Dine, watch daily catch unloaded at Thurston’s

A beacon for those searching for shellfish fresh from the sea is the yellow awning of Thurston’s Lobster Pound that stands out on the shores of Bernard and Bass Harbor villages in the Mount Desert Island town of Tremont. 

Recently harvested and steamed lobster is easy enough to find in Hancock County. But feasting on the crustacean with all the trimmings in a memorable setting away from the crowds can be tougher to track down. 

“We’ve got fishermen that have fished for us for their whole careers and their fathers also sold lobsters to us.” — Christina Lapointe, fourth generation, Thurston’s Lobster Pound

Thurston’s fits the bill. Shaded by the yellow awning on the restaurant’s deck, diners can tie on a bib, dig into their lobster dinner and watch comings and goings in the bustling fishing port of Bass Harbor. Often out fishing before dawn, lobstermen and women start unloading their catch mid- to late afternoon. One also might take a look at the stacks of lobster traps lining the enterprise’s one-way driveway.

Thurston’s Lobster Pound’s yellow awning is hard to miss on the western shore of Bass Harbor. From the restaurant’s deck, diners can watch lobster boats unloading their day’s catch and other goings-on in the working harbor. OUT & ABOUT PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

In fact, Thurston’s began as, and continues to be, a working wharf where second- and third-generation fishermen, like teenager Wyatt Lawson and his father, Josh, do business. Along with the lobster pound, the company also sells the crustacean wholesale. As part of their relationship with the fishermen, Thurston’s sells them fuel, bait and supplies and buys their catch. 

“We’ve got fishermen that have fished for us for their whole careers and their fathers also sold lobsters to us,” said Christina Lapointe, who manages the restaurant. She represents the fifth generation to work in the family business. “One of the things that sets us apart is being able to sit on the deck and watch my husband taking in the lobster and being able to imagine that lobster will be somebody’s dinner tonight.”

At Thurston’s Lobster Pound, sea breezes waft through the airy bar where diners can grab a quick bite to eat and drink and maybe chat with some local folks. THURSTON’S LOBSTER POUND PHOTO

Boiled lobster and lobster rolls have been the top menu items since Lapointe’s parents opened the restaurant with only 12 tables in 1993. Her dad, Michael Radcliffe, bought the lobster business in 1991 with the intention of opening a restaurant at the location. Being a fourth-generation Thurston, Radcliffe still helps at the restaurant and with the wharf business alongside Lapointe and her husband, Derek. 

While the menu has remained largely the same over the last 24 seasons, the restaurant accommodates 160 people, including a 40-seat bar. Diners can choose from a wide variety of appetizers, salads, chowders, sandwiches, shellfish, burgers and desserts. Beer, wine and liquor also are available.

A few appetizers were added to the menu for those seeking a small bite to go with their drink at the bar. The lobster dip, a creamy concoction with a kick, is very popular. 

“It’s hot in temperature and it’s also spicy with sriracha and horseradish and a few other spices,” said Lapointe, adding that Joey’s Crab Cakes, a family recipe, also are in demand. “They are one of probably the top three menu items that we have.”

Thurston’s takes its cue from what’s in season when it comes to food. Freshly hauled lobster takes center stage all summer, but rhubarb can play a major role in the form of pie accompanied by a strawberry rhubarb margarita. THURSTON’S LOBSTER POUND PHOTO

On the sandwich menu, outside of the lobster roll, Lapointe says the LBLT has become a big hit with customers. It was a sandwich created by her mother, Elizabeth Radcliffe, who still helps out on the business end. 

“It’s literally like a BLT with lobster piled on top,” said Lapointe. “It’s a messy sandwich. Something about bacon and lobster, people really like it.”

Since it opened, Thurston’s has been a first-come, first-served restaurant. There are no reservations. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that policy has not changed. However, dine-in seating is much more limited. At present, at any given time, only 20 seats are available and only on the deck. Takeout, though is available. 

“Boiled lobster is probably one of the hardest items to have be takeout,” said Lapointe. She and the staff are working out the kinks in order to make the to-go dining experience easy and delicious. 

“We feel very, very responsible for creating a safe environment for our customers, but also our employees.”

Thurston’s Lobster Pond is located at 9 Thurston Road in Bernard. Call ahead to order at (207) 244-7600 or go online to thurstonforlobster.com.

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.