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Down East Maine recs needed (Machias/Jonesport/Milbridge)

Hi, I'm looking for any seafood, pie, or otherwise traditional Maine dining in Down East Maine. I'm particularly interested in getting recommendations for the farthest area up the coat, near Machias, Jonesport, and Milbridge, but really, I'd like to hear about anything in this region that's reasonably close to the coast. I'm not exactly sure where Mid-Maine ends and Down East begins, but I'm assuming it's more or less around Belfast, so any recs from that town going up the coast to the New Brunswick, Canada border would be great.

The one traditional Maine restaurant I keep hearing about is Helen's. I'll definitely be checking out the Machias location, especially for their pies.

Anything else in Down East that's chow-worthy? Lobster or crab shacks? Pies/desserts? Ramshackle/divey/take-out places are fine.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. By the way, I found some Down East recs at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/415410 and was wondering what you guys thought some of the places/towns mentioned in that thread:

    -Joshie's Place in Milbridge for $6 lobster rolls
    -Ruth & Whimpies in Hancock for fresh berry pies and lobster
    -dining in Eastport and Lubec; no specific restaurants listed
    -Jonesport or Beales for lobster; no specific restaurants listed
    -Little Cherryfield for blueberries; is this in the form of pies? other desserts?

    Are Joshie's and Ruth & Whimpie's truly chow-worthy destinations or merely good local spots? Any restaurant recommendations for the towns mentioned?

    5 Replies
    1. re: freshfigs

      Most of the places Down East fall more into the category of good local spots, rather than over-the-top chow-worthy. That having been said, there are some places worth stopping into. Joshy's in Milbridge is good. I am not sure the lobster rolls are still $6, although I usually get the fried clams, so I am not sure. Decent fare in Milbridge can also be had at 44 North. Avoid the Red Barn.

      One place worth stopping in at, if you are traveling before Labor Day is Tidal Falls lobster restaurant (that's not the actual name but it is something like that. I just go there without looking at what it's called). This is a neat place right on the water with great views and decent food (including, of course, lobster). To get there go about 8 miles on Rt. 1 from Ellsworth towards Milbridge. Right before the Hancock/Sullivan bridge, take a right for about one mile (there's a sign on Rt. 1) then turn left down a small road to the water. It's BYOB, but defintely worth a stop for the view as well as the food.

      In Ellsworth, right after you turn onto Route 1 at the Route 1/Route 9 split, is Finelli's pizza (it's on the left after the turn). As other posts on this board mention, many believe it is the best pizza in the area.

      Further along is Jordan's as well as Ruth and Wimpy's which you cited in your post. Both are typical summer Maine coastal restaurants with decent seafood. Ruth and Wimpy's is fun for all the automotive memorabilia around.

      In my view you have to avoid Helen's. When I first came here everybody raved about the pies. Maybe they used to be better, or I don't know good pie. In any case, I have never had a fantastic experience at either branch (Ellsworth or Machias).

      Further Down East, Scovil's Millside Dining in Harrington is an unpretentious local joint (on Rt. 1). Although not everybody on this board agrees, I have had good experiences at Bluebird Ranch in Machias (including the pie).

      In any event, that's my two cents. Enjoy your trip.

      1. re: billy

        In Lubec, admittedly the end of the world as far as tourism goes, the Home Port Inn does an excellent job for dinner. Also, driving across the bridge to Campobello Island with passport in hand, it is worth it to stop at Family Fisheries, no real decor, good portions, and tasty food.

        1. re: BookGuy

          thanks a lot for all the great recommendations, guys. i'll definitely try to check these places out. and billy, thanks for correcting the spelling of ruth & wimpy's and joshy's place (never heard of them myself, so my spelling was based on what other people had written on the linked thread).

          does anyone have any lobster pound recommendations for the jonesport/beales area (or any other coastal area of downeast, for that matter)? in that other thread, a poster had described those two towns as "the epicenter of maine lobstering." i'm wondering if there are any lobster pounds/restaurants over there that are worth a detour.

          thanks again.

