Ever since moving out of Chicago (and away from Half Shell and Fish Bar), I’ve been searching for great seafood shacks. My current favorite is in Florida near the Appalachia Bay. I’m also fond of Washington’s Willapa Bay oysters. I’ve found another spot to add to the list: J’s Oyster in Portland, Maine. It’s wonderful.
J’s Oyster is basically Half Shell moved above ground and put on a pier (Half Shell is a basement-level place in Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood). I love Half Shell and miss it dearly. I miss sitting at the bar and eating oysters and shrimp and drinking beers. J’s Oyster has similar bar seating options, but the view is just better — it’s a view of the harbor instead of a view of ankles walking along Diversey Parkway. And there are lobster rolls.
My lobster roll was pretty fantastic. Yes, it was served on the sacrilegious version of the hot-dog bun (cut the “wrong” way), but I don’t really care about that. The thing was loaded with lobster meat and was a good $10 cheaper than the going rate in Boston for a lobster roll. Delicious.
But I was still hungry. A few oysters solved that problem — best dessert ever. We learned from the gent next to us that Maine can’t keep up with local demand, so oysters are sent in from the Chesapeake. No worries. They were great — and also a deal at just over $1 per.
Lisa had some shrimp and a cup of clam chowder — both were excellent.
All that said, we were warned by a reader that J’s was “way over-rated” — and that may be true if you’re a local — but us imports don’t get this sort of shit every day. J’s is a rare breed — fresh, fun, inexpensive, and delicious. Yes, I bet it’s terribly over-run in the summer, but we were there on a weekday and it was wonderful. Wonderful! We almost returned the next night for second helping — it was that good.