After a summer off, Joe Lane Lobsterman has reopened at its new, permanent location in downtown Damariscotta. The business, co-owned by Joe Lane and Izzy Nelson, features strong family connections in addition to freshly caught lobster.
Lane, a fourth-generation lobsterman, originally opened the business as a food stand in 2014 near Clark’s Apartments on Elm Street. The next year, the business opened at Clark’s Apartments again before moving to a space outside the former Paco’s Tacos.
Now, the eatery is in a new, permanent location at 115 Elm St. in Damariscotta, the former home of the Skidompha Secondhand Book Shop. The building, a red barn, was once the location of an antique shop owned by Lane’s great-grandmother and is now owned by Valerie Seibel, Lane’s mother.
Nelson’s father, Rick Nelson, spent the better part of the past three months renovating the space for the new eatery. The improvements include renovating the ceiling to include two layers of fireproof sheetrock and new insulation, the installation of a commercial kitchen and bathroom, and cosmetic changes. Grindell Plumbing & Heating, of Round Pond, completed the plumbing upgrades, and Jon and Sumner McKane did the electrical work.
While Lane and Izzy Nelson helped with the painting and other odd jobs, Rick Nelson completed the majority of the work, Izzy said.
“When people walk in, they always do a double take about how much has changed since it was the bookstore, and it was all him,” Izzy said.
The bigger, permanent space enables the business to do more than it could with a takeout stand, Lane and Nelson said. In addition to having more space, Joe Lane Lobsterman can serve beer and wine in its permanent location.
The restaurant also offers seating for customers in the form of six picnic tables. Enlarged historic photos of Damariscotta and Newcastle from Lane’s grandparents hang on the walls. Scrapbooks with additional photographs are available near the counter for customers to browse.
“We really wanted an atmosphere where you can just hang out, but we really wanted to preserve this history too,” Lane said.
As co-owners, Lane and Nelson have different roles in the business. Nelson opens the business every morning while Lane catches the lobsters on his boat, Spirit of ’76. In the afternoon, he brings the lobsters back to the restaurant, where they are placed in a tank in view of the customers.
Nelson also manages and trains the employees of the restaurant, five family members and one close friend.
“It’s really brought both of our families together in new ways,” Nelson said.
Betsy Mahan, Lane’s aunt, delivers desserts to the restaurant daily, including her homemade whoopie pies. Mahan uses dark chocolate in the cake and fills them with a cream made from a secret family recipe, Nelson said.
The menu includes macaroni and cheese made from another family recipe, Lane said. Customers can add chunks of lobster or crab to the dish, which costs $15. A version without lobster or crab costs $6.
Lobster rolls and other lobster dishes make up the majority of menu items, including a trio of lobster rolls. For $14, customers can order a traditional lobster roll with butter or mayonnaise on a toasted bun. Customers can also opt for either lime cilantro or tomato and basil versions of the lobster roll for $15. In both variations, the lobster meat is tossed in local herbs, Nelson said.
The variations on the traditional lobster roll have been welcomed back to the community with open arms, Nelson said.
“A lot of the people who came when the stand was open have been in saying how excited they were to have the cilantro lime back,” Nelson said.
Elsewhere on the menu, Joe Lane Lobsterman offers a lobster BLT for $15 and lobster tacos topped with Sriracha sour cream for $16.
Recently, the restaurant introduced its shore dinners, which include a 1 1/4-pound steamed lobster, 1 pound of steamed clams, corn on the cob, and fresh coleslaw for $23.95.
The restaurant also offers crab rolls, crab BLTs, crab mac and cheese, and crab tacos.
The menu also features some non-seafood options, including a grilled cheese sandwich, a steak-and-cheese sub, and a grilled chicken Caesar salad.
An expanded menu, including pasta dishes, is planned for the future, Lane and Nelson said. The business will continue to offer whole lobsters, live or cooked, for customers.
The restaurant quietly opened for business at 11 a.m. June 22, and locals have been extremely supportive, Lane and Nelson said.
“We’ve been hearing really good feedback so far,” Lane said.
Joe Lane Lobsterman is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Columbus Day, after which the hours will change. Nelson said the restaurant will remain open through the holidays before closing for February and March.
A website and Instagram page for Joe Lane Lobsterman are in development. For more information, find Joe Lane Lobsterman on Facebook or call 682-0110.