Barnacle Billy’s Opening Day – Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine 2014

Barnacle Billy's - Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine

There’s something special about Barnacle Billy’s in Perkin’s Cove, Ogunquit, Maine.

Billy Tower has left a legacy. He opened this landmark restaurant in 1961 – and in the years since, he’s hosted multiple US Presidents, NFL quarterbacks, famous actors and tens of thousands of appreciative Ogunquit locals and tourists.

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William “Billy” Tower passed away in July of last year (2013) – a significant and resounding loss for Perkins Cove and Ogunquit – and this is the first year ever that the restaurant has opened without him.

Still, the family is serving. The locals and tourists are arriving…enjoying.

Ogunquit has no need of groundhogs. We know that spring has arrived the day Barnacle Billy’s opens its Perkins Cove doors for the season.

Sometimes it’s a little earlier…sometimes it’s a little later…but it’s always as soon as Perkins Cove in Ogunquit begins to come alive, shake off the winter frost and begin to welcome throngs of tourists with open arms.

Today I took the short walk from the Hartwell House Inn on Shore Road to Barnacle Billy’s in Perkins Cove to witness the 11am season opening.

The spring sun was shining. An energy was inherent in the cove – one that hasn’t been felt since late autumn of last year. Loyal Ogunquit lobster worshippers had made the trek – despite the cold breeze and lingering tendrils of winter.

Fun, to see the dedicated Barnacle Billy’s parking lot staffed with employees again…the sign proudly hanging, the door of the celebrated building opening and closing, the scent of wood smoke from the restaurant fireplace drawing attention.

I take a few photos and longtime-manager, Chuck, appears outside. I shake hands with him for the first time in months and we exchange winter stories.

Later on in the evening, the wife and I head back to Barnacle Billy’s – attending opening night is a must for all Ogunquit residents – a rite of spring.

They inform us at the door – seating is tight tonight – “hang in there and a table will open up”.

Snippets of conversation captivate the ears. “I hope we’re able to break the record again this year…

Before long, fortune smiles, a window seat with a view of Perkins Cove opens.

The best rum punch north of Key West is ordered. Conversation at the table turns to the crowds, the restaurant and the draw.

Why do we all come? Why do so many make the pilgrimage?

Is it about the change in seasons? Is it in honor of the icon who helped to build Perkin’s Cove into the unique destination it is today? Is it motivated by the cabin fever a Maine winter inflicts on us all?

I think it’s all of the above — plus a sense of place. A celebration of the crustaceans. Something in the terroir of the lobster meat only available in Ogunquit. Something about how the flavor and strength of the celebrated Rum Punch interacts with the taste buds and pleasure centers alongside the sweet and tender succulence of the lightly dressed meat from our local lobster stock. The din of the crowd. It’s something in the building. Something collected in the wood of the building itself – the accumulated excited passion of an endless line of lobster eaters stretching back to the Eisenhower administration. It’s there – and when you’re there, you’re part of it…

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About Eric Taubert

Eric Taubert is the founder of Barometer Media and the publisher of the Ogunquit Barometer. He is also a fine art / street photographer (Taubert Gallery | Ogunquit Art Association/Barn Gallery) and an innkeeper at The Hartwell House Inn on Shore Road in Ogunquit, Maine. Visit him on Twitter @erictaubert

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