August is a beautiful time to be in Maine. The summer is winding down, there’s a crisp yet enjoyable chill to the air, and fall foliage is starting to poke through. For many, a late summer trip to Maine means blueberry picking, oceanfront walks, and lots and lots of lobster. If you’re a Maine enthusiast, and more importantly, a lobster enthusiast, you may have heard of the humble roadside stand Red’s Eats, considered to be one of the world’s best lobster shacks.
Since its opening in 1938, Red’s has made quite the impression on locals and visitors alike because of its down-home, comfort food that is ordinary yet tastes extraordinary. This is the case for all menu items, but most specifically the lobster roll, which has garnered national attention for its enormous size, simplicity, and amazing taste. It is, after all, the subtle yet impactful touches that make Red’s Eats so famous, and that’s because of Al "Red" Gagnon, owner of Red’s Eats for more than 31 years, who placed an emphasis on simple yet good food and personal relationships.
Gagnon’s passing in 2008 was a sad one, but it only further encouraged his family to live out his legacy with Red’s Eats. Along with running the shack and serving his famous recipes, his family pays homage to Gagnon and the work he did to maintain a small business such as Red’s through their own memoir, Red’s Eats: World’s Best Lobster Shack, written by daughter Debbie Gagnon Cronk and friend Virginia Wright (Down East 2010).
The book paints a picture of Red’s Eats that spans far beyond the lobster roll, and tells the story of how the humble roadside shack in Wiscasset, Maine, fell into Gagnon’s hands and its story since then. Filled with adoring quotes, celebrity sightings, recipes, some fun lobster facts, and the truth behind heavy mayonnaise, the book is a way to bring a personal relationship with Red’s to many of its fans that have been worshiping the place for years. The Daily Meal spoke with Cronk about her book, her favorite aspects of Maine cooking, and how to build the famous Red’s lobster roll.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce