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Maine - Good, Bad, or Eh...ok?

I've been fortunate enough to travel the great state of Maine for work purposes, and so I've been fortunate enough for the last 2 years to sample some of the best that the state has to offer. In reading the boards, I've been curious to know what places I have been missing. Since I get to travel from Portland to Ellsworth and everywhere in between, along 95, 295, and Rte 1.. I'm curious to know other's opinions. Here are some of my samples:

Portland:

The Front Room, Congress St. Great food, relaxed atmosphere. Small place, get there early on weekends.

Fore Street & Street & Co. - Typically great fare all around, some of the best I have found in Maine, considering same ownership.

Tony's Donuts - Portland. Share the top spot in donuts for me, along with:
Congdon's Donuts, Rte 1, Wells.

Bagel Mainea (sp?) - Western Avenue, Augusta. Great sandwiches + bread.

Bintliffs, Rte 1, Wiscasset. I know there is another Bintliffs on the Southern Coast, but this one is pretty good fare.

King Eider's - Newcastle. Good pub food, good atmosphere all around.

Lucerne Inn, Holden or Dedham. On 1A from 395 to Ellsworth on Phillips Lake. Great food all around - I have not been able to sample much of Bar Harbor food, but this place is definitely among the top in the Bangor area.

Big G's deli - Fairfield. "Interesting" sandwiches with lots of variety, and pretty tasty also. Don't take credit cards, so make sure to bring cash.

Full Belly Deli - Brighton Ave, Westbrook. Great Jewish Deli in Westbrook. Large & tasty sandwiches.

Liberal Cup, Hallowell. Great beer selection and better-than-good pub food.
Slates, Hallowell. Also a bakey - have not tried the food but heard it is very good.
Cafe Bangkok, Hallowell. Located on the same street in Hallowell as LC and Slates - very good Thai food and sushi in Augusta area.

Yosaku, Benkay - Portland. Two different sushi houses in Portland, on opposite ends of the Old Port. Both very good, in my opinion, and can't miss.

Cook's Lobster House - Bailey Island. Located at the very tip of a peninsula south of Brunswick... was famous for being in an Visa (or was it Mastercard) commercial a few years back, but very very good seafood. Also a working lobster pound. Worth the drive from Brunswick, but can be slightly on the pricier side.

Royal River Grill - Have not been, but heard good things - thoughts?

The Senator - Augusta. Located on Western Ave just off of exit 109 in Augusta - one of the better restaurants in the area, attached to a hotel.

Captain Daniel Stone Inn - Brunswich. Very good food and atmosphere, good choice for a romantic dinner. Kind of a pain to find, though.

Back Street Bistro - Brunswick. Also slightly difficult to find on a back street in downtown Brunswick, but very good food and wine selection.

Diamond's Edge Restaurant - Great Diamond Island. Have not been to, but also have heard very good things about.

Thats all I have for now... I travel to all of these areas frequently, so my goal is to try the best Maine has to offer. Thoughts?

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  1. The elephant in the room is the midcoast scene. From Rockland to Camden we have the pleasure of residing with many great chefs. Not seasonal places to pleasure the tourists but year round gourmet destinations. The big names that get the writeups in the major publications are Primo in Rockland, of course, and Francine Bistro in Camden. Others that deserve recognition are my personal favorites, Amalfi in Rockland, and In Good Company in Rockland. For a unique Maine seaside meal, Cod End in Tenants Harbor or further down the same peninsula, The Dip Net in Port Clyde are both exceptional for their niche. A couple of places that deserve a mention are Natalies at the newly renovated Camden Harbor Inn, and The Edge restaurant at The Inn at Oceans Edge in Lincolnville. Both of these places have great intentions and talented chefs on staff but are still making a name for themselves. Stop at the Market Basket in Rockport for great specialty foods and lunch to go if you find yourself driving by on Route 1.

    9 Replies
    1. re: mainecoastchef

      Have to second Primo, Amalfi, and In Good Company, but particularly Francine because Brian was recently nominated for a James Beard award (best in the Northeast, I think - left the list at work). Good luck getting in there this summer. There are also several great restaurants in Portland that deserve exploration, Hugos' was also a JB nominee.

      1. re: bi11me

        The Beard list is the initial 20 for the northeast. That gets whittled down to the top 5 for the actual award. Anyone can nominate a chef, including themselves.

