The Eastern Shore doesn't have quite the cachet with tourists that the South Shore does; no small towns renowned in the way of Chester, Mahone Bay or Lunenburg. It's a shame, because the Marine Drive (as the map calls it) has a charm all of its own. Local artists' shops and fresh fish takeouts dot the route, with a rugged seascape perfect for painters and photographers, and relatively little traffic, which makes for relaxed biking.
Along the way, past Upper Chezzetcook, past Musquodoboit and just past Head of Jeddore, flows the Salmon River. On this river, right as it flows into the sea, is the Salmon River House Inn, and there is the modestly named Lobster Shack restaurant.
The dining room of the Lobster Shack is a showcase for local folk art (lobsters and fishermen and paintings), making this a lively and colourful room. If that wasn't enough, the windows also provide a view of the Salmon River; sadly, this evening the weather isn't conducive to sitting on the spacious deck.
The menu is seafood-centric, and we start with smoked salmon ($10) and mussels ($9). The salmon is presented classically, with capers, red onions and cream cheese. It's an attractive plate, and the components are fresh. The mussels are done a little differently. Dubbed "muscargots" on the menu, they are prepared as if they were snails, in garlic butter with melted cheese, two or three nestled in the hollows of a proper escargot dish. It doesn't quite work for me, as the cheese is too thick and completely smothers everything, including any garlic flavour.
We've decided on lobster dishes (this being the Lobster Shack and all)—a lobster crepe ($17) and surf and turf ($24). Crepes as main courses are often dismissed as being outdated and out of touch with "modern" diners, but this version is a good reason for a resurrection of the dinner crepe. The crepe itself is toothsome and nutty flavoured, and the sauce is a delicate herbed cream. Stuffed with large chunks of lobster, this crepe is the star of the evening.
The surf and turf is almost as good. The turf, a striploin steak that has been grilled as ordered, is nicely seasoned and tender; the surf is a fair size lobster tail, moist and split for ease of eating. The mushrooms on the side ($3) are disappointing, and best left in the pan—too few mushrooms cooked for too long and not good enough for a separate price tag. Fortunately, a huge pile of hand-cut fries eases the sting of the mushrooms quite quickly.
Service here is hospitable and familiar, much as you would expect from a well-run country inn. Because it's a slow evening, our server gets to leave early. She asks us if it's OK to have the other waitress take care of us, cheerfully explaining that she is excited to be off early as she's just come straight from a shift at her other job; we jokingly tell her to leave quickly before more people come in. The dining room does fill up, but her co-worker juggles all of the newcomers easily, with no huffing and puffing about unexpected late rushes—very nice to witness and a refreshing change from what has sadly become the norm in service worlds.
By the time dinner is over, night has fallen and the road is shrouded in mist. Even so, it's a lovely drive back, fueled as I am by the warmth of the hospitality that has embraced me at the Lobster Shack.
Lobster Shack RestaurantSalmon River House InnSalmon River Bridge1-800-565-3353May 15 - Oct, daily 11am-8pm
Liz Feltham’s further adventures in local cuisine can be found at www.foodcritic.ca.