Red’s Eats, a popular seafood shack in downtown Wiscasset opened for the season on April 19. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Red’s Eats, a popular seafood shack in downtown Wiscasset, opened for the summer season on Monday, but lobster rolls, arguably the eatery’s best-known menu item, won’t be available until next month.

In an April 13 Facebook post the business wrote it wouldn’t be offering lobster rolls until May 15 because “we are unable to get enough of our fresh lobster meat at this point in time.”

Owner Debbie Gagnon said the delay in offering lobster is “very typical at this time of year.”

“Until the waters warm up and lobsters migrate, it’s always tough,” she wrote in an email to The Times Record. “My family are also lobstermen and they are not harvesting much at all right now. I refuse to compromise the integrity of my lobster roll and will only use the ‘top shelf,’ perfectly cooked meat for Red’s Eats.”

Cindy Bailey and her daughter, Izzy, 5, ordered a crabmeat roll and a whoopie pie. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Ben Martens said he’s not surprised Gagnon isn’t yet able to source the lobster she needs because recent poor weather has prevented lobstermen from catching many lobsters.

“We don’t often have as bad a stretch of weather as we have had recently, but this is not outside the bounds of normal,” he said. “It’s windy and gusty out on the water and if people aren’t catching many lobsters in the first place, it’s hard to justify the risk with the reward.”

He said spring is usually a slow time for lobstermen because lobsters are migrating, and limited stock can then drive up prices for consumers.

“The hope is that we’ll start to have nicer weather soon and see more lobsters coming across the docks,” said Martens.

Last year Gagnon opened Red’s Eats on May 30, a month later than previous years, and offered lobster rolls on opening day. In 2019, the takeout seafood spot opened on April 15, and lobster rolls were on the menu.

Gagnon declined to say how much lobster she usually sells in the first month of the season and whether she expects to see a dip in revenue from not offering lobster for a month.

Gagnon said her decision to open regardless of whether lobster will be on the menu is to retain staff members and maximize business during the limited season.

“It’s very tough to hire employees right now due to COVID-19 and how it has changed our world,” she wrote. “I am very lucky that I have employees who have been with us for years, as well as new employees that I’ve just hired. If I do not open, they will not have any work. I need to keep my employees and if I am closed, they will not make a paycheck and will go elsewhere for work.”

Nancy Dunphy, left, and Deb Clark, right, ordered crabmeat rolls because lobster rolls weren’t available on opening day. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

The lack of lobster rolls didn’t deter local and visiting patrons.

Cindy Bailey of Wiscasset waited in line for roughly 30 minutes with her daughter, Izzy, 5, who ordered a whoopie pie. Cindy Bailey said she wasn’t bothered by Red’s Eats not offering lobster rolls and instead decided to order a crabmeat roll.

“They have a huge menu so there’s plenty to choose from,” she said.

David Jirkovski of Longwood, Florida, said he was “a little surprised” to hear lobster rolls weren’t available, but he said he was more excited to see Red’s Eats open for business, given the toll COVID-19 has taken on small businesses across the country.

Nancy Dunphy and Deb Clark of Gray were visiting in southern Midcoast and decided to try Red’s Eats for the first time.

“We wanted to try their famous lobster roll because we know this is a foodie hotspot,” Dunphy said. “We ordered crabmeat rolls, and we’ll just have to come back for a lobster roll.”


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