Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Harbor Deli


At any harbor deli, one can feel almost immediately at home.  They are their own genre, familiar in their patterns and menus.




1. Accessible by Land or Sea: While you can arrive by car, launch or dinghy is vastly preferable.


It used to be that all cruising guide books would have icons denoting pay phones on land.



2. Independently Owned and Operated.  Yet they are more similar than fast food chains. Fnord.







3. The Big Board:  Handwritten, with dozens of options, yet we always place the same, custom order.






4. Open Food Prep: Has that Soviet vibe of standing in one line to order, one line to pay, and then still waiting around until the food is ready.  One milestone is when they know your name without asking, then when they know your order without asking.








5. A Full Range of Customers: Where else can Ivy League Professors and CEOs stand in line with dock repair people and quarry workers?





6. The All Important Tip Jar: The workers at the harbor deli are over-qualified, and one suspects that the ratio of tip money spent on pre-med text books is higher here than almost anywhere else.



7. The View:  The view is often much better than the premium residential real estate nearby, but no one seems to notice it, except on Sunday mornings.






8: Local Events.  Germany may have had its beer halls where political movements were formed, but in Coastal New England, the hot bed of activism is captured and fanned by the bulletin boards.





9. The Free Papers: While waiting for food, there are always free papers, from predictable to bizarre.  There are also copies of WSJ and NYT, which are technically for sale, but everyone flips through those as well while waiting.


10. Postcards:  But no one ever buys them.




11. Hip Drinks:  The refrigerators seem to be the C.E.S. of the beverage world.  Bring your sunglasses.








12: The Desserts:  While the grownups plan to just get a quick sandwich, the youngsters have much bigger ambitions for their haul.  Baked desserts are either made on the premises or locally and delivered.










13.  Miscellaneous:  Each deli has its own seasonal, regional, or just bizarre specialty items.



14. Dogs. Outside the door are three or four dogs, waiting for their masters, forming their own canine reception line. Petting each is not optional.







15. Outside Eating Area:  Small, and the subject of plenty of zoning disputes with neighbors.



16. Ice Machines:  The real detail that distinguishes a harbor deli from simply a deli that happens to be near the water is the ice machine, the lifeblood of any trip.




To a sailor, this is a picture of an ice machine.
17. Food to Go. In parts of the world, the art of origami and other paper folding has flourished.  In coastal New England, this art form has been monopolized by the lunch packers, who individually wrap dozens of food items per order to survive the obstacle course of being thrown, dunked, left in the sun, and squished, before inevitably given to the wrong person.



If you have a favorite harbor deli, please let others know where it is.

27 comments:

Sartre said...

I like the Sea Gull on Pemaquid Point.

marylandmom said...

After a very long day I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I keep thinking of the deli picture that is an ice machine to sailors and it makes me smile. Thank you for all the time you put into your blog. I have read it almost from the beginning but it was this post that prompted me to finally comment.

Wasp Decor said...

I've been to a few of those. Port Clyde General, Camden Deli-great post!
My favorite is the Cod End in Tenants Harbor. Like the Port Clyde Gen Store, they, too are on the water. I used to put my kayak in on their beach and paddle out to the islands. They have great food and the yummy Bar Harbor blueberry ale-so good. Have that and a fried Maine shrimp basket( my favorite ) overlooking the harbor! Heaven. And who knows, you might run into Jamie Wyeth. You can always spot him in his vintage green truck.
Can you tell I miss Maine?

Tiara said...

Sam's in Tiburon. It is a bit of a bun fight between guests and the seagulls that fly above them. I suppose if the food weren't so good the birds wouldn't be so keen to eat it.

BlueTrain said...

You have made some witty and insightful comments here. "More similar than fast food chains," for instance. Yet such places, which are found all over, can have a charm and character all of their own but hopefully not too much. Sometimes, with luck, such places are found far from blue water, at least in places with sufficient traffic. And just like the ones along the sound, they, too, have the essential ice machine. Sometimes even gas stations aspire to such levels of greatness, although the essential element is usually the restrooms and so far I've never seen one with outside tables (but inside, yes).

WRJ said...

As someone who worked at a similar place for years in high school and college (Mystic Market), I can vouch for the accuracy of your description!

I love the mix of townies and the rich/illustrious outsiders that you recognize. In that sense these delis are like horse barns (or marinas/tennis clubs/etc.)--one set of highly skilled, talented, authentic people, and another set who are primarily useful for keeping the place in business. (Too harsh?)