          1. re: freshfigs

            oh, i almost forgot, since bar harbor/acadia national park/mt. desert isle are technically considered part of downeast maine, are there any recommended eats over there? i know bar harbor is supposed to be very touristy but i was wondering if it's worth a detour, food-wise.

            what about any of the other little islands off the coast? any of them worth visiting for food?

      2. re: freshfigs

        Good to see someone curious about the area. We spend a lot of time there in the summer months. I wish I knew someplace foodie. Joshie's is a good burger place. Great when you have a car full of hungry kids but I would not make a special trip. I say skip the whole thing and head a bit further down the road for a wine tasting at Bartlett Estate: http://www.bartlettwinery.com
        Fabulous blueberry wine among others. Beautiful side trip, nice people, wonderful wine. We go every year and bring a case home.

      3. Hi,

        Places we recommend to vacationers who rent from us in Winter Harbor, and vacationers provide positive feedback:
        :
        Tracey's Lobsters on Rt. 1 in Sullivan - our favorite chowders! Their various seafood dinners are always very good, very fresh. Friendly, relaxed, down-home service. During the highest season, they have a small salad bar that includes homemade salads. And then you can have hard or soft ice cream for dessert. :op

        Right in charming Winter Harbor, our guests always talk most about Chase's Restaurant - a very informal family restaurant with diner-like appeal. Our guests walk there from our house and they report that they enjoy all 3 meals. The short stack of blueberry pancakes is 3 HUGE pancakes. I can't imagine what the regular stack is like! What I like best at Chase's is their scallop roll, with sweet potato fries and add cole slaw on the side. The scallop roll has almost the same amount of scallops as the more expensive scallop plate. Friendly service and lots of locals eat there.

        For finer dining in Winter Harbor, you can't go wrong at chef-owned Fisherman's Inn - elegant food in an informal setting. Though expensive, the lobster risotto is heavenly memorable; we've had only terrific meals there.

        Scupper's (just out of the village toward Schoodic Acadia) is planning to serve boiled lobster dinners in the rough this summer. I think they will do well with that, right on the road just before the entrance to the Park.

        We've found the lobster pound on Rt. 3 in Trenton (on the left on the way to Bar Harbor) I think it's named Downeast Seafood or Downeast Lobster, anyway, though it has no view, it's been the most reasonable and best lobster in the rough out that way.

        1. In Summer, we visit friends in Jonesport who relocated from New Jersey. On our visits, we rarely go out to eat. Instead we make dinner at home. The lobster feast is a special occasion. We order the lobsters directly from the loberstermen who go out each morning.

          1. I don't know if you're still looking for info, as it's a year later, but here goes. Joshy's in milbridge is good take-out but probably closed for the season by now. Chase's in Winter harbor is closed. Helen's is defiitely not as good as it used to be since the daughter took over. The one in Ellsworth wasn't really related to the one in Machias.
            Not a big fan of Scovil's either. My mum lives in Cherryfield and when I take her out, it's usually to Bluebird Ranch in Machias or take out from Joshy's.
            In Calais, there's the Chandler House.
            The dining in that area used to be better, but I think it's going through a bad patch lately...

            26 Replies
            1. re: mollydingle

              I used to be a big fan of Joshy's Place. Went there 2 weeks for one of the worst lobster rolls ever. No mayo and tons of Paprika. Prices jumped 50% too. It will still be open though. Get crab rolls and head to McClellan Park. The Red Barn, been there for ever. 44 degrees North is in M-bridge too. Tall Barney's in Jonesport has changed hands and is over priced. There is a new pizza joint and bar in Cherryfield.
              I agree w/ Mollydingle, the quality has dropped.
              ps My wife related to 1/2 Cherryfield. Her parents buried there.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Actually, there are two fairly new pizza places in Cherryfield: The Blueberry Bistro on Route One as you you enter Cherryfield from Milbridge is the easiest to find. It has a bar. The newest one is the North Street Cafe located, appropriately enough, on North Street. That is now the new hangout for the local gang since the Hungry Bear closed last year.

                FYI: The Red Barn restaurant in Milbridge has been closed for some months now, but the motel is still open.

