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need recs for acadia np (maine)

  • m

hi all,

my wife & i will be tent camping in acadia this fall (late september time frame). i've perused the boards a bit, but can't to seem to find much current info on the acadia area (most recs seem to be 3-4 years old). any input you can provide on the lists below will be greatly appreciated, as well as anything not on the lists. we're primarily interested in breakfast & lunch places, although dinner recs will not be overlooked. since we're camping, we'd appreciate nothing too upscale; jeans & clean shirts will be about all we'll be able to muster up. price doesn't matter if the food is good. we'll definitely be gorging on lobster a time or two, so any comparisons/preferences between the pounds listed/others will be especially appreciated. we tend to prefer local's hangouts and ethnic food rather than touristy places.

jordan pond house

bar harbor area:
atlantic brewing co
ben & bill's
cafe this way
fish house grill & raw bar
lompoc cafe
mache bistro
mama dimatteo's
michelle's brown bag
morning glory bakery
poor boy's
the reading room
two cats

bass harbor:
seafood ketch

thurston's lobster pound

campground/scenic 1a:
the red barn


northeast harbor:
151 maine st
full belly deli
house of m

otter creek:
burning tree

somes sound:
abel's lobster pound

southwest harbor:
beal's lobster pier
deacon st
quiet side cafe

thanks for your help...

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  1. We just returned from Bar Harbor a couple of days ago....I would avoid Jordan Pond House. WAY overrated in my opinion. High prices, so-so food. The popovers that everyone raves about were horrible! The view, however, was great.

    While there, we also tried:
    McKay's--we thought it was pretty good. The entrees seem to be on the pricey side but there's a small pub menu you can order from as well. My husband and the fish and chips and they were excellent. I wanted something lighter and ordered a portabello burger, which wasn't that great--I ended up eating off of his plate. I enjoyed the beer much more than my dinner!

    Cafe This Way--we went for breakfast. Neat atmosphere and a large selection for breakfast. My husband was disappointed in his omelette, but I thought it was pretty good. I would probably search for another breakfast spot, though.

    Havana--By far the best meal we had while there. Everything was excellent--great cocktails, great appetizers, delicious entrees, and fabulous dessert.

    7 Replies
    1. re: marshmallow78

      t'as folle??? Jordan Pond house has sublime food, esp popovers and lobster stew.

      1. re: cambridgegourmande

        Sublime? Are you aware that MDI HS has its all -night prom there every spring?
        Some how sublime are misplaced modifiers for popovers and lobster stew (Honestly, lobster stew was served in the Pemetic and Tremont Elementary Schools in 1990.). A very "nice" tourist trap. I'll refrain from local behind-the -scenes horror stories.

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Wow. They seem to have requested fairly casual places. My family visited Acadia from Iowa. While lacking in upscale eateries in Iowa, we have fairly well-trained palates in our family. My family thoroughly enjoyed Jordan Pond's popovers, stew and views. In fact, they phoned in the middle of their meal to brag. It seemed to be a comfort-food kind of place, not gourmet by any means, which should fill the above request.

          1. re: Passadumkeg


            The popovers are fine, but what's there to rave about? The lobster bisque was good. The other dishes we ordered were bland and overpriced. I ordered the grilled chicken today. I got the smallest piece of chicken I've ever gotten at a restaurant. This isn't some gourmet restaurant where they can get away with serving such a tiny portion. BTW, I'm a light eater and get full easily, so for me to say the portion was small is saying something. The sides were wild rice and overboiled green and yellow squash with no seasoning. That was like $12 or so. One of us ordered the steamed lobster: was OK, came with a small side plate of broccoli florets and same rice. ($21) One of us ordered a lobster salad, not a great presentation. Our bill came to about $95 and we left feeling gypped and disappointed. Don't say you weren't warned! To top it off, Jordan Pond is nothing to write home about.

            1. re: surinj

              Right on. Bring a lunch, a bottle of wine and sit on the lawn w/ a nice view of The bubbles (Puritan eEnglish translation for Les Tetones).

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                I'm going to have to agree with you both, after our visit, and retract everything I said. It was ridiculously overpriced and not at all amazing. I think they were just deluded by their love of Acadia. We ate there twice, once for a rehearsal dinner, and once after biking the trails. I agree with the posters above, pack a picnic lunch!!

