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::Just Opened:: Maine Shack brings a Taste of New England to Denver

“The Way Seafood Should Be”

Maine Shack opened at 1535 Central Street, Denver, in LoHi July 30, 2019
(Photo by Casey Giltner)

Up in New England, the state of Maine welcomes in visitors with the moniker “The Way Life Should Be.” Just a little over 2,000 miles out west here at home, we think LoHi’s new Maine Shack will be welcoming in visitors with “The Way Seafood Should Be.”

Nestled at the former Uber Eats space on the corner of 16th and Central—a convenient drop-off right at the end of the Highland Bridge and entry into the Lower Highlands—Maine Shack is the answer to high-quality lobster rolls and other seafood, meats, and eats, all served fast-casual. Make no mistake, lobster is a star player here, but we bet you’ll also be wow’d with the lightly battered Scallops and perfectly sliced Roast Beef sandwich, and other stunners. Expect both local and New England-style beer and wine, with cocktails on the way, to wash down the picnic-like bites.

This is all brought to you with a flame of nostalgia from partners Drew Ryan and John Caprio, Culinary Creative Group’s Max MacKissock, Katie O’Shea, and Juan Padro, and Chef Craig Dixon. This powerhouse crew boasts a large footprint on the restaurant scene with heavy hitters like Bar Dough and Highland Tap & Burger, and more, all carrying roots from the East Coast.

John and I have been friends for years, and we all crave a great spot to get a classic lobster roll. When the opportunity came to open a place together, we jumped at the chance to bring a taste of Maine to Denver.

-Drew Ryan, partner

Maine Shack offers a quaint, two-story space meant to usher in seafoodies like that of the famed Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine (according to Ryan, from Maine, who happens to keep a photo of Red’s Eats on his phone). But don’t let the vertical-stacked interior fool you. The patio sits near just as many as inside, and the upstairs beckons with a wide view of downtown, the kind of view you’d hope for at any “Highland Hills” eatery.

Fast-casual delights fit for any seafoodie at the “Shack” quick-order counter
(Photo by Casey Giltner)

Amidst the draped nets and nautical teasers, the entryway counter serves as another deliberate nod to the quaint, quick-order nature of a northeastern coastal “shack.” Discover: cups and bowls of Clam Chowder, cheesy helpings of Lobster Mac & Cheese with mascarpone or Lobster Grilled Cheese with tomato jam, Surf and Turf with lobster stacked with an Angus beef patty, plus more seafood, “Fried Stuff,” sandwiches, and speciality rolls.

We’ve been chatting with curious local foodies about the new Maine Shack, and what’s their first question? “Are the lobster rolls cold or hot?” The answer: both, and more. Maine Shack prepares Lobster Rolls five ways. Each roll is prepared with 4 ounces of lobster (claw and knuckle combo) atop a freshly toasted, flavorful hoagie bun. Take your pick from the following renditions:

  • Naked, served hot and simple
  • Maine Shack, served hot, accented with subtle mayo, sea water, and butter (hint—the “sea water” comes from the natural, cooked juices of the lobster)
  • Fancy, the “lobster salad” version (and cold-option) on the menu, tossed with cucumber, celery, herbs, lemon, mayo, and cradled in Bibb lettuce
  • Warm Brown Butter with white wine sauce, served hot
  • Lobsterado, served hot with warmed butter and a poached lobster tail
Lobster Rolls galore at Maine Shack, shipping in lobster directly from Maine

The lobster arrives all throughout the week, shipped from a direct partnership with Greenhead Lobster out of Stonington, Maine, a family-owned operation that sources wild-caught lobster by local fishermen out of the clean, seagull-chirping, island-protected Penobscot Bay. Growing up out of Boston’s North Shore himself, Chef Dixon explains, “It is important to respect the work that goes into the source of your lobster: the catch, the prep, the ice, the people, and the delivery. The lobster is shipped directly to us, and we immediately prep, cook, and serve. Which is also why I love our fast-casual concept.”

It’s not just the seafood that is part of this freshly-prepared conversation. The Roast Beef sandwich we mentioned earlier is packed both with storytelling and flavor. Like, we mean it.

It’s not just the seafood that is part of this freshly-prepared conversation. The Roast Beef sandwich we mentioned earlier is packed both with storytelling and flavor. Like, we mean it. The meat, derived from Angus beef, is prepared rare and perfectly sliced (better than any deli-cut around). The slices are folded between toasted bread with provolone and pickle. But the real secret ingredient—that is likely only responsible for about a tablespoon of the sandwich—is the mayo.

The kitchen starts the mayo with rendered fat that comes from butchered rib-eye from 7X Beef, notable for Wagyu-like flavor. The beef fat replaces an oil-base in this mayo scenario. The fat is cut, boiled, and rendered as a concentrate, then carefully portioned into eggs, lemon juice, and garlic confit to make the dressing. The output is subtle, thin textures of both meat and dressing, yet with powerful flavor due to the source-quality and preparation. Any cream-base sauce for that matter to any roll, tarter sauce, or coleslaw hits it on the mark as well. The devil (or god, perhaps in this case) is always in the details.

If you’re still carrying even a drop of “land-locked” in your mind, find out for yourself how Maine Shack is as they say back east the finest kind of seafood around town.

By Sarah Carpenter, Editor