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“The Food is Great, But Hard to Find” July 29, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Food, Fun, Humor, Seafood, Stupidity, Travel.
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No matter where you live, it seems there is always an out-of-the-way restaurant or eating establishment that is famous with the locals, but virtually invisible to outsiders. In fact, they can be so well hidden that you may start to believe that they don’t exist.

Captain Scott's Lobster Dock

Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Mr. Ashe must not have spent several hours looking for seafood in Connecticut.

The Road Less Travelled
For my work, I tend to travel a fair amount, so I’m always on the lookout for something different from the chains and establishments that I’m familiar with. This is not something unique to me–many frequent travellers I know do the same thing.

This week, I was in central Connecticut for work. I finished at the job site early one afternoon, and decided to go food hunting. I headed south, to coastal Connecticut, and the hunt began. You may be asking yourself, “Why am I reading this blog?” Or, you might ask yourself “Is Jeopardy on yet?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer those questions. The question I can answer is, “How did this story go from central Connecticut to the coast?” Answering that requires a bit of explanation.

Son of a Beach
I love looking at the ocean. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I can sit on the beach and stare at the waves for hours. Maybe it’s the overwhelming size, or the power of the waves. Maybe it’s the sound. Whatever it is, if I find myself in the vicinity of an ocean, I look for a way to at least spend a few minutes daydreaming along the shore.

When I used to travel to California on a regular basis, I was regularly in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. Although each of these areas has a different personality, all of them have wonderful beaches, and an opportunity to watch the sun set over the Pacific. In each of those towns, I found a place to sit and watch the waves and the onset of twilight, hopefully with a nice meal sitting in front of me. In San Diego and San Francisco, the Chart House (a chain, I know) has some spectacular views of the ocean.

Frantic Atlantic Antics
Back in Connecticut, I went motoring to the south about 35 miles until I stumbled upon some beautiful residential property on the northern Atlantic coast. In Kentucky, we get excited about a place that backs up to the Ohio river, or a beautiful lake. In Waterford, subdivisions backed right up to the ocean in the same way. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately, there was not a restaurant to be found along this magnificent coast. I drove up and down the little side streets, hoping to find something, but came up empty time and again. By now, it was nearly 7:00pm, and my seafood search was taking on a tone that might have me stopping at Long John Silver’s before long.

Why Ask Y?
Having the modestly-popular Y chromosome, my very last option is to stop and ask for directions. As Elayne Boosler said, “Sure Moses was lost in the wilderness for years. That’s just like a man. He wouldn’t ask for directions.” Well, I wasn’t prepared to wait for manna to drop from the Connecticut sky, so I buried my pride.

I saw a couple walking along a wonderfully wooded path, rolled down the window, and did my best to not look like an idiot, a hick from KY who got lost looking for a restaurant, or a Son-of-Sam knockoff. “I’m from out of town and am looking for a decent place to eat,” I began. “Can you help me find something?”

Much to my relief, they were happy to help. “There’s a great place for seafood, as you might expect… Captain Scott’s, but it’s really hard to find.”

His wife’s face lit up, “Oh wow… they have the BEST lobster rolls. You would love it.”

I noted the directions, and tried not to be amused at the Yankee version of what I might have heard in KY as “turn right at the big oak tree, go through the holler, and when you see the rusted-out pickup, you’re almost there.” As it turned out, his directions were actually very good. Unfortunately, the last part of his opening sentence turned out to be all-too-true. The time was 7:15pm, and my stomach was beginning to sing a song of hunger.

Moving at Great Neck Speed
Now, the chase was on. Having heard such a glowing testimony from some locals, and hearing “it’s really hard to find,” I was ready to find one of those secret places that all towns seem to have, that nobody except the locals appear to know about.

I followed the directions carefully, turning right on Great Neck road, right again on Highway 1, and began looking for Howard street. After three trips through downtown New London, Connecticut, I began to get desperate. By now, it’s just after 8:00pm.