                1. re: billy

                  Thanks for the names. I am not grieving that The Red Barn has shut. In Franklin, Maple Knolls Pizza and The Tandoor for home made Indian.
                  Vive Tunk Lake!

                2. re: Passadumkeg

                  the hubby and I stayed in the area last month - Finelli's Pizza in Ellsworth was a real gem (nice thin crusted pizza - creative toppings). Great beer selection too! Tall Barney's was better than expected for a small town like Jonesport - really fine homemade blueberry pies. Ruth and Wimpys just so-so (the clams were tough and the onion rings couldn't hold the batter).

                  1. re: MABMAQ

                    I'd forgotten about the 'Blue beary', now the Bluberry Bistro (!) How is the North S.st. Cafe? What's the menu?

                    1. re: mollydingle

                      Until the legions of Cherryfield food critics/gourmets weigh in, I 'll offer my personal opinion on North St. Cafe. If you are familiar with the former Hungry Bear (nee: Maine Grocer) which used to be just over the bridge at the junction of Routes 1 and 193, you will find the North Street menu similar: Subs, pizza, burgers, chicken nuggets, fried stuff, snacks (i.e mozzarella sticks). They also serve breakfast. With the Bear gone, this is now where all the old coots (no slur intended. I'm one of them) go in the morning to gossip. Not much atmosphere (some local color, but only from the characters, not from the sterile white surroundings). There is now a deck in front too.

                      A limited survey of local pizza buffs suggests that the pizza at the Bluebeary (Blubeary, Blueberry or however it's spelled these days) is better.

                      Bottom line: if you are in Cherryfield and need something to eat, it's fine. Not a destination eatery.

                      1. re: billy

                        Oh, yes, I know where you mean now. you're right- nothing exciting, but I've certainly had worse.
                        We'll have to try the pizza at Blueberry. I miss Mrs. Big John's!
                        I really wish either Finelli's or even Pat's would open a branch in Milbridge!

                        1. re: mollydingle

                          I was refraining from the negative with regards to North St. When at camp we really miss The Mexican (Store) Restaurant in Harrington. No that it is in Hancock, we rarely go, even though we live in Ellsworth. billy & molly, where do you stay in the Milbridge area, if I may inquire?

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            My Downeast base of operation is Cherryfield. My sister lives there, so I spend a lot of time there. I understand your comment about the Mexican Store. Even though I go past it regularly on the way to and from Ellsworth, I don't stop often. If I don't eat before leaving Ellsworth, I'll usually stop (in season) at Tidal Falls or else just head straight home. I feel a bit guilty about not supporting one of the few genuinely ethnic places around, but I can only eat so many meals a day.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              Mum lives in Cherryfield, too,now but we used to live in Machiasport and Columbia. I'm heading Down East this weekend- looks like we'll be doing Dysart's at some point.

                          2. re: billy

                            Any suggestions for a new place to eat in the Cherryfield area? What type of food do you like or think would do well?

                            1. re: EateryInCherryfieldSuggestions

                              Right now, the restaurant scene in Cherryfield is a bit grim. We used to have three places that served food (Hungry Bear, Blubeary and North Street Cafe) of which the Hungry Bear is gone, the Blubeary closed (temporarily or for good I am not sure) and only North Street Cafe still in business. There is also a place next to Cherryfield Foods that sells take-out sandwiches, but it is not really a restaurant.

                              I would love to see a new restaurant in Cherryfield, but I wonder if the traffic will bear one. The ones that succeed, like North Street, subsist largely on breakfast/sandwich trade, supplemented with take-out pizza. The more full-service restaurants in the area, Scovil's in Harrington and 44 North in Milbridge have the usual Downeast mix of fried seafood, burgers, etc. That is what people eat around here and to survive that is what they have to serve. A more upscale, adventurous menu place would be great, but I can't in good conscience suggest that such a restaurant would make it here, however much I am a Cherryfield booster. If you do take the plunge and start a new place, however, I would be an eager customer.

                    2. re: mollydingle

                      Sorry to hear Chase's is closed. Is the place across the way, Mama's Boy, I think it's called, still there?

