HOME > Chowhound > All New England Archive >


Don't understand the love for the Maine Diner

Stopped by the Maine Diner yesterday and just don't understand why people think it is great. The place was hopping at 3.30 and I think in part to the lack of restaurants open at this time of year. I had the cup of seafood chowder and it was quite good but sadly the only thing that was. Hub had clam chowder and while he said it had good flavor, it had few clams in it..mainly just potato and broth. I had the buffalo shrimp and it was awful..not spicy just super vinegary and the shrimp texturally were like eating mush. Not pleasant. I explained that to the server when she asked me if I would like her to pack it up and she gave me some inane " the shrimp are small" I don't know.. I just know it was gross and inedible. Hub had the Maine crabmeat melt and that too was not good either. There was no way there was more than 2 o/z of crabmeat and it was covered with a big salty blog of cheese. Our comment to each other was that had we made this ourselves at home we would have thrown it out.
Finally...I find the price point a tad high. Fine for market value seafood...but this slop cost us close to $40.00 with tip.
Maine crabmeat melt $12.95..add fries that's $14.90. A club sandwich with fries $11.90? Not diner pricing has far as I am concerned. Should have got a clue with all the Phantom Gourmet references on the menu. As far as I am concerned that is never a good sign.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't understand it either!

    1. My sentiments exactly. We stopped there a few weeks ago on our way north, and I had the lobster roll, which was fine, and fries, which again were fine. My husband had the Irish benedict, which featured canned hash and hollandaise that was clearly artificially-flavored reconstituted powered stuff. We won't bother returning.

      1. We went to a diner in North Woodstock, NH that we'd heard raves about and saw lines out the door. I paused and experienced some alarm when I saw the "Phantom Approved" sign on the door but we went in anyway. Blech! The food and service were awful. Now, if I see anything about the Phantom Gourmet on a restaurant door/window, I keep on walking.

        1. I wonder if this isn't north vs south? When we, Ellsworth residents, drive south and need chow, we are always surprised at how much more food costs in "Little Boston" (Ouch!) area of Maine, than it does downeast. If these prices were charged in Milbridge, the only ones that could afford it would be tourists. Price reflects locale.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Passadumkeg

            I just wonder how many of the patrons are tourists and not repeat customers. Standard diner fare such as mac and cheese with kielbasa pricing should be fairly easy to control. It's $9.50 at the Maine Diner. I find that on the really high side for diner food.

            1. re: tunapet

              I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the Maine Dinner is not as good as advertised. I think there prices reflect there press reviews more than there actual substance. I recently had the open faced turkey sandwich and was assured by the waitress that it was real turkey. But it was nothing but grocery store turkey roll. And not a very good tasting one at that. And they didn't even have any cranberry sauce. Earle Ct.

          2. I'm glad to see so many feel this way. We stopped at the Maine Diner a couple of years ago on our way to Portland as we had heard a lot of favorable things about it. I ordered scallops, the SO had the lobster roll, and we decided to split an order of mac and cheese just to see how they handled a diner classic. What a disaster. The lobster roll was drab and didn't seem fresh, which given the location was a real disappointment, while the scallops bore the tell-tale mark of having been previously frozen. That is, they were raw and still icy on the inside--after the first one, I started cutting them all in half and saw that it was a general problem. The mac and cheese was oily and flavorless. To their credit, they did take the price of the scallops off the bill. The room was packed, and most people seemed to be enjoying themselves, but it's not a place I'd visit ever again.

            1. Add us to the folks who think the Maine Diner is meh. I think it's pricy and the food, while OK, is nothing to brag about.

              1. I'll have to add my voice to the chorus as well... I'm a huge diner fan, and I'll usually put up with a lot in exchange for a classic of this magnitude. But my experience there was not good (a sausage omelette with poorly chopped sausage patty in two rubbery eggs and about 6 pieces too many of yucky American cheese- panfries not included). I've wanted to try again, but my husband refuses to go- he had to all but beg for a coffee refill... kind of a deal-breaker for him.

                3 Replies
                1. re: happybellynh

                  This is great-- all of us Maine Diner haters coming out of the closet. I've never understood the hoopla. I either eat in Wells or hang a right and go into Kennebunkport.

                  1. re: JackNH

                    Just think how the MD came into it's alleged popularity, PG boys maybe?, you know buying ad spots.

                    1. re: treb

                      It's not just them--Jane and Michael Stern are fans as well:


                      Unfortunately I think this is one of several cases where the Sterns' taste is simply a bit suspect, at least in my eyes. Or perhaps that should be fortunately--I certainly believe they honestly like the Maine Diner.

