After more than a decade of planning to stop in at Just Barb's in Stockton Springs, Maine, I finally made it for lunch the day after Thanksgiving. So forgive me if I run on about it!
It's a tiny place on Route 1, clean as a whistle, with bar seating and tables. We settled in and pretty much knew what we wanted. My sister (who'd been once before) got a cup of clam chowder, the crab roll, with fries and cole slaw (exactly what she ordered the first time). I ordered a cup of haddock chowder, a clam roll with fries and cole slaw. Two yeasty warm rolls were placed on the table, followed in short order by the cups of chowder. One spoonful of my chowder and I knew the ingredients had been assembled in a sequence that kept each at its perfect consistency. The cubes of potatoes were well cooked, but held their shape, onions were done, but still had some "chew" to them, the haddock was firm, but flakey. And then, and THEN, I tasted my sister's clam chowder! I know clam chowder and build a good facsimile myself, but this chowder was the best I've ever tasted, anywhere. No chopped or minced clams here, but whole, tender, sweet clams. (I thought they were small steamers, but my sister thought they were hard-shelled little necks. No matter, though. ) The creamy broth had an intense clam broth flavor. We both wished we gotten more "to go".
The crab roll was just sweet crab meat with enough mayo to bind it a little, piled into a buttered grilled hot dog style bun. When my clam roll arrived, I thought they'd made a mistake and brought the clam platter instead. By the time I'd eaten my way down to the roll, I knew I didn't want the bread. LOTS of fried, whole clams in a crispy batter, very much like tempura. The batter was just that light, and the oil impeccably clean. Just Barb's can fry up a storm! The fries were amazing, as well, perfectly crispy on the outside, creamy inside. We loved the cole slaw too, with its subtle bite of horseradish. Iced tea sure tasted freshly brewed to us.
We didn't have room for dessert, and I don't know if it's made in house, but here's what was listed on the dessert board:
Pies: coconut cream, apple crumb, chocolate, lemon meringue, blueberry, and raspberry. Oh, and something called grapenut custard.
If I hadn't been sort of stunned by the whole experience, I might have looked at the rest of the menu! I did see a sign that said Friday night is prime rib night!
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