                      1. re: ngmf

                        I think I'm correct. Mama' is no more ( He moved to Ariz.) the restaurant is a summer cooking school?

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          No cooking school as my last visit, about six weeks ago. Place is empty. BUT, Chase's was still open and going strong.

                          1. re: Mainegal

                            Good to hear about Chase's. Apparently the little old lady grapevine misinformed me!

                          2. re: Passadumkeg

                            She (Roxanne Quimby) TRIED for a cooking school - fabulous sign, cleaned the place up, then nothing. Now abandoned and sad. Too bad for a small town to have such a big, empty and as some say, inappropriate place sitting right in its center.
                            Old Chase's still roars on, though closes Sunday afternoons. Fisherman's Inn still doing a great business, though closed now on Mondays. Think The Two Sister's starts dinners either tonight or tomorrow. Excellent clam chowder - the not too thick kind.

                            1. re: Tipatina

                              Yes, I found the "Havre d'Hiver Ecole de Cuisine" concept quite ludicrous.

                              I don't know if Bunker's out in Bunker's Harbor is open through the winter, but we like that quite well.

                              1. re: Tipatina

                                The town of Winter Harbor would not give a residence variance for the clients of the cooking school to live on site.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  It's a shame the cooking school concept was lost in the dispute over housing the small number of people who would have paid a lot of money to come to Winter Harbor for a week to learn from talented chefs. It could have been a terrific addition to the area, would have brought some economic development to the area in a low impact, but attractive way.

                                  The multii gabled building is beautiful and was designed to fit perfectly on the site overlooking the harbor. If you take a ride down Harbor Road to the town pier, you'll see beautiful residences that probably inspired the design.

                                  1. re: winterharborhouse

                                    I liked the food at Mama's Boy very much, although it was extremely expensive. It's a shame that they couldn't make it work, but it's also a shame that SHE has no interest whatsoever in whatever community SHE invades. Fitzy Dixon gave Winter Harbor the wonderful Harbor Hill. SHE is no Fitzy Dixon.

                                    1. re: sophie fox

                                      C'mon Sophie, be fair. It sounds like she did try to help the community. The community didn't want the help she was offering, and that was that. And Lucas St. Clair moved to Seattle.

                                      1. re: the_MU

                                        TRYING to keep this about food!
                                        Chases is good local food, has been there forever. Fishermans is often good. There IS plenty of good, affordable local food in Winter Harbor.

                                        No one, not even Roxanne with all of her money, can come into a fishing village with a rich history and plenty going for it, tear down houses, put up monstrous buildings better suited to Carmel, CA, than to a ME town, charge prices that exclude locals, and not even once ask - to my knowledge - how she can help the community - and expect to be greeted as an economic savior.
                                        She did exactly the same thing in Guilford - tried to take a small Maine
                                        town and turn it into her image of what she wanted a small Maine town to be. That's an astonishing levle of hubris!

                                        Again - I AM being fair - food was fine, at Mama's Boy and at Gerrish's, but her approach was high-handed and unwelcome.

                                        1. re: the_MU

                                          RQ DID ask the community what they wanted her to do with the lots she emptied next to her then Gerrish Store. The community wanted parking and public rest rooms. Not what she had in mind.

                                    2. re: Passadumkeg

                                      RQ had bought a house on Grindstone for the clients to live in. Apparently, Grindstoners didn't care for the idea of a dorm in the neighborhood.

                                2. re: ngmf

                                  Chase's is not closed!
                                  There is a new bakery/coffee shop in town: Two Sisters Cafe where Gerrish's Cafe was (on Main Street across from the 5 & 10). They have fresh baked goods, ice cream, lunch sandwiches. I don't know their Fall schedule, but they expect to be open year round (YAY!) with closure during Janaury for renovations. AND they plan to have some suppers during winter... such as fish fry, prme rib, so check in with them for schedule and menu updates.

                                  Donweast Deli in Prospect Harbor has terrific pizzas and whoopie pies.