        1. re: bi11me

          Yeah, you already need a reservation all the time in the winter at Francine's. Brian Hill has now been written up in every major food magazine in the last few months. I go there a lot, but lately haven't been able to make reservations and even the 6-7 bar spots where they don't take reservations have been filled.

        2. re: mainecoastchef

          Josh, 'mainecoastchef' is so right. (He's a great chef himself.)

          I moved to the mid-coast last spring just for the amazing food thing that is going on. I am a food and wine writer and consulting chef and I have been helping dozens of businesses and it just blows me away. So much so that I am slowing down my consulting business and partnered up with a winery to open a distillery and brewery to bring some more good stuff to the scene. By next Fall you will be able to buy my whiskey, vodka, gin, etc. made from all Maine grown organic grain and botanicals.

          For great gourmet provisions, charcuterie, foie gras, cheese, boquerones, ice cream, the Sage Market in Rockland is a must.

          Francines, In Good Co.,The Edge, Natalie's are all great. I am starting to think that In Good co. may be my favorite. I have had problems at Primo's on more than several occasions. I hope they pull it back together for the 2008 season.

          Don't leave out Suzuki Sushi in Rockland. They just may have the best sushi in the state, and Yuki is developing some great new dishes. Her Maine Shrimp shumai are fantastic. I helped develop a new product that Suzuki and several other places will soon have on their menu. Smoked local uni. It's amazing stuff that is being made by Chef Carl Johnson of Grindstone Neck of Maine in Winter Harbor. i shopped it down in NYC this past week at top restaurants and to some of the best chefs and they loved it. Also Gourmet Magazine tried it and played with it in their test kitchen. they raved anout it and there will be an artidle in Gourmet.com and maybe in the magazine.

          By the way, the word is that The Dip Net is opening a location in Rockland where Amalfi's is right now, after Amalfi moves to their new location.

          1. re: JMF

            We just spent the weekend up in Camden, and had dinner at In Good Company in Rockland Saturday night. Fantastic meal, excellent wines, great atmosphere, nice pace, surprisingly reasonable bill. We look forward to going back this summer, though I fear the in-season experience will be quite a bit different from our off-season treat. The artisan cheese platter was exceptional and featured three selections: a blue, a raw cheddar and a Portuguese cheese whose name escapes me. Our salads were fresh and delicious. Can't say enough good things about the place. Go!

            1. re: man of salt

              In good company is serving dinner? I thought they only served Hors d'Oeuvres.

              1. re: Farnam897

                No, they serve meals, not a huge menu, but really nicely done, they have a cold filet of beef that is really excellent.

                1. re: aynne35

                  I haven't been there for over a year (wine gives my significant-other a migraine) — now I have an excuse!

          2. re: mainecoastchef

            Scott Yakovenko’s original Dip Net is no more. Has it been over a year now, longer? since Linda Bean purchased dock, stock, and barrels over in Port Clyde?

            As of this writing, still no word about the next Yakovenko treasure.

          3. Have you been to Cleonice in Ellsworth? We love it there.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Alica

              Yes Cleonice is special. Calypso, The Riverside Cafe, now serving dinner, and the Union River Lobster Pot, in the summer, are worth a visit too. All downtown Ellsworth.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Really? I only went to Cleonice once but wasn't impressed. Nothing we ate really jumped at me and several weren't that hot.

                1. re: JMF

                  For little Ellsberg, Me, it's the best we got. Primo or Francine's it ain't. I'd hate to think of the dining options w/o it. I do not, however, care for their paella. Coming to the far downeast coast of Maine from, NYC, I feel, perhaps, your standards are higher than some poor schmuck who left the NY area 40 yrs ago. For us it is a place where we can eat tapas and drink sherry on a Fri. night and be home in 5 min. We appreciate that. Try it again.
                  The post is the Good, the Bad or the Eh... Cleonice is good.

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Well said, Passadumkeg. I very much appreciate the amazing variety and quality of the restaurants and shops in the midcoast area, in all of Maine, really, and I'm just happy they're there.

                    wince when posters apply er-urbanized and overwrought critiques.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      Passadumkeg and Shooley- I think you are making some major, and incorrect assumptions about me and reading a lot into the little I said. I much prefer the little places where a chef is trying to do the best they can with local products. Ur-urbanized? What is that supposed to mean?

                      By the way Shooley... do I know you? Which wine shop do you work in? TWS?

