On Tuesday, July 30 the hotly anticipated Lohi lobster roll joint Maine Shack will open its doors. The spot is a collaboration between music industry veterans and proud East Coast natives Drew Ryan and John Caprio, chef Craig Dixon and members of the Culinary Creative Group Max Mackissock, Katie O’Shea and Juan Padro. The new spot will peddle top-notch sandwiches, fried seafood, sides, desserts and a small but thorough beverage selection. The high-quality fare will be served counter-style to be devoured on the go or at one of 59 indoor seats stretched across two floors or any of the 48 seats that make up the patio.
The restaurant has been a long time coming — Ryan and Caprio having first discussed putting the plan into action in 2015. After trials and delays, the group ultimately got the concept into high gear last year, having signed the lease on their location in early 2018. Since then, the restaurant has steadily been gaining buzz with a series of pop-ups at the various Tap and Burger locations. Anyone who managed to attend already knows the quality and craftsmanship that the team has been putting into each dish.
Stepping into the place can make it hard to believe that the nearest ocean is over 1,000 miles away. The interior transcends homage, being so thoroughly outfitted with curio and memorabilia that patrons can almost smell a sea breeze. The wood that lines the walls was hand-selected by Ryan from antique places and Naval salvage yards then personally hauled from Maine. A chandelier — made from four vintage and three modern lobster traps — hangs conspicuously, and oars, jerseys and hand-carved crustaceans litter much of the available space. One wall is entirely covered with a 700 square foot mural of the famed Portland Head Light, and a wooden puffin Ryan stole from his parents’ house completes the nautical decor.
All the food is served in paper trays — despite the quality of the cuisine nothing about the place is fussy. The lobster is all from Greenhead Lobster — a family operation from Stonington, Maine. Each of the five rolls comes generously stacked with four ounces of juicy claw and knuckle meat, cooked perfectly to compliment the toasted bun. The brown butter ($22) is layered with a succulent dollop of the spread, which properly enhances the sandwich. The fancy ($23) comes topped with cucumber, celery, chive, parsley, lemon, mayo and bibb lettuce. For the high roller, the lobsterado ($34) comes with mayo, lobster juice and drizzled butter then is topped with a four-ounce lobster tail.
While most of the menu favors the aquatic, there are a few notable items to appease the landlubber. Da Caprio ($11) is rare roast beef, American cheese, sweet and tangy barbecue sauce on a toasted bun. Dixon and the rest of the team prove to be masters of both land and sea, and while lobster is certainly rife, it is not a requirement. The beer selection favors Maine, with two brews from Peak Organic Brewing Co making up the draft list. A selection of draft and canned wines round out the beverage options.
Coastal comfort food has been largely missing from the Denver landscape. Maine Shack’s nostalgic commitment to making the real deal will hopefully cement it as the city’s go-to. Whether the food gives rise to fond memories of childhood or simply is enjoyed on its own merit, Maine Shack has been well outfitted to impress the seafaring snob, the uninitiated and everything in between.
Maine Shack is located at 1535 Central St., Denver. It is open every day from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.