                1. re: kamknauss

                  Definitely pack a picnic for your hike, and if anything, have a popover and some iced tea at JPH, if you're really crazy about popovers. Ate there once and will not make the mistake again.

                  I would add skip Town Hill Bistro; there's no way they'd legitimately be anywhere close to top of the list in BH; there are a lot of much better restaurants in the area, without so many sound alike reviews.

      2. oh, i forgot one on my op. a place called george's was mentioned frequently in the old posts, but then i thought i read where it had closed. is this the case? if it's still open, is it still good?

        3 Replies
        1. re: mark

          Markie Bear,
          George's: RIP, bummer.
          For some southerner "from away", you did a wicked good job with your list, but have 2 erroneous recommendations. Testa's is the biggest tourist rip off on the island. Miguel's violates the basic rule of good Mexican, nobody speaks Spanish. Expensive glop called Mexican. You did fail to mention Cafe Blue Fish which is worth a visit just for their lobster strudel! There is also an interesting new Brazilian restaurant on the Manset town dock where XYZ started. It is run by an independent candidate for govenor in the last election. Haven't heard about the chow yet, but she and her hubbie are professionals from Portland and she has lived in Brasil. Good signs.
          Being a local year round resident and educator, I usually frequent, on principle, year round locally owned restaurants rather the wham bam thank you mam, money mill restaurants so common in BH.
          There is a new family orientated rest. in NE, Tan Turtle, with a HUGE menu.
          If I were drop a wad, I'd go to Havana. Cafe Blue Fish, Mache Bistro, Geddy's Gaylyn's and Poor Boy's are all locally owned, open all year, and have good reps. Jordan's is the best deal for brekkie and the not mentioned Thirsty Whale Pub is where the locals go; I can sit at the bar and talk to my sons' friends who are lobstermen, not great fare but very reasonable.
          Finally our favs. in the area are not on the island. We love Finelli's pizza, Cleonise and Jordan's in Ellsworth; and Ruth and Wimpies for cheap lobster and local color, Le Domaine and the Crocker House for a splurge, and the most scenic and altruistic lobster pound in Maine, Tidal Falls Lobster Pound, all in Hancock.
          To paraphrase Callivan Trillin: the more beautiful the natural scenery the poorer the food. The chef is out enjoying nature instead of slaving over the hot stove where he should be.

          Marco el Hambre

          Oh yes! The Burning Tree in Otter Creek, all local organic ingredients and Eden on West St in Bh for excellent, reasonable priced Veggie fare. Chester Pike's Galley on Rt. 1, in Sullivan, has the best breakfast I've ever eaten, lobster Benedict w/ Key lime pie for dessert!

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            A friend recommended Fiddler's Green in Southwest Harbor for dinner? What do you think of that restaurant?

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              We spent a week in Hancock last summer and our favorite meal was at the Tidal Falls Lobster Pound. Summer before had an amazing meal at Le Domaine, and would have loved to have gotten there again but somehow never managed to get there. This summer, perhaps (my brother and his family live there).

          2. From a 15-year MDI summer resident...

            Bar Harbor - Havana is the best. Ben & Bill's for ice cream. Morning Glory bakery. Breakfast at 2 Cats. No to Miguel's. Lampoc good, fun to watch bocce players from outside seating area. For lunch, love the outdoor grass terrace at Bar Harbor Inn with its yellow umbrellas. Food is excellent, using lots of local produce, seafood, etc. Great view of the harbor, heads above the other tourist-trap waterfront joints.

            Bar Harbor's Sunday farmers market good option for dinner groceries or picnic fare.

            Burning Tree in Hull's Cove one of best on MDI.

            Jordan Pond House - don't agree with other poster. It's a must-do, always take my guests there. Popovers to die for. Decent wines, beer. Make reservations, ask for outdoor patio or screened terrace.

            Northeast Harbor - Docksider was always very good, haven't been in awhile. Like the Asticou Inn for Old Maine ambiance. Avoid Matta Cena if it's still there, had a couple of OK lunches but horrendous dinner.

