Summer afternoons shouldn’t be wasted loitering in over-air-conditioned restaurants with unnatural overhead lighting. Save those joints for autumn, when your already-icy mother-in-law comes to visit.

This summer, when the sun and local beaches call, head to Charlie Bennett’s Store in Kennebunk for monster subs made to order in less time than it takes to finish putting on the sunscreen.

The sandwich shop is open daily starting at 7 a.m. during the summer season, and locals know that a swing through Bennett’s is a must on the way to Kennebunk Beach or Gooch’s Beach. It’s a must on most lunch hours, too, for those unfortunate folks who still have to work in the summer.

The parking lot is a constant changeover of cars full of area folks aching for a chicken cheese steak, and beach-ready out-of-towners who had the good fortune to stumble upon the place.

Inside, the wood-trimmed walls host Cheverus jerseys and newspaper clippings of local teams and notable neighbors. Behind the front counter, the open kitchen bustles with sandwich-making productivity.

The overhead menu board offers an ample, but not overwhelming, list of hot and cold sandwiches. The hot side includes pastrami and cheese ($6.50/small), hot veggie ($6.50/small) and chicken cheese steak ($6.50).

Cold sandwiches include ham and cheese, tuna and seafood salad, all $6.50 for a small. Sandwiches range in price from $6.25 to $6.75 for a small, but don’t be fooled — there’s nothing small about them.

Smalls are plenty large — and larges might feed a small army.

For little appetites, Bennett’s visitors can go with the grilled cheese ($3.75), chicken tenders ($4.95) or 4-inch “cub” sub ($3.35).

Tack on a side of fries, or make fries the meal — that’s allowed in the summer — for $3.50.

Bennett’s also serves Gifford’s ice cream.

Orders are placed at the front counter with the welcoming staff, which seems mostly made up of high school students working the summer for some extra cash. For many it might be a seasonal routine, managing the grill or the register. Sure seems that way, judging by the efficiency back there.

Hungry customers need wait only a couple of minutes — just enough time to grab a soda or fruit juice from the refrigerators and maybe a bag of chips from the rack — before their order is ready. Or grab a dozen eggs while you’re there, since Bennett’s also boasts some corner-store essentials.

And even though it’s possible to hustle in and out of Bennett’s in a hot summer flash, folks don’t have to. Sandwich-loving diners can settle into an umbrella-covered picnic table on the store’s large patio or on the nearby lawn.

There’s no rush, unless of course you’re headed for the beach. In which case, there’s no time to waste. Summer won’t be here forever.

And neither will Bennett’s.



The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.