              2. What, no Great Impasta in Brunswick or Harry and David's. I agree with the back st bistro but you could also add MaryellenZ's in bath and the Kenebec Tavern for pub food, also in bath.....

                1 Reply
                1. re: jspear

                  Kennebec Tavern is decent and an easy place to get to from Rte 1 in Bath. You can see it from the bridge when heading South.

                  Try and go there once it warms up so you can sit outside.

                2. You have also missed Robinhood Meetinghouse, great food and atmosphere....CDS must be greatly improved from my last visit there to warrant a second look

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jspear

                    stayed at the daniel stone, what a wreck. the food by observation was only fair and the restaurant basically empty, doesn't speak well.....

                  2. While I have opinions on lots of these (and generally agree with you), avoid Diamond's Edge at all costs: horrible service, over-priced and indifferent food.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: mainemal

                      I agree to avoid Diamond's Edge. It is as expensive as the top restaurants in Portland but the quality and service doesn't come anywhere near the top Portland restaurants. Caiola's should be on anyone's Portland list.

                      1. re: hicow

                        I know Bangor is a place we'd all like to skip, but after living there for 5 years, I found there really is some good food. Not much, but some worth stopping for en route to Bar Harbor. DON'T go towards the mall. That's the trap everyone falls into and then you're stuck in chain restaurant hell. Get off at Hammond Street and go towards the real downtown. Stop in to Bangor Wine and Cheese and Cafe Nouveau. Such a great place to eat, sip some amazing wines, and eat some fabulous desserts. It's a gem. Also, Ichiban is one of my personal favorite sushi places. Better then any I have had in Portland or NYC. Have fun and don't skip Bangor. It's worth a drive by at least!

                        1. re: billyblue

                          Yes Cafe Nouveau is a find. So is the place around the corner that sells a lot of take out dinners. A Mexican hombre that serves a nice lunch, "International" cuisine. And BYOB too. What is the name? I was in Bangor yesterday and surprised to see the new Italian market and the bakery next to it. Have you tried them? Glad to see Bakkala(?), the Pakistani place, looked open. I've found the 3 Eng/Irish Pubs, so close together, all disappointing for food. Have you any recs.?

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            You get up early.... Caught you on your home turf! A Zappa fan, no less, who loves chili. Who wouda thunk it for such an eloquent person that uses fifty-cent words. Mornin' to you!
                            BTW, is your handle related to the town or the Passamaquoddy indians?

                            1. re: Scargod

                              I don't sleep a lot. We have a great local community radio station,WERU (www.weru.org). If you listened late on Tues. night I played Zappa on Woodstock Radio. Today, a Latin show, Gracias A La Vida and I took in 2 doz, burritos for fund raising folk. I just made a good chicken mole verde. This Tues. eve. at 8, blues, Zydeco and Tex Mex on Southern Winds. As a side line I teach high school English.
                              At the end of April, I plan to head south for Russian Easter and hit some of the taco trucks in New Haven. Any recs.?
                              Havee you ever been to O'Rourkes?
                              North Haven is also an Island in Maine.
                              I love Rositas Al Pastor on Riverside in Austin.
                              Do the nasty nasty on the White House Lawn!
                              Mozart is the Man.
                              Carpe Diem
                              Tigers pee on Bull Dogs!
                              Julias' summer home was at Laupus Pt., Bernard Me.
                              Got it?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                O'Rourke's Diner in Middletown? No...
                                Uh, I don't think I got it. :^(

                                Zappa
                                Mozart
                                Women's basketball game
                                Place on Lopaus Point Road (looks like a beautiful spot).
                                Nope, don't got it. Too cryptic for me.:^)

                                And, you're not going to believe this: I made chicken and chorizo in mole verde last night! I had to use sunflower seeds, but I had frozen tomatillos from the garden last year. Brown rice and avocado for sides.

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  Our sides were brown rice & pintos w/ a salad.
                                  Our eldest went to Wesleyan and we got to enjoy O'Rourkes
                                  I like Mozart too, besides Zappa
                                  I grew up near Princeton, you live near Yale
                                  I cook a lot of Mexican, but youngest is home this week from Amherst, so lamb and duck this week.

                                  If in the area try Chester Pikes Galley in Sullivan on Rt. 1

                            2. re: Passadumkeg

                              Montes International Catering and gourmet cafe is where the Mexican Hombre was cooking. They have great lunch items. everything homemade. Great sandwiches, salads and quesadillas. Their desserts are to die for.