            Abel's is in a pretty setting but outrageously overpriced and not so good.

            Southwest Harbor - XYZ (for states of Xalapa, Yucat√°n, and Zacatecas) is a must if you like authentic Mexican - the real thing, with margaritas from scratch. Owners spend winters in Mexico and bring back many ingredients .Festive, hip atmosphere. Call for res and directions, hard to find.

            West Side Grill - excellent food at breakfast, luch, dinner. On Dysart's Great Harbor Marina access road (Apple Lane) next to the West Marine store. Fab views of harbor.

            Sips cafe - casual, breakfast lunch & dinner. Mediterranean meze platter is great.

            Red Sky - bit more upscale than those above in SWH. Dinner. Food consistently good.

            Little Cranberry Island - for a nice island experience take the ferry from SWH over there for lunch or dinner. Great views - reserve and ask for seating on deck or windows. Food and service uneven but can be very good.

            Bass Harbor - best sunset viewing (except Cadillac Mtn.) is at Maine-ly Delights across from Swans Island ferry dock. Basically a seafood shack, has its share of fried dishes but lobster and crab are very fresh and tasty.Non-seafood options. Dough-boys famous. BYOB. Most tables have a view plus there's a deck.

            Best lobster pound - Thurston's in Bernard overlooking Bass Harbor (almost a completely working harbor). Have tried them all and this wins hands-down. You'll watch boats unloading lobsters from your perch on two screened decks. No reservations. Long wait in high season at peak hours. Beer and wine avail. Order before you stake out a table.

            Ellsworth - just after leaving Ellsworth on the road to MDI is Bankok, adjacent to Colonial Inn motel. Very good Thai food. Cleonice (mediterranean fare) also good.

            NON-FOOD NOTES
            Please consider using the Island Explorer to get around MDI. It's convenient and cuts down on traffic congestion. Also, nothing's really a bargain - the season is short and businesses have a very limited period to make money. Final word of warning - avoid Bar Harbor when cruise ships are in port - it gets unpleasantly crowded.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Memsahib

              Spot on, except I feel Thurston's has gone down hill. Too bad The Seaweed Cafe is gone(the blond sushi chef was our son).

              1. re: Memsahib

                Not only is XYZ bland, but I wouldn't call its atmosphere anything close to 'hip' and 'festive'. Everyone was dressed up, I felt a bit out of place in my shirt and jeans. The atmosphere was pleasant, just that it reflected its upscale pricing. Mexican meets fine dining, only the dining wasn't fine.

              2. thanks for the feedback!

                we're really looking forward to the trip, and will, of course, post back with our experiences.


                1. Note that in late September some places may be closed - although last year, fall foliage was HUGE in Bar Harbor, and there were as many people on Columbus Day in October as I've seen on a busy day in July - so maybe it's changing.

                  The Jordan Pond House is wonderful - delicious popovers, fun for lunch or tea outside on the lawn. My favorite meal is a bowl of sublime lobster stew with popovers and a house salad with excellent blue cheese dressing, and lemonade or maybe iced tea. While you can't eat outside at dinner, there's a fine fixed-price meal - simple food, done well. I WOULD advise sticking to more straightforward far, and I haven't been crazy about the lobster roll. The seafood chowder is also excellent.

                  I absolutely love having a drink before dinner in the Bar Harbor Inn's lovely bar - excellent bar mix to munch, outstanding drinks, lovely service, a nice view, and GOOD piano music. Dinner is also very enjoyable - again, I stick to somple, traditional fare - but breakfast in the dining room is FABULOUS.

                  I has lunch in Testa's last summer and it was very pleasant,

                  Cleonice in Ellsworth has WONDERFUL tapas. Jordan's in Ellsworth is great for the traditional fried seafood bit and ice cream.

                  Le Domaine - a long drive from Mt Desert, close to an hour - is superb, one of the best French restaurants I've ever encountered. The menu is limited, and some people don't like that. You could call and ask, if that's a concern.

                  * using the Island Explorer is a GREAT idea!!! *


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sophie fox

                    is the old Bistro 151 in NEH still open? Name changed last year....can't remember what it is called although think it was asian inspired food.

