Dinners in Bangor
Four of us from Southern California will be attending a conference in Bangor in late June, and will be mostly on our own for dinner. We're not necessarily looking for fine dining - would prefer more casual, locally run restaurants serving local specialties. We'll have a car, so can travel a bit.
Here is all you need to know about dining in Bangor: Avoid all Chinese restaurants if you have ever eaten good Chinese. There are absolutely no decent Italian Restaurants here. You have the usual Chains..Texas Roadhouse, Smokey Bones, etc....and forget about Pizza unless you like cardboard with tomato soup on top. Now for the good news....Ichiban at 226 Union St. for superb sushi and sashimi if you stick with the local fishes..cod, haddock etc...or, and this is your best bet, drive about 20 minutes to the Lucerne Inn 207-843-5123 and order Steamed clams, Boiled Lobster and any one of their Desserts.
I disagree with Jimmy. Bangor has two very good restaurants for dinner. The New Moon, and Thistles. Bagel Central has excellent breakfast, and all their products are very good. Panda Garden has excellent chinese food, and for home cookin, you need to go to Dysarts Truck Stop, or in Brewer The Coach House. Not everyone, like myself, eats raw fish, so Ichiban, although a excellent restaurant, wants raw fish. Lucerne Inn is hit or miss. I have had real good meals there, and real lously meals there. For a treat, drive to Bar Harbor for a evening of fun and lobster, or real good food.
My wife and I (she's judybird) made it to a few good restaurants in and around Bangor. By the numbers:
1. We tried two lobster shacks, one just south of Bangor, a five minute drive from our motel by the Bangor airport; the other was along highway 178. Seating was outside at picnic tables or within a tented structure.
At Claudia’s, on highway 178 a pound and a half, steamed in salt water, hard-shelled lobster, alongside an order of surprisingly good fries and coleslaw, ran about $14. A half pint of fried steamer clams were okay as an appetizer; they were tasty, but kinda mushy. I wouldn't do them again. One of the servers -- actually, one of three women from behind the counter -- brought out the food and provided a crash course in lobster dismemberment.
On our last night in Bangor, we discovered a local lobster joint. Judy dug into a lobster roll -- shelled lobster on a strange little v-shaped wedge of white bread. Again, the fries were crunchy and good. Lobster was about the same price as Claudia’s, but they had more on the menu, and I tried a $6 bucket of steamed steamers. As with the fried steamers, they were soft and didn't have that ocean taste and smell of, say, razor clams. Everything came with a cup of oh-my-is-this-delish butter; everything -- fries, lobster, clams, and the silly white bread wedge -- got dunked.
Neither spot served wine or beer, so we stuck a bottle of fume in the car on the off chance they'd let us bring it to the table. They did and even supplied plastic glasses.
2. NewMoon: By far the best restaurant in Bangor. There was almost nothing of New England here (though they did serve the ubiquitous Haddock); main courses were more Westside California: lamb sausage and salmon mixed grill on risotto, grilled salmon, and rack of lamb. Good (and expensive) wine list, with lots from California as well as an excellent 2004 Riesling from Leeuwin Estate in Australia that cost about $30.
Service was smart and grown up -- she gave us straightforward advice about the selections, never complimented us on our choices, and avoided telling us her name.
3. Ichiban: Traditional California-style sushi bar, with lots of silly, over-the-top California-type rolls. For instance, the caterpillar roll had, oh, hell, never mind. Overall, the sushi was excellent -- hamachi, albacore (they call it "white tuna"), uni -- and all allegedly local. Scallops were fresh, though the magaro and saba were dry.
Two Cantonese sushi chefs were California-style funny and engaging. It's the only sushi spot in Bangor, so while the prices were definitely California-style, if you have more then a couple of days in town, you'll want to eat here. BTW, you can insist on ordering directly from the sushi guy rather than hand your laundry list to the waitress.
3. Muddy Rudder: Worked over Sysco supplies with a young, giggly, server. Avoid it.
4. SeaDog: Good, good beer. So, so food. Louder then hell, even outside. If you have a few days in Bangor and want good beer, this is the place to go.
5. Hannaford Supermarkets: The closest you're going to get to Whole Foods and an excellent alternative if you want to bring snacks back to the motel. We grabbed lots of sushi, seaweed salad, an octopus, squid mish-mash combo; our friends did an ersatz krab, avocado roll kinda thing and said it was excellent.
Stevebass/Judybird, much thanks for the followup with your impressions. It's always helpful to know if one's recommendations were a hit, or a miss. I had to make occasional trips to Bangor and was overjoyed when I found the newly opened New Moon after a previous favorite (PK Parker's) closed their doors.
Bangor isn't an easy food town, but at least you didn't go hungry. If you ever spend some time in Portland you'll be in far, far better food hands.