Three Sons Lobster & Fish
72 Commercial St., Portland
Don’t tell the tourists, but it’s not expensive to go out for lobster in the Old Port.
At Three Sons Lobster & Fish you can get two decent-sized, boiled sea bugs and two ears of corn on the cob for less than $20. Add another quarter pound to each crustacean and make ’em the meatier hard-shell variety (as compared to the sweeter soft-shells) and you’re still under $40, corn and melted butter included.
That’s considerably cheaper than, say, a certain floating restaurant nearby, though restaurants offer some amenities you won’t find at Three Sons, like cutlery, and plates, and table service, and beverages, and bathrooms. At Three Sons, you get your food in a bag and eat it on a sticky picnic table outside. You can have a beer or wine, provided you bring your own or buy some at Casco Variety or Downeast Beverage. If you need to make room for more, the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal on the next wharf over has passable facilities.
The atmosphere at Three Sons is … well, the atmosphere. You are on Maine Wharf, just feet from the water, watching boats and ferries sail by. You are also inches from the byway cars and trucks use to park or make deliveries on the wharf, though traffic, at least in the afternoon, is quite light.
To get to Three Sons, walk a short distance down the wharf between RiRa and the Dry Dock (the poor bastard sweating inside a full-on lobster costume may wave you in), past two reeking dumpsters and a line cook on a smoke break. Once inside, do not be confused by the fact you are standing on a wet concrete floor in the middle of Three Sons’ retail seafood operation. This is where you order.
In addition to lobster and corn, you can get clams, mussels and crabs prepared for take-out or outdoor dining, plus a couple kinds of chowder. There’s a soda machine for your non-alcoholic beverage needs. The service is prompt and to the point (it takes about 20 minutes to cook a lobster; come back in 20 to get it). Keep in mind, though, that the line to order food is the same line for other business, like buying frozen seafood or arranging to have it shipped. Impatient types are welcome to call ahead.
Here are a few other tips. If you want a little fork or a pick to dislodge every last morsel of meat, bring your own. Plastic spoons are available for chowder, but there are no forks on the premises. Likewise, if you prefer to eat off a plate, bring one of those too, though the lobsters are handed to you in a coated-paper bag that, when ripped, does the trick.
The group seated at the picnic table next to ours had come prepared. They had a tablecloth, big plastic plates, metal meat picks, a roll of paper towels, and beach towels draped over the picnic table benches. “We’ve been here before,” the woman explained to Sarah and me as we admired the spread. “It’s nice here, and it’s fun, but it’s not the cleanest place.”
The eight old wooden picnic tables are not bussed, so there may be some schmutz here or there, but otherwise Three Sons is as clean as a lobster pound can reasonably be expected to be. And the lobster is as fresh as you’d expect from a pound. I have every reason to believe the bugger I ate today was crawling on the sea floor last night.
There’s nothing quaint about Three Sons. You can get fancier fare in a more stylish setting almost anywhere else in town, but there’s nowhere more affordable and authentic.
— Chris Busby
Three Sons is open Mon.-Sat. from 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sun. from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.