Did you know that approximately 40 million pounds (nearly 90 percent) of the nation’s lobster supply is caught off the coast of Maine? Many of those lobsters come to the coast through lobster pounds. What is a lobster pound? Initially, one may think that the name must have something to do with the weight of the lobster since we’re accustomed to buying and ordering lobster by weight, or, by the pound. That’s not it. While driving along the coast of northern Maine, you start to see “lobster pounds” along the road. You soon realize that the pounds are waterfront, as opposed to the restaurants, cafes and diners in towns and along the roads, also offering lobster bisque, lobster rolls and lobster dinners, steamed or boiled. So what’s the difference? To get the full picture, we need to go back nearly a century and a half when Maine lobstermen creatively modified their small vessels, called “smacks”, so that they could keep their carnivorous catch alive. They drilled holes in a tank, or “pound”, inside the smacks, holes that allowed the cold sea water to swirl through, which kept the lobster alive while they fished for more lobster, and made it back to shore.
So the catch was alive upon returning to shore. Now how could they be kept alive, and fresh, once off the boat and until sold? The same lobstermen designed seaside “pounds” out of lumber and nets, where the lobster could be held alive right at the shoreline, and as the tide washed in, so did the cold sea water, bringing food to the lobsters, and then taking out deposits as the tide swept back out. Cleaning and refreshing the holding areas. Brilliant!
The first such lobster pound was built in 1875 on Vinalhaven, a small island off the coast of Rockland, Maine. Since then, they’ve evolved, of course, now cooking onsite, also offering clams, mussels, chowder, corn, and sometimes fried potatoes, cole slaw and potato salad. There are many pounds to try, and we’ve had delicious lobster at a few, but this August, our favorite has been the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, located at 1237 Bar Harbor Road in Trenton, on route 3, just before the bridge to Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. As you approach, you’ll both see and smell the roadside vats fired by wood where the lobster are boiled, the only way to prepare a lobster, according to the crew at TBLP. Because everyone else has heard about it too, parking can be a bit of a challenge, but once you’ve found a spot, you’ll get in line inside to first choose your lobster; hard shell or soft shell; 1.5 to 2 pounds, 2.5 pounds, 3 pounds, etc. Once weighed, your lobster(s) will be put in a net sack and swept off for boiling. You’ll meet again in about 20 to 25 minutes. You’re given a number, that corresponds with the tag on your bag of lobster, and a laminated order form, with all your add ons: beer, wine, pop or boxed water (yes, boxed water, “’cause it’s better”); chowder or stew; clams or mussels; potato salad, cole slaw or corn; butter, lemons or hot sauce. Now you move to the second line to place the remainder of your order, and pay. You’ll get your drinks, and chowder, at this time, on a tray, and you now go find a picnic table, inside or out. There’s no table service.
“We aren’t fancy, just traditionally tasteful.”
No table cloths, just bibs, picks, and plenty of napkins. Enjoy your beer and chowder ’til you hear your number, then you’ll go to the counter and retrieve a blue speckled enamelware roaster pan full of your boiled food; lobsters, clams, mussels, corn, etc., along with bibs, melted butter, lemon, crackers and picks.
We’ve had delicious lobster while here in Maine; cooked at home, pickled, in a roll, steamed and boiled, but there’s something about the lobster at the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, a 50 plus year old family business, that sets it apart, and just a step above, the rest. The blueberry pie and cake are delicious too! Did you know that Maine produces 99% of all the blueberries in the country making it the single largest producer of blueberries in the United States? (As an aside, 90% of the country’s toothpick supply is produced in Maine as well. Just thought that I’d throw that in there).
Anyway, now you know what a lobster pound is, and I highly recommend adding this experience to your bucket list. The Trenton Bridge Lobster pound is open Monday through Saturday, first orders are in at 10:30 am, and last orders accepted at 7:30 pm. Dine in or carry out. Can’t get your fill while visiting, or really love someone back home? Well no worries ’cause they’ll ship live lobster for you, overnight via FedEx.