Rock (Island) & (Lobster) Roll
In downtown New London, I found a tourist area with small shops and some rock music playing from a coffee house. The traffic had to slow for pedestrians, so I rolled down the window and (gulp) asked a man getting out of his car for further assistance.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “but could you help me find Captain Scott’s on Howard street?”

Fortunately, he was similarly helpful. “Yeah… it’s not far, but it’s hard to find. Great lobster rolls though.”

“So I’ve heard” I sighed.

He continued, “You turn left here, then left again at the dead-end, then right onto bank, and look for Howard on your left. Then, look for some warehouses, and a side street off to the left. It’s easy to miss.”

By now, I’m getting desperate. I have been searching for food for more than an hour, and there’s still not a tail or a claw in sight. (Granted, I may have ignored many options since hearing the first word of “Captain Scott’s,” but I was not going to be deterred.) In just a few minutes, I found myself on Howard street, and realized that I had passed it several times. As I later discovered, the street sign was blank on the side facing the northbound lane. The time was 8:20pm.

I Didn’t See Rush…
Finally, I’m on the correct street (I think), and am moving closer to lobster nirvana. I proceed slowly down Howard street, looking left and right. In no time, I’m passing a lumbar yard, a Pfizer pharmecueticals plant (Rush was nowhere to be seen), and an endless series of warehouses. After going about a half mile, I determine that I must have missed it, once again.

By now, I’ve lost what little testosterone may have still existed within me, so I divested myself of any pride that remained, and asked for directions once again. This time, the helpful soul was a man walking with three women.

“Captain Scott’s?” his wife exclaimed, “I love that place!”

“It’s really good,” he agreed, “but you just missed it.”

By now, Captain Obvious beginning to upset me, but the smell of the nearby docks kept me from losing my temper. I pushed my frustration aside, listened as carefully as I could, and then heard the most important coda from his wife/girlfriend.

“If you get to the lumbar yard, you just passed it.”

Finally! I had seen the lumbar yard, so I knew I was close. Unforunately, time was working against me. It was now 8:35pm.

Me and the Cap’n–Make it Happen
In almost no time at all, I was in sight of the lumbar yard, and turned down an unmarked street. (I later found out it was Hamilton.) Tucked in behind a warehouse, completely invisible from the main road, was a sign for Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock.

Pulling into the parking lot, I more or less ran to the counter to order. Scanning quickly, I saw the Lobster Roll (Hot), for $12.95. Before you could say “drawn butter” I had exchanged cash for lobster, and was looking for the first open seat I could find.

The wait was absolutely worth it. As it turns out, there are two types of lobster rolls in New England (the region, not the state): the traditional, hot lobster roll; and the frowned-upon-by-the-locals cold version. The hot roll consists of bread, boiled lobster, and a generous helping of drawn butter. The cold version is lobster salad (somewhat akin to tuna salad) on a bun, possibly toasted. Both are good, but the hot roll at Captain Scott’s is simply beyond description.

If you’re anywhere near New London, Connecticut and want to find out why people rave about lobster rolls, use the following: Google link to Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock. This will save you hours (literally) of searching, and it’s well worth the trouble.

Did I mention that the food is great, but the place is hard to find?

Update: Here’s an article in the NY Times about similar options in Maine.

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Comments»

1. Rose - August 1, 2006

When you mentioned the oceanviews of California, I thought “Chart House” before I got there in your entry. Ahh, they do have the best California oceanviews. Another nice tucked away place is Moss Beach Inn, near San Francisco. They provide lovely wooden adirondack chairs with blankets and serve you coffee on the deck overlooking the ocean…heaven!

2. David Bethune - August 15, 2006

Hi,
I did a goggle search on my song “Son Of A Beach” and your blog came up.
Have a listen to it here…at the link below
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=397220

David Bethune

3. Michael T. - Baltimore, MD - March 14, 2007

You are not kidding. I have been to Cap’n Scott’s many times. They have the best hot lobster roll I’ve ever tasted, but every time I go there, it’s as if I’ve never been before–that’s how hard it is to find.


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