Upper Downeast Maine Coastal Eatin'
I will be spending a week in the Jonesboro area of Maine and am looking for interesting places for eating (as opposed to dining).
Am especially interested in Fried Clams, Lobster Rolls, Chowders, Lobster Pie, anything "In the Rough", Blueberry and Other Pies, great breakfasts, hot dogs, burgers and any unusual eating unique to the area.
Have spent a week eating everything between Jonesport Maine and Canada, so can now answer my own post.
General observations first. I was looking for eating as opposed to dining, so these comments speak only to those places that don't attempt fine dining.
1. This area doesn't get as many tourists as Bar Harbor and below, so the restaurants here can't focus just on Fried Clams or Lobster Rolls. Most restauraurants that do seafood, and do it very well, offer a rounded menu of beef, chicken and such, too.
2. This isn't really lobster or lobster roll country. Yes, lobstering is the primary industry, but try as I did, I couldn't really find a great lobster roll - nothing comparable to Red's or the Cape Porpise Lobster Company. Lobster is on the menu, but often just the same chicken lobsters up to 1.5 lbs that are available everywhere.
3. Where the area shines is in stews, chowder, scallops, halibut and fried clams. All the stews and chowders are cooked to order. I had an incredible clam chowder at the Blueberry Ranch in Machias. Whole clams with bellies added to warmed milk, butter and clam stock. Similar scallop stew at Helen's in Machias and lobster stew at the Crossroads Restaurant in Pembroke.
My best meal Down East was away from the coast, though on coastal Rte 1 - the aforementioned Crossroads Restaurant in Pembroke. Lobster stew packed with claw and body chunks. Large chunks. Then a very large portion of fried clams that were shucked an hour before frying and are served with homemade tartar sauce (only place I found that did this, most offer kraft or similar packets) and fresh cut (only fried once unfortunately) french fries, and the best blueberry pie I found this trip.
Two non-eating but food learning stops - The Beale Island Regional Shellfish hatchery, on Beales Island next to Jonesport, the only hatchery specializing in soft shell clams and whose clams go to most of the clam flats along the coast - and Raye's Mustard factory museum - where they used to mill mustard for the Maine sardine industry and what is now the only working mustard mill / museum in the US of A.
I wasn't too sure what to find this far north, eating wise. What I did find was a far higher consistancy in fried clams, stews and chowder. My guess is that because the locals rule in this area, they won't put up with some of the stuff that Southern Maine tourists permit.
Hi Holly, I live in western Maine and there's a place I plan to try later this summer on the coast. If you pass it and it looks interesting to you, you can beat me to it! It'll be on Route 1 in Stockton Springs, called Just Barb's. From what I've heard she tries very hard to use only local stuff. Don't know when you'll be coming though. Not much local produce yet, except for rhubarb! I owned a piece of property in Machias until just recently; unfortunately I never had a chance to explore the Downeast coast. Have fun. Pat