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Oct 19, 2005 11:49 AM

Dinner in Camden, ME

  • p

I've been given these 5 choices for a business dinner in Camden - Primo, Natalie's at the Mill, Ephemera, Francine's, and Chez Michel. Any thoughts on these choices? The meal will be expensed, so cost is not an issue. Good ambience (meaning conversation is possible), and quality but not too fussy food are the prime requisites. Thanks!

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  1. Chez Michel is loud with waitstaff so busy they're almost running from table to table. And the food is very so-so. I tried Ephemera and was very disappointed with a decidedly tasteless salmon quiche.
    There have been recent posts here expressing disappointment with Francine's. Natalie's is good but very fussy & stuffy. The waitstaff is too obsequious for my taste. There's a fabulous new restaurant next door in Rockport - The Gallery Cafe at Prism Glass. Totally awesome!

    1. Hi, I can give you the following recommendations:

      Chez Michel -- just "no"
      Primo's -- EXCELLENT food, service. Not formal or fussy. But it's in Rockland, about 15-20 mins. from Camden.
      Francine's -- I have not eaten there but I have friends who have eaten there twice now and LOVE it. It's referred to as the place for the "trust fund babies", which my friends are decidedly not. But they said it's a "must".
      I've not heard of the other two you mentioned, but there are two other restaurants that my husband and I have liked very much: Atlantica and The Gallery Cafe (it's also a gallery called Prism Glass Gallery & Cafe).

      Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pam

        I had two great meals at Atlantica a few years ago but rarely see it mentioned on it still around? Is it still good?

      2. I love Primo in Rockland. Yes, it is a bit of a ride, but a nice one, and well worth it. Great food, atmosphere, just perfect! I met Elinor Klivans there! (Author of several great baking cookbooks, lives in Camden) And although there are nice places in Camden, they aren't this good.

        1. Probably way too late to voice a useful opinion, but Primo's gets my vote. Great food, good wine list, excellent atmosphere. And the people who own it are just remarkable.
          We've also enjoyed Natalie's; didn't find the servers a problem at all.
          But, stay away from Francine's; they're too apt to ruin an evening with bad service and just basic rudeness.
          (Gallery Cafe isn't bad, and we do like Atlantica a lot, though it is in a different class in terms of sophistication and creativity.)

          1. Primo's is hands down the top choice, as it is a James Beard award winner in its fabulous chef Melissa, with the front room run by her very caring and capable partner. The food is some of the best you will ever eat in your life, made with local stuff they have grown in their extensive gardens, and other fresh things bought locally. Primo is on a par with Hugo's in Portland and Arrows in Ogunquit as Maine's only three world class restaurants. A list of desserts that simply out of this world, an extensive wine list that can surely dent your expense account, and attentive and careful service make this place absolutely tops. Natalie's comes in second, with superb food and very attentive service in a wonderfully redone old mill. Francine's is a local yokel place except for the massive tourist season, where you'll sit about two inches from the sweatshirt and jeans wearing folks at the next table and hear their whole conversation, whether you want to or not, eating OK fare. No need to go to the other two; we often go to Primo's two nights in a row since it is such a treat. Mike Coughlin

            2 Replies
            1. re: gizmo61

              If I'm not mistaken, Primo's owner/chef is a transplant from the Chatham Sheepherding Co. in NY State. They folded and she has moved on to great success. I enjoyed a meal in the Chatham location a few years ago and look forward to the same this year on one of our trips to ME. Being retired now, cost is a consideration. Can you give me an approximate cost for dinner for two?

              1. re: feelinpeckish


                Looks like you're right - about the chef's provenance

                We've been the last couple of years on vacation & I can't give you an up to date price but it's not cheap - basically big city good restaurant prices rather than small town Maine. IMHO it's worth it - extremely good, fresh ingredients cooked in interesting though simple preparations - we always try to splurge there one night & eat more restrained the next couple. My recollection is that main courses were in the $25-$30 range. They have lots of wine by the glass too which is great as you can try different wines with different courses, I believe they were reasonable for the quality of the wine but still probably ~ $10.
                Hopefully someone can give you more up to date prices but I noticed no one had replied for a while.
                Staff were always v. friendly & attentive - we always felt v. relaxed, able to ask questions etc & never got that 'big restaurant, superiority complex', you can get.
                Hope this helps!