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Jun 1, 2006 12:56 AM

First time visitor coming next week - Portland, ME down to Salem, Mass

  • c

Thanks for the great advice for us first-timers. It's fascinating to read everyone's insights. I will be visiting next week spending nights in Portland, Ogunquit and Rockport, Mass.

I have noted from N to S:

Harraseeket Lobster
The Lobster Shack
Fore Street Restaurant
The Clam Shack
MC Perkins Cove
Five-O Shore Road
Barnacle Billys
Flav's Red Skiff
Clam Box

Which of these are DO NOT MISS? Any others I should know about? Any finally, MC Perkins Cove vs. Five-O for dinner? I can't wait to visit and report back!

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  1. If you are spending a night in Rockport, I'd definitely recommend Flav's Red Skiff: good food and great local color. Just get there early or be prepared to stand in line for a spell. Make sure you get the homefries!

    As for clams, the Clam Box is a good choice and, as a local, one that I would definitely go for over Woodman's. Another good one is the Essex Lobster Co. It's not one you hear mentioned but it's good and typically less expensive. Farnhams ranks high as well: they use fresh oil with every batch, so their clams have a slightly sweeter, cleaner taste. All are good choices but I'd, personally, go for the Lobster Pool in Rockport. The clams aren't quite as good as at the places I've just mentioned but the scenery is amazing. It's situated right on the water and since it's on the western arm of Cape Ann you can watch the sun dip into the Atlantic as it sets.

    You mentioned in the subject line that you'll be going to Salem so I thought I'd offer up a hidden gem: McSwiggin's Irish Pub. When you walk in the door it doesn't seem like anything special, but the Fish and Chips are positively stunning. I've even brought real Irish folks there and watched them swoon!

    2 Replies
    1. re: jandazza

      If it's scenery your after go to the Lobster Pool. If it's the food, go to Farnhams.

      1. re: Shaebones

        Here! Here! Shaebones said it much more succintly than I did.

    2. Five-O has gone downhill but the old chef from there opened a place very close in Wells, Joshua's, and I recommended it over both MC Perkins Cove and Five-O (, unless you want something in Perkins Cove, then go to MC Perkins Cove.

      Agree w/ other poster about the clam/lobster shacks in and around Rockport. On a nice evening go to the Lobster Pool in Rockport. The outdoor setting is lovely there. My next favorite is Farnhams and after that is the not much atmoshphere but really good food, Essex Seafood. Farnhams and Essex Seafood are both in Essex, not far from Rockport.

      1. This is a good list. I live in Ogunquit in the summer and we eat out all the time. MC is by far our most favorite resturant. Forget Five-O. I know some like Joshuas but why sit in a restaurant on the highway when you can go to MC and have wonderful food in a beautiful space overlooking the ocean?? MC is great. I say do not miss. It is casual and pretty and is owned by the owners of Arrows- a nationally acclaimed restaurant- voted one of the ten most romantice in US by ? magazine (Saveur?? Food and Wine?? not sure). If you have the money and want a special night go to Arrows- it is in an old farmhouse fabulously decorated with views to the extensive flower gardens. They grow their own veggies and house cure their proscuitto and salmon. It is very expensive (I would say at least $200 for two) but a very special place. Long pants and a shirt with collar required for men- (not sure about sneakers).
        Barnicle Billy's- there are two- the original and Barnicle Billy's ETc. They are a few doors from each other. The original is very casual and has a limited menu- you order at the counter and they call your #- they have stemaers, lobsters, chowder, lobster and crab rolls, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, salad. The reason to go here- besides the food- is especially to sit outside on the deck. Older Bush eats there once a week on the back deck (or so Billy told us a couple of years ago and we have seen him there). They also have a great rum punch. If it is cold or rainy they have fireplaces going inside. If you want to be waited on and need more choice Billy's Etc. has fried seafood, baked stuffed as well as boiled lobsters, shrimp cocktail, steak, chicken etc. They have a patio outdoors but our choice is the deck at the original Billys.
        I don;t know why Bintliffes is on you list- nice place but not special to New England.
        RE Flo's-we crave her hot dogs and eat lots of them .You should know that they are ordinary steamed dogs in a steamed bun and it is Flo's sauce that makes them special. If you will not eat her sauce and want regular toppings do not wait in line to eat there. While you are there you can buy a jar of her sauce- it is yummy and goes great with lots of things.It is kind of a spicy relish but very different.
        Hope you have a great time and enjoy New England wherever you go.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Emilief

          Thank you all for your responses. My first trip to New England was outstanding. It rained almost the whole time, but we had our slickers on and kept on going! Some food highlights...

          Harraseeket Lobster - Excellent roll but not my favorite

          The Lobster Shack - I think this was the one at Cape Elizabeth which I loved the view but was disappointed in the chowder.

          Fore Street Restaurant - A bit of a disappointment as I didn't see the other Portland recommendations before my vacation. The atmosphere was a warm and inviting counterpoint to the ceaseless rain. I enjoyed watching the kitchen staff and the wine selections were excellent.

          The Clam Shack - Absolute favorite crab roll of the entire trip. Nice portions of lump crab with great flavor. Surprisingly the other phenomenal crab roll was at Legal Sea Food in Logan Airport (can't get enough crab) - their portions are VERY sizable and excellent quality.

          MC Perkins Cove - Favorite meal of my 9 day trip. Amazing view, loved the atmosphere, service was attentive and friendly. Had a clementine martini, which our water handwrote the recipe for after I complimented it. I'm from Charleston, South Carolina and thought I knew crab cakes, but these melted in your mouth.

          Barnacle Billys - excellent crab roll, too early for rum punch unfortunately.

          Clam Box - tried the fried clams, just not a fried seafood person. The portions were HUGE. I'll stick to crab and lobsta.

          Lobster Pool - Was closed for graduation party.

          Thanks again for all the great recommendations and suggestions. Back home I've tried to recreate crab rolls, but (sigh) it's just not the same...

          1. re: Clairechat

            So glad you enjoyed yourself, and especially that you liked MC.Visit us in Maine again!

        2. Depending on what your appetite is, I'd substitue Street & Company, on Wharf Street, for Fore Street. Or I'd stay in the bar area at Fore Street and make a meal of their appetizers, which I find to be a lot more fun than they're main courses.

          You should also go to Maple's, if you're interested in ice cream at all. It's on Forest Avenue, not so far from Pleasant Street.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dan S.

            I would also go to Street & Co over Fore St (same owner, you know). Street & Co has more interesting food, although I also agree that Fore St apps and desserts are fabulous.
            Another good place is Hugo's in Portland, but all three are quite expensive. Less expensive great Portland restos are Bar Lola (new), which is right across the street from Blue Spoon on Munjoy Hill. Both are very good, as is Local 188.
            And Maple's Organic ice cream ROCKS!

            1. re: DF

              We ate at Local 188 last night, for the first time, and was not impressed at all for lots of reasons.......
              Bar Lola is just starting to get going, and the verdict is not out yet. Maple's Organic ice cream is a must as well as Street & Co. Never tried Hugo's as yet, but we love Pat's Cafe on Stevens Avenue.

          2. Bintliff's has a great brunch. Would recommend that over supper.