a subscription, please log in to view the full article.

Are you registered, but do not have a subscription?

If you are a registed user and would like to purchase a subscription, log in to view a list of available subscriptions.

Interested in becoming a registered member and purchasing a subscription?

Join our community today by registering for a FREE account. Once you have registered for a FREE account, click SUBSCRIBE NOW to purchase access to premium content.

Membership Benefits

  • Instant access to creating Blogs, Photo Albums, and Event listings.
  • Email alerts with the latest news.
  • Access to commenting on articles.

Contents of this site are © Copyright 2014 Chronicle Independent All rights reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of service

Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...