During the dark days of winter, New England weather can be taxing on the soul, which makes the balmy days of spring and summer feel like a reward. And to many locals, there’s the longstanding tradition of where to get your first fried clams of the season, or perhaps your first lobster roll, clam chowder or shrimp/scallops plate.
The Massachusetts coastline has no shortage of old-school seafood spots where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner while soaking in the salt air and refreshing sea breezes, though the majority tend to be a bit of a drive outside of the immediate Boston area to the North Shore, the South Shore or Cape Cod and the islands.
One of the best places on the South Shore to find a traditional seafood joint is Plymouth, which has several, most right on the water at the town wharf. This is where you’ll find the Lobster Hut.
Around for more than 50 years – it started out as a little stand where people could dine on seafood fresh off the boats coming in from Plymouth Harbor and Cape Cod Bay – the Lobster Hut is, today, a spacious spot with a varied menu that also offers dishes for those who yearn for something other than fish.
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But make no mistake, this is a classic seafood joint that’s mainly about food from the ocean which lies just a few feet the place.
PHOTOS: Plymouth's Lobster Hut, a Classic New England Seafood Spot
First-timers to Plymouth may find the setup of the town a bit confusing, not just because of the sheer size of the community (it’s by far the largest town in the state, area-wise), but also because the downtown area is not actually on the water and sits along Route 3A, which can easily whisk you in and out of town without your ever knowing that there’s another commercial area only a block to the east.
If you turn off Route 3A onto Water Street at the southern edge of the center, you’ll immediately see the ocean, then Plymouth Rock and, continuing on, a bustling strip of restaurants, bars and shops on the left side of the street and a walkway along the water to the right.
A few blocks up, you’ll come to a rotary with the town wharf to the right, and that’s where you’ll see the classic red Lobster Hut sign welcoming diners to the place.
The Lobster Hut has a simple and familiar setup, with a long ordering area to the left by the entrance, booths to the right, more booths wrapping around to the left beyond the counter and a large deck out back that sits next to the walkway along the water. Unless the weather is bad (or you’re not a fan of outdoor dining in general), the deck is the place to be – the crisp ocean air, boat-filled harbor and people-watching make this an ideal spot for a leisurely meal.
Whether you sit inside or out, the ordering system is very efficient (they’ve been doing this for decades now) and you usually don’t have to wait all that long for them to call out your order number.
But while the ordering system tends to run quite smoothly, if you’re a seafood lover, it really isn’t all that easy to order at the Lobster Hut, mainly because there are just so many choices. The menu has nearly every type of meal you can imagine, and that’s leaving aside the daily specials posted by the counter.
Some of the most popular dishes include the mountain of fried clams which are about as good as you’ll find within an hour of Boston; a small and very reasonably priced chilled lobster roll, or if you’re particularly hungry, a larger roll that is worth the extra money; a warm lobster roll, which tends to get more popular the further south you go in New England and which is every bit as delicious as the chilled lobster rolls; twin steamed lobsters, about as “New England” a dish as you’ll get; a classic clam chowder that’s neither too thick nor too thin and includes a nice balance of clams and potatoes; and jumbo fried shrimp that are so tasty that you may end up having to go back to the counter for another round.
A few other seafood highlights at the Lobster Hut include a meaty broiled swordfish plate that is almost absurdly cheap; a lobster mac and cheese with lots of lobster meat mixed in with the pasta; a one-pound serving of steamers; a simple but tasty fish and chips plate; and a “stuffie,” or stuffed quahog that makes for a good side dish.
Landlubbers will be happy as well. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders and grilled cheese sandwiches and, as is so often the case at seafood spots, the burgers and dogs seem to taste particularly good here, enough so that even seafood lovers shouldn’t discount them.
By the way, the Lobster Hut does serve beer, which goes perfectly with the fried seafood dishes especially while outside on a hot summer day.
Taking a drive to a seafood shack during the warmer months is a rite of passage to many, a question not of if to go but which spot to hit. And while there are plenty of options up and down the Massachusetts – and New England – coast, the Lobster Hut has a perfect combination of tasty dishes, a scenic waterside location, proximity to Boston and cheap prices.
Plymouth has a lot of great restaurants, but there’s a reason why so many locals come here year after year, including even in the wintertime – other than a short spell when it's closed (usually after the holidays), the Lobster Hut is basically a year-round restaurant, which you can’t really say for so many other seafood joints along the water.
Lobster Hut, 25 Town Wharf, Plymouth, MA, 02360. lobsterhutplymouth.com