                              2. There's a terrific new restaurant in Eastport - The Pickled Herring. Best restaurant in the area. We were there twice right after they opened and the food and service were excellent then, I can only assume it will get even better. They use local ingredients, and will be open year round.

                                1. While I didn't get Downeast this year, my SO and I have a terrific meal last year at the Riverside B&B / restaurant in E. Machias. Scenic location, and really tasty food. See www.riversideinn-maine.com

                                  1. Chase's can't be missed. Great food and cheap drinks and a real nice crew.

                                    1. Bumping this thread since I'll be heading to the area this weekend -

                                      I'll almost definitely be visiting the Tidal Falls Lobster Restaurant in Sullivan for the views of the reversing waterfalls and some lobster. I'd intended to go up there the last time I was in the area a couple of years ago, but wasn't able to do so.

                                      Question: is the food at this place destination-worthy, or merely "good for the area"? Does the food take a backseat to the views, or does it hold its own regardless? Any recommendations besides the lobster - steamed clams? chowder? pies?

                                      During my time in the Down East area, I'll also be visiting Blue Bird Ranch in Machias for breakfast, based on the positive recommendations here. What should I order there? How are the blueberry pies?

                                      Is it true that Helen's in Machias/Ellsworth is no longer what it once was in terms of the food and pies? Is anything there really special these days, food-wise?

                                      I don't know if Brooksville is considered "Down East", but regardless, is Bagaduce Lunch as good as all the hype suggests?

                                      Any other "must-visit" spots in the Down East area? Which of the places mentioned above and elsewhere on this site (Joshy's, Ruth and Wimpy's, Chase's, Tall Barney's, Chester Pike's Galley, etc) are merely good local spots, and which are destinations?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: freshfigs

                                        Tidal Falls no longer is a lobster pound, but it is open as a preserve and the picnic tables are still there. Go for a picnic.

                                        Chester Pike's--a must
                                        Country Charm, in STeuben: dirt cheap, unbelievably light and crispy yet moist fried fish (don't be put off by the exterior).
                                        Ray's Meats, Steuben, for sandwiches.
                                        Wildfour Bakery, Steuben, for baked goods (only open two days a week, it's posted from Route 1)

                                        1. re: Mainegal

                                          Sorry to hear that food is no longer served at Tidal Falls. We'll be sure to check it out anyways for the views.

                                          1. re: freshfigs

                                            You can get take out at The Galley at the Bridge - on the east side of the bridge in Sullivan - the turnoff to Tidal Falls in on the west side of the bridge. ANYWAY, 5 minutes from Tidal Falls. They will pack up a lobster dinner and it'll still be hot when you get to TF. Huge Lobster Roll (with too much bread, but still) and all the usual fare.

                                          2. re: Mainegal

                                            Mainegal,
                                            Ray's Meat!!! Really! Tell me more.

                                            1. re: Mainegal

                                              nthing Chester Pike's, Country Charm and the Galley. Good choices in an area of slim pickins'.

                                          3. Any updates on the places mentioned in my previous post (Joshy's, Ruth and Wimpy's, Chase's, Tall Barney's)?

                                            What about Bagaduce Lunch - I think it received a James Beard award, but some people here have said that it really overrated? Is it worth a special trip?

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: freshfigs

                                              RE - Helen's in Machias
                                              I was there in May and had the best fried scallops and steamed mussels EVER. No grit, perfectly done. It's the only time I've ever been, but my friends in East Machias go there often enough for me to give it the thumbs up.
                                              And no, I didn't have pie...I couldn't possibly fit it into my full belly!

                                              1. re: bakinggirl

                                                Thanks for the feedback on Helen's!

                                              2. re: freshfigs

                                                I don't think so. Some things can be great, others so-so, and it appears to be inconsistent. Don't go out of your way: fried food is just...fried food.

                                              3. Updates: any info on which of these recommendations will be open this time of year? I'll be up there next week - specifically a camp on First Chain Lake, my old summer stomping grounds - but I haven't been there in a couple of years and not so much in the fall. I plan to get into Machias at least a couple of times. BBS Lobsters had better be open!