The Taste Of Summer

Where: Mystic, CT, U.S.A.

Few summer pleasures are more congenial than tucking into a lobster dinner on the outdoor deck at Abbott's as the waters of Fisher's Island Sound gently slap the pilings beneath you. For some, visiting the most southeastern corner of Connecticut is about seeing the old restored ships at Mystic Seaport or cavorting whales and dolphins at the Mystic Aquarium; for lobster lovers, though, it's about dining on lobsters fresh off the boat in a clambake-casual waterside setting. Come at weekend mealtimes, and you may have to settle for a picnic table on the lawn, for Abbott's draws crowds from all over the Northeast. There are more tables under a red-and-white-striped tent (the place to be when it rains).

Set on a quiet promontory south of downtown Mystic, Abbott's feels suitably off the beaten track (that is, unless you arrive by boat). After you turn into the gravel parking lot, look for Abbott's trademark, a huge greenish lobster painted on a weathered-gray side wall (remember, lobsters don't turn that bright orangey-red until they are cooked). If you're lucky, you won't find a line at the counter -- service is strictly takeout, and every lobster is cooked to order, so you can expect a wait.

Abbott's claim to fame is the size of its lobsters -- some as big as 10 pounds. A chalkboard by the counter tells you current prices, which are not cheap. Luckily, they give you a paper bib to protect your clothes from sweet dripping juices and the melted butter you dip your succulent morsels into. If dismembering a giant crustacean isn't your idea of fun, order the hot lobster roll, a quarter-pound of nothing but lobster meat, heaped on a lightly toasted bun. While you're waiting, you may want to try the Rhode Island-style clam chowder, steamed mussels, or stuffed clams. Usual sides are coleslaw, roast corn-on-the-cob, or Abbott's own brand of potato chips. The place doesn't even own a deep-fryer; if someone in your party is hankering for fried clam strips, you'll have to go to their satellite restaurant up the road in Noank Shipyard, Costello's Clam Shack (tel. 860/572-2779), which also sells small Abbott's lobsters.

Dining is BYOB, and those in the know bring a six-pack or a bottle of wine (even champagne). Seasoned Abbott's-goers even bring their own tablecloths to cover the rough wooden tables. Naturally, Abbott's is open only during lobster season -- full-time Memorial Day to Labor Day, weekends only in May, September, and early October. Reservations? You must be kidding.

117 Pearl St., Noank CT; tel. 860/536-7719;

Nearest Airport:
Providence (45 miles/73km).

Where to Stay:
Hilton Mystic, 20 Coogan Blvd. (tel. 800/445-8667 or 860/572-0731;