Yankee Names Quoddy Bay Lobster Rolls No. 3 in Nation

Photo:  At Quoddy Bay Lobster, business is all in the family. From left: Brent Griffin, wife Sara Griffin, Jeff Griffin, Mike Griffin, Shelly Griffin, and Dale Griffin.  (Photo by Jessica Griffin-Brown).


By Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Food editor Amy Traverso put her family in a small RV last summer and left Massachusetts to drive the length of the Maine coast. Her mission? To find the best lobster roll in Maine, “...which, accounting for geography and the fact that these are the freshest, sweetest lobsters you’ll find, makes it reasonable to then declare it the best in New England, and thus in the country,” she wrote.

Traverso tells the whole story in the July-August Yankee Magazine cover story called “Lobsterpalooza: The Great Lobster Roll Adventure”, which arrived on newsstands nationwide last week. The easternmost stop on her coastal tour was Quoddy Bay Lobster in Eastport. 

How did her Eastport lobster roll compare to the other 19 rolls she sampled? “They came in third, but I want to stress that was by a really, really slim margin.” she said. “It was excellent.”

Quoddy Bay Lobster is a family owned and operated business, started by the Griffin family in 2006. Shelly Griffin said that she and her daughter-in-law, Sarah Griffin, manage the business which is owned by Shelly Griffin’s son Brent, her husband Dale, and Dale’s two brothers. Quoddy Bay owns its pier, and operates a wholesale lobster pound in addition to the restaurant.

“When we bought the business, this used to be a fish market. We thought it would be fun to sell fish,” said Shelly Griffin. “Then the inspector came and asked if we were going to do lobster rolls and chowders.” She said that question gave them the idea to add rolls and chowders to their menu. “We just had a little extra griddle and a crockpot,” she said.

By the next year they needed to hire someone to help with lunches. Eleven years later, Quoddy Bay Lobster employs 20 people. 

“We couldn’t do it without the staff that we have. They all work so hard,” said Shelly Griffin. “They’re a good team.”

In the article, Quoddy Bay scored 9.43 points out of a possible 10. The stand which took first place, McCloon’s Lobster Shack in South Thomaston, scored 9.71.

Lobster rolls were scored on their portion size, texture, sweetness, saucing, bun, “extraneous additions” and the ambience of the stand.  Quoddy did not rank the highest on ambiance, “...however, the meat is the sweetest we’ve had so far and the kitchen garnishes each roll with two prettily preserved claws,” wrote Traverso. 

“We’ve been told that [our meat is the sweetest] a lot,” said Shelly Griffin. “I think it’s the location we’re in. The water’s really cold, they just seem to taste better here.”

In the article, Traverso said she enjoyed Quoddy Bay’s homemade whoopie pies, but was surprised to find cannolis, a traditional Italian dessert, on the menu of a lobster shack. She asked the woman at the counter if there were a lot of Italians in Eastport, and was told no, with no further explanation.  “It will have to remain a mystery,” wrote Traverso. 

Shelly Griffin said that they started serving cannolis at the request of their customers. “They’re not made here. We make our homemade whoopie pies, date squares and cookies,” she said.

Traverso said she loved the scenery of Washington County. “I have never been north of Bar Harbor before, but it is just so magical,” she said. “I really fell in love with the bold coast and with Eastport. I just wanted to stay.” She also said she enjoyed visiting Raye’s Mustard in Eastport. “Between Raye’s and Quoddy Bay Lobster, now two of my favorite food makers are in this one place,” she said.

This month a younger generation of Griffins will be joining the family business. Two of the Griffin’s teenage grandchildren will be starting an ice cream shop adjoining the lobster business. “We’re going to teach them some business skills. Like a lemonade stand, but an ice cream shop,” said Shelly Griffin. The teens will be serving eight flavors of Gifford hard-serve ice cream and plan to open shortly after July 4th.

 

Traverso said she wishes that Eastport were easier to reach from her home city of Boston so she could visit more often.  “I really am singing the praises of Eastport to everyone I speak to who says they love Maine,” she said. “A lot of people know they can go to northern New Hampshire and find wilderness, but not a lot of people know they can go to Washington County and find maritime wilderness.”