                  2. Hi, Mark.

                    I just returned from vacationing on l'Isle des Monts-deserts, stayed couple of nights at Blackwoods and the rest of the time at Seawall. Loved loved the western side of the island. I have tried chowda and lobster in couple of places and have to tell you that Thurston's wins hands down. We went to Thurston's for our last lobster meal and I really regretted for having had others. Night and day difference. Like others said go early, even we were there on a weekday and got there around 5 they were already out of hard-shells (I like soft shells anyway so no regret) and bigger sizes were going fast.
                    If you can, bring a big pot to cook your own lobster and couple of nutcrackers. There is a warf in Bass Harbor CH Rich Co. where you can buy fresh lobsters and cook yourself. It's actually right on the Island Exlplorer route and if you time it right you can take one that goes to Bernard, get off in Bass Harbor, do your shopping, and catch the bus back to Bar Harbor in 20 min.

                    Had breakfast at Cafe this Way - great omelettes (I had one with smoked trout and basil - Yum!), by SO's corned beef hash was delicious too. Good locally roasted coffee.

                    In Southwest Harbor, Little Notch Bakery - great coffee, baked goods and lunch items looked good. Sawyer's Market - way overpriced, limited selection and nothing special IMO, the chocolate I bought was stale! Good enough for sailors visiting the marina, but if you are driving, either go to SW mart or Hannaford in Bar Harbor.

                    Other things to note:

                    Giddy's - was very disappointed with, nothing special and very touristy.

                    Otter Creek market - locals warned me that they freeze their lobsters, which is probably fine, but if you can get live ones all over the island why settle for frozen ones?

                    JPH - those popovers sure looked good, the wait time was way too long for us, so we skipped it. The prices for a NP concession were very reasonable IMO.

                    Lobster Claw on West St. in Bar Harbor - locals swear by their lobster rolls, mine was perfect - tiny touch of mayo, toasted bun, but very very little lobster meat IMO.

                    Alternative Market in Bar Harbor - great little store for organic and health food. Good coffee, they also sell breakfast pastries and sandwiches for lunch.

                    Coming from NY, NY, not bothered with any of the ethnic places, so cannot comment...

                    NON-FOOD Notes: If you're thinking of bicycling on the island, make sure to plan it so that you're not returning by Island Explorer from the JPH - a bus can carry only up to six bikes and it seemed like on afternoons everyone had given up on returning to BH on 2 wheels.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: welle

                      thanks for the post, welle. our trip is at the end of the month, and we're really looking forward to it. definitely plan on bringing a big pot; my fondest lobster memories are of boiling them over a campfire while sitting on the atlantic shore in maine and letting the butter run down our arms as we dug in around the picnic table (just have to remember to clean-up well due to the critters). can hardly wait.

                    2. ok, we're back, and here's what we found (sorry, some of the details are already blurring; roughly in order of our visits):

                      sips - we were looking for deacon st but couldn't find it, so settled on this place. breakfast here was just so-so, by far our least favorite of the trip. i had french toast made from a baguette; either needed to let it soak longer, or should use different bread, as it was quite dry. my wife's mushroom omelette was fine.

                      seafood ketch (following a good hike on mt acadia, so we were hungry) - good chowder and lobster bisque. also tried a couple of good beers from abc. i had the seafood sandwich, which was good. my wife got a lobster roll that was one of the better ones we tried. really good fried potato wedges. the crab roll looked really good. ok blueberry pie.

                      cafe this way - pretty good breakfast. i had the french toast monte cristo, which was good. very fast service.

                      jordan pond house (following a nice long bike ride on the carriage trails, so again pretty hungry) - popovers were great, especially with the blueberry preserves. a little trick we found - pop a hole in the popover and slide in some butter, then rotate to distribute. good chowder, and i think my wife got a lobster roll that was fine. really good lemonade, and i loved the way they served simple syrup on the side to sweeten to taste. great view. blueberry crumble ala mode was good.

                      thurston's - lobster and butter and beer, what's not to like. we got the meal/platter; sides were ok, but nothing outstanding. if we were to return, we'd get one platter and split the sides.

                      jordan's - decent blueberry pancakes and hash, although neither was comparable to dysart's. again, very fast service.