                2. I haven't eaten at the Maine Diner for lunch or dinner all that often, and when I have, it has been just OK, and rather high-priced for what it is. I have, however, often had breakfast there when travelling, and that has always been excellent - I highly recommend the baked beans at breakfast! The pie's good, too, and I've always found the waitresses very pleasant .

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: sophie fox

                    In Southern Maine, everything is high priced. Try living here. The Maine Diner is reasonably priced for this area. There's a reason they have stayed open for 25 years, and thats because they do have good food. Im sick of people who eat there once and then put it down. They have customers who eat there every day. The owners are fantastic. The food is good. It's diner food. Ive never had a problem with any of their seafood and Ive been eating there since I was a baby, but then again, if you're such a picky seafood eater then dont order it from a diner. The waitresses are always friendly and there's a owner there 90% of the time. In my opinion The Maine Diner is an excellent choice, but not if you want gourmet food.

                    1. re: mainegirl61605

                      We ate there once for breakfast, but wouldn't go back.

                      I wouldn't say it was -bad-. It was mostly adequate for breakfast, as I recall, but nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly not worth the wait to get in. The Egg and I was better despite the longer wait, as was, uhm, Amore, I think it was called...

                      The service at the MD was fine, for it being so busy. The prices were reasonable for the area, and the portions were acceptable. It's just, with so many other options in the area that are also fairly priced and actually superior quality, without the long wait and cramped dining room, why wouldn't I go to one of them instead?

                      There's a place like it here in Berlin, VT called the Wayside. It is always jam packed with locals, the prices are really reasonable, and the portions are reasonable as well. But the food is eh. Yet it is busy from the moment it opens until it closes. It's not -bad- it's just nothing special.

                      There are so many diners that are actual, true diners that manage to do something special and good (ever watch Diners, Driveins, and Dives on Food TV? GREAT show) that I just can't see wasting my time, energy, and money on acceptable. :)

                      I just don't buy the idea that "it's a diner" automatically means "mediocre is what to expect".

                      1. re: mainegirl61605

                        Well, regulars plus nice owners don't necessarily equate with good food. And scallops that are served still frozen in the middle . . . um, if you don't eat them are you then a picky eater?

                        I don't think folks are expecting gourment fare just plain, good, food for a reasonable price. Sure prices are higher during the Season but no one wants to get ripped off, either.

                        They have cute ads on PG and it draws a lot of people to a spot where there's not a lot of places to eat. We did MD once then decided it wasn't worth the prices and lines. We go across the street.

                        1. re: three of us

                          That's the Bull and Claw across the street, right? I didn't think much of their quality either. :)

                          1. re: Morganna

                            You're right, it's not a destination stop by any means. However, it was decent, the prices fair, the service pleasant, and the food okay. They had a good drinks menu and were very kid friendly.

                    2. Years ago, we used to go to the Maine Diner, esp when we wanted breakfast food for a light dinner. I was there the other day with friends (all from this area) for lunch and we could not believe how much the prices have gone up and the quality has gone down. I had a small scoop of tuna on a basic salad (romaine lettuce, toms, and cukes) and it was $10! Side of baked beans which used to be $1.25, has shot up to $3.25 - it's not like the price of beans has skyrocketed!! One friend got the lobster stew, very small bowl, and it was $16.95. My very boring, basic lunch cost $15.00. Last summer Windows on the Water offered a delicious five course lunch in a beautiful dining rm for same $15. I think Diner did a good business with locals because it is one of the only restaurants open from breakfast through dinner, and used to be reasonably priced. That's no longer the case. We won't be going back. Merriland Farms is now open, and serves a terrific breakfast and lunch in a beautiful, rustic setting overlooking a golf course. Love their sweet potato fries and their pancakes with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries (real berries, not that compote or jam), and their eggs benedict. You can sit outside if weather permits, or in the farmhouse with blazing fireplaces if it's cool. It's in Wells, on Coles Hill Rd, which is on left off of Route 1 just before you reach Maine Diner (if you're going north on Rt 1). The setting, ambiance, quality of food, and value are far better than Maine Diner. It's a little gem.

                      4 Replies
                        1. re: maina

                          Does Merriland Farms have a website?

                          1. re: Morganna

                            Yes they do,http://merrilandfarmcafe.com/Thanks to Marina for the post.my wife and I go to Maine quite often and have had breakfast in all the usual spots. This sounds like a very nice place to try on our next visit. Thanks again. Earle Ct.

                          2. re: maina

                            Just looked at the menu and it looks like it's worth a vist. Thanks so much for sharing!

                          3. Glad I read this, those repeat commercials were starting to get to me. I'll stick to ricky's when I'm up north way.