Morse’s Lobster Shack
It never would occur to me to enjoy a full lobster dinner while seated behind the wheel of my car. It seems like breaking open shellfish and letting the briney liquids explode all over your dashboard, is only something you would do to a car belonging to your worst enemy. And why would your worst enemy loan you his car? But there it is, right on the menu: You can enjoy a full steamed lobster dinner at Morse’s Lobster Shack, served hanging off the window of your car, by an honest-to-goodness carhop, for just $14.95 .
This focus on seafood is what immediately sets Morse’s Lobster Shack apart from the Fat Boy Drive-In, a similar drive-in about a mile further up the road on a peculiar stretch of Route 24, near the former Brunswick Naval Air Station in Brunswick. We didn’t intend to keep mentally comparing the two restaurants, but it was all right there in front of us: The carhop service. The small dining rooms, for those looking for a more traditional restaurant experience. The antique, weathered plastic “Lights on for Service” signs. Even the use of similar pricing and terminology on the menus (add lettuce and tomato to a burger at Morse’s, and you’ve got a “Royal” burger; do the same at Fat Boy’s, and it’s a “Royale,”) all pointed to the restaurants’ awareness of one another, if not an outright competitiveness. But while Fat Boy will try to tantalize you with different burger options, and Canadian bacon B.L.Ts, at Morse’s Lobster Shack, it’s all about the seafood, with a wide array of fried seafood pints, hot and cold lobster rolls, fried shrimp baskets, and, yes, even a full lobster dinner, served complete with corn on the cob, a roll, and coleslaw.
Because it was lunchtime, Jillian and I kept things (only slightly) on the lighter side. Jillian ordered a cheeseburger, served “Royal” style, with french fries ($8.30). And because I insist on eating fried haddock in some form at least once per week during the Summer, and because of the seafood focus of the menu, I opted for the fried haddock sandwich with onion rings ($11.95), a double-barrel blast of fried deliciousness.
Jillian’s burger was pretty standard-issue mom-and-pop fare; a frozen, finely-ground six ounce hamburger patty, charred on the outside, with plenty of smoke flavoring and a slice of American cheese that melted and clung to the edges of the burger, on a hot, grilled bun. Ordering it “Royal” style meant that it was topped with an avalanche of vegetables, which was a mixed blessing: Though the amount of vegetables on the burger were somewhat overpowering, had it been plain, it would have been a much more disappointing burger, made from some pretty generic, Sysco-style ingredients. The fries didn’t bring much of a thrill, either, with Jillian describing fat, fluffy, somewhat mushy potatoes that didn’t even warrant a try from me. My onion rings were similarly uninspiring. I can’t be certain if they were frozen; they reminded me of the giant bags of onion rings you would get from the Schwan man, or like eating a basket of hot Funyuns, that seem like they may, or may not, actually have onions inside. They’re certainly not terrible: hot, crunchy, onion flavored rings, that are a perfect vehicle for tons of salt and ketchup.
For all of the mediocrity of the burger, however, the fried haddock sandwich was, quite simply, a revelation. A thinnish haddock filet, beautifully fried until golden brown, in a batter that held the fish together, but was never overpowering or too crunchy, and allowed the flavor of the fish to shine through, on a soft, butter-grilled bun that nearly dissolved into nothingness as I worked my way through the sandwich. I even enjoyed the slice of white American cheese that was melted on top, a detail of a haddock sandwich that I usually avoid. I’m not crazy about combining cheese and seafood, and so I usually ask to have it left off my sandwich; this time, though, it added a soft, creamy texture to the crunchy sandwich that I really enjoyed. I wolfed this sandwich down, barely leaving time to taste it, leaving only a few pieces of broken-off fish rustling in the wrapper. It was much, much better than I expected; in fact, I would say it is one of the best haddock sandwiches I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
In both cases, the portion sizes were bordering on the insane, and left us feeling outrageously full and sleepy. This was a relief, considering the somewhat high price ($30 including a tip for the carhop, for two people, for a lunch you eat in your car). The staff was courteous and helpful, both quick to take our order, and to pick up our garbage when we were done. Our carhop even brought two miniature Milk Bones for our dog, who was sulking in the backseat. And in that way, Morse’s was a complete success: It’s a great, nostalgic place to stop for a quick bite of some delicious fried seafood, served by good, down-to-Earth people, who take a lot of pride in what they’re doing. If you are craving hamburgers and onion rings, continue up the road to the Fat Boy Drive-In. If, however, you feel as passionate about haddock sandwiches as I do, or if you’ve always dreamed of eating an entire fried Fisherman’s Platter without getting out of your car, Morse’s Lobster Shack should be on your list of places to try.