                      ben & bill's - not the healthiest lunch, but it was good. i had heath bar with huge candy bar pieces in it, and blueberry. yeah, weird combo, but it worked for me.

                      two cats - ok breakfast. i had the farmer's breakfast, which was fine, but nothing special. biscuit with strawberry butter, however, was delicious. once more, very fast service.

                      docksider - very weak chowder, mainly potatoes. ok lobster rolls (but we may have been lobster-ed out by that point). seemed to do better on the fried stuff.

                      parkside - bar harbor was pretty hopping thursday, and we didn't feel like fighting the throngs, so stayed on the outskirts. nothing appealed on mckay's menu (i was in the mood for fish & chips - forgot about the post above that referenced the pub menu, which had them), so we went next door to parkside where fish & chips were a special. got a huge plank of halibut that was excellent. fries were good, too. my wife got the scallops off the early bird menu, and said they were good; huge serving - probably yesterday's must-gos, but my wife liked them.

                      we were very impressed with the speedy service at all the bar harbor breakfast spots. also was a great time to visit as we never once had to wait for a table, and we weren't avoiding peak times. traffic was never an issue either.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mark

                        Thanks for the follow-up post...always nice to hear what is thought about various recs on this board.

                        Deacon Seat has been gone for a few years now. Maggie's Diner is in it's place. I've never been so can't comment. Deacon Seat was good.

                        BTW McKay's fish and chips are good. Fries are good but not great. Not sure how it compares with Parkside, but the portion is huge also.

                      2. I'm researching dining options for our family's first trip to Maine this coming June/July; we'll be spending a week in Bar Harbor. This thread (along with others) have been really helpful. Unfortunate for us, my husband and I don't really like lobster, but we love crabs, clams, and practically all other seafood items. I have searched old threads and I'm having trouble finding recommendations for great fresh steamed crabs and clams. I'd appreciate some recommendations, anywhere from Portland to Bar Harbor but mostly on Mt. Desert Is. Thanks in advance.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Scotch

                          The best deal for buying crabmeat I've found on MDI is Rich's in Bass Harbor. It's a hike from Bar Harbor, but the crabmeat is unbelievably fresh. If you go down there, it's right next too the Seafood Catch Restaurant, on the way to the ferry to Swans Island. I just got some and the price has gone up (what hasn't?), but it's only $15 per pound, much less than other places. If you will have a place to make your own crab roll, it's definitely the way to go.

                          1. re: BikeToEat

                            A lot of restaurants have steamed clams. Very common(but red tide is rearing its ugly head early this year.). Crabs, however, like mussels and calamari are not a Maine tradition. At both Shaw's & Hanneford supermarkets in Ellsworth, you can buy them live and they cook them for free; very cheap. Or they can be bought live at the Trenton fish market, on the left, just before the bridge. Clms can be bought fresh on rt 3, 2 mi after the Trenton bridge on the left in BH

                        2. Year round Mainer here:

                          I'd avoid Jorden's Pond House unless you're into the tourist experience. The popovers are good and the view is lovely, but there are far better values and plenty of places to enjoy the view once you're in the park. Havana is excellent as is Morning Glory. One place I'd definitely avoid is Rupununi: I've been there twice and both times the food was bad and the service worse. It's right in the center of Bar Harbor and gets a lot of walk in business but don't be tempted by that.

                          If you get a chance, go to Winter Harbor and walk along the Schoodic Penninsula. It's very unspoiled, not at all touristy whenever I've been there and really lovely.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SharaMcG

                            Shara no speak w/ forked tongue! Take a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine to BOTH Jordan Pond House (sit on the lawn) and Scoodic. Don't get to close to the surf at Scoodic, each year tourists are washed away posing for a photo on the rocks. The locals go to Thirsty Whale, in Bar Harbor.

                          2. This is late and the info is as old as what you have seen, but I'm a fan of Galyn's. The last time I was there the owner was in with his family for a birthday dinner and I spoke with him for a while. They have an amazing chutney (think it comes with one of the App's) and he had the kitchen write down the recipe for me. My girlfriend and I cooked up a batch, bottled and distributed them as holiday presents.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: velotrain

                              Galyns has class without emptying your purse or pretense.