My favorites? The Deli Across From Watch Hill Harbor. (Does it have a name? Does it matter?) Best lobster roll in Watch Hill--but I can't vouch for an ice machine. (This is somewhat traitorous as the Watch Hill brach of my mom's family has owned the St. Clair for eons.) More locally, Carson's in Noank Village is great and has been in the same family for generations.

Wasp Decor said...

I used to live up the street from the store! Yes, very familiar. For a small store they have great pizza. I wonder if the ice cream shop is still on the corner by the store. Other than the store, there aren't really any good shops or anything in the harbor. it's all houses.

Anonymous said...

What nice pictures, we love the coast, but don't get there nearly as often as we'd like to. Such a wonderful mix of dogs, people, calm familiarity, and scenery! I'll have the lobster roll, please! --Holly in PA

Bitsy said...

Wonderful post! Love a store where the dogs can hang out. And good to see that lovely Maine Coon cat again!

Greenfield said...

WRJ, you beat me to it on your own blog! Gregory Peck's Spic & Span--Southport center, pleasant little walk up from the harbor. If he doesn't have it, you don't need it!
Plus the ice machine rocks!

askarka said...

My favorite is the 'Keag Store in South Thomaston. The same ladies have been working there for years and it's the perfect place for a few groceries for a picnic or a quick lunch. The name also makes it easier to discern the locals, who can actually pronounce it correctly.

Anonymous said...

Joanne's Market is the best...located in beautiful Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. I summer in Chester, the next seaside village over and have been going there for years!!

http://www.joannsdelimarket.ca/

Great post...lovely pictures! thanks!

BlueTrain said...

Say, do these places have shelves full of different brands of hot sauce?

Josephine said...

Postcards! My mother and I always search for the spinning rack with local cards to send to friends and family, but are finding that many places just don't carry them anymore. No one buys them (except us!) in this day and age of snapping a picture with your phone and emailing it to everyone and their sister to show where you have been.

WRJ said...

Spic! Of course! They really are the best. I always stop in when I'm in town, and always go for a walk down to the harbor. Southport is one of the few truly charming places in Fairfield County. A childhood friend's family had an account there, which made my intensely jealous.

Paul Connors said...

Ahhh, BLACK JACK gum! How much I miss it!

mary anne said...

I love this post. Makes me feel very nostalgic. Thank you! May I also add a request for your muffin recipe?

Greenfield said...

WRJ: And now, (Danger, Muffy!) J. McLaughlin is right across the street from the Spic & Span!
BTW, "The Shoe" is a great watering hole there, too. . . with the interesting mix of people several of you have mentioned.

Michael Rowe said...

A welcome blast of light, heat, and summer on a cold Canadian Thursday evening!

Anonymous said...

Loved seeing these dreamy, cheery photos... picturesque scenes like these don't exist anywhere in my area, which convinces me more to move away!

Anonymous said...

@Greenfield - You must live in Westport?

JSprouse said...

On the concert poster is listed "Atwater/ Donnelly", they recently played at the coffeehouse in our Quaker Meeting in PA. I sent Aubrey Atwater a link to your blog, she said she checked it out. They're from RI, great entertainers.

JDS

scotmiss said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've loved NE ever since I was at Colby more than 40 years ago. Moved back to Michigan - I must be near water - but sure do miss lobster rolls. Am heading to BBH in May - can't wait. It was clove gum for me!

Anonymous said...

Ah Camden! And that is where we had breakfast.

GoSailGLP said...

What a wonderful post, thank you! Looking through the photos makes me long for the summer. The harbor deli I grew up with is the Universal Market in Noank, CT. It's been THE place for all the essentials since long before we grandchildren were born, with the still-used, old-fashioned wooden register and where many of our day-sail memories are held! It was flooded in Hurricane Irene and there was much concern over whether it had met it's demise. Last summer it re-opened as a co-op, and I'm happy to report that the original charm and fantastic grinders are still there!

Sartre said...

I spent part of my childhood in Fairfield, CT and Southport is one of the prettiest places on earth. The view up Harbor Rd toward the Pequot Yacht Club is priceless. It's been a long time since I've visited there; I hope it has not become too built up and/or gentrified.

Courtney B said...

One cannot forget to mention that most of these places serve some of the BEST breakfast sanwiches too. My favorite on the Olive Oyl's menu is Charlie's Tuna, such a great combination, I don't think I've ever strayed far from it. And speaking of your 14th point, I have a lovely picture from just before Christmas of my Boxer and her Springer buddy waiting at the benches outside of Olive Oyl's, dogs are certainly a very quintessential part of any harbor deli!