Maine Shack, the much-anticipated New England-style seafood joint in the former Uber Eats space on Central Street in LoHi, officially opened its doors on July 30 to crowds of eager patrons. In fact, the cheery fast-casual restaurant served 600 customers and sold 500 lobster rolls—that’s approximately 200 pounds of lobster—on its first official day in business, according to Drew Ryan, the Maine native behind the concept.
Ryan and local chef Craig Dixon, a Massachusetts native and former Bar Dough cook, teamed up with Max MacKissock, Katie O’Shea, and Juan Padro of Culinary Creative Group (Bar Dough, Señor Bear, Morin, and others) to open Maine Shack. The partnership began about four years ago and the Uber Eats space was purchased in late 2017, but various permitting and construction issues delayed the opening.
Now, the wait is over. And for those with the willpower to look up from their gorgeous lobster rolls and peel-and-eat shrimp, it’s clear that Maine Shack’s décor is as worthy of the wait as the food. The two-story, 59-seat restaurant (with 48 more seats on the street-side patio) is adorned in all things Maine—items that Ryan lovingly hauled from his home state, including reclaimed wood to line the walls, an antique rudder and propeller from a naval salvage yard, and a focal point chandelier made from seven lobster traps. “It’s really all about the seafood shack atmosphere, and I think this place does it really well,” he says.
In other words, Denver seafood lovers are in heaven. The menu offers four lobster rolls priced from $20 to $23, and each comes with four ounces of claw and knuckle meat on a toasted bun. The eponymous version sports a blend of house-made mayo and butter to amplify the flavors of the fresh shellfish, while the Fancy is dressed with cucumber, celery, chives, parsley, lemon, mayo, and tender bibb lettuce. But the photogenic Lobsterado is the one that has everyone talking: it’s essentially the Maine Shack crowned with a four-ounce lobster tail, priced at a splurge-worthy $34. (Our take? It’s worth it.)
The lobster hails from Greenhead Lobster in Stonington, Maine, which ships 200 to 300 pounds of the seafood to Maine Shack daily, according to Ryan. Ipswitch clams are sourced from Boston’s North Shore for the fried whole belly clams, which are dusted with finely ground cornmeal and served with classic tartar sauce. “It’s a labor of love to harvest the clams,” says chef Craig Dixon. “But we sure love eating them.”
Nothing goes to waste in Maine Shack’s kitchen: Lobster shells are reserved for stock for the restaurant’s mac and cheese and the lobster pie, a dish based on Ryan’s mother’s recipe. To prepare it, the sweet, clear lobster stock—which Dixon notes is achieved by cleaning the lobster shells properly, a labor of love—is used to create a sherry cream sauce laced with tarragon, which dresses chunks of lobster meat that are topped with a buttery cracker crumb crust. If you can bear to order anything other than a lobster roll at Maine Shack, the pie is worth the sacrifice.
As at all seafood shacks, diners can round out their meals with a variety of classic sides such as fries, slaw, and a mighty fine iteration on baked beans that’s seasoned with house-made salt pork and molasses, a recipe from Dixon’s mother. There’s also a selection of draft and canned beers from Maine, as well as wine on tap, and a short-but-sweet dessert menu of comforting treats like whoopie pie and blueberry ice cream. It’s the stuff New England food dreams are made of, so make your way to Maine Shack this weekend to taste what all the fuss is about.
1535 Central St., 303-997-2118. Daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.