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Dining (& Eating) on Mt Desert Island

Back in the '80s and '90s, my wife and I spent a week every other summer at a cottage on Long Pond, near Somesville. We're going back for the first time in ages, and need advice....

VERY unhappy to learn that George's (Bar Harbor) has gone; this was our favorite place -- recognizably "Maine Food," prepared with imagination. I think The Burning Tree (Otter Creek) is still around? XYZ (Southwest Harbor) is still getting raves, but Mexican food is not why we go Down East. We'll do the Seawall Dining Room once, for nostalgia and deep fat (ditto The Wharf, in Bass Harbor). And we have room reservations for our last night at the Claremont (Southwest Harbor), so we'll probably have one go at the hotel dining room. Lunch at Thurston's Lobster Pound (Bernard) at some point.

What are some don't-miss restaurants that have opened or are still in operation since 1999?

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  1. Just back from a research trip to MDI. Had three fab dinners: Havana (spring menu is wonderful, but due to change soon; prices are edging upward--my paella was $36, high for MDI); McKay's Public House (I had boulliabaise, and it was very good), and my fave, the funky Cafe This Way (cobbled together a dinner from the appetizers--they're all so enticing, I never got to the entree page), all in downtown BH.

    Also had a superb lunch at Redbird Provisions, In Northeast Harbor--pricey, but worth every penny. So good, we contemplated returning for dinner (the flatbread topped with taleggia cheese, trumpet mushrooms, parsley and drizzled with truffle oil was outstanding). Little Notch Bakery is expanding to NE, too.

    Lots of changes on island: In Southwest HArbor, Bela Mare is back iin its old location (where XYZ was before moving up the hill). Gilley's Head of the Harbor has been purchased by the woman who runs Thurston's, and my source said she plans to turn it into another Thurston's-like operation--good news for SW. Also a new family-friendly place replaced the other Italian place on the edge of town. Maddy's, the hot dog emporium, is now a bar.

    IN BH: Emily Damon (previously with 151 and House of M in NE) is now chef at McKays. Morning Glory has a new owner and has been revamped to make it much more user friendly, with tables inside. It's now open to 7 pm. and menu has been expanded. Cafe Milagro has expanded into the space previously occupied by The Spot Grill (which moved down a few doors) and added crepes and gelatto (delish gelatto). Thirsty Whale was completely rebuilt--looks exactly the same, but nicer. EPI had a help wanted sign in the window--a good sign, as locals didn't think it would reopen. Rumor is that Rosalie's has a new owner--I didn't have a chance to substantiate that.

    Yes, Burning Tree is still there, reopening later this month. Another standby is Maggie's, in BH. Newer chices are Sips for lighter fare, Harbor Treats fpr Asian prepared foods and splurging at Red Sky, for a fine meal out, all in SW, and Eden for vegan, in BH--everyone at the inn I stayed in that went--at least three parties--raved about it, even the carnivores. One woman, who traveled widely, said it was the best espresso she's had outside of one cafe in Italy.

    Longtimers still in existance include the Docksider in NE, Seafood Ketch, in Bass Harbor and De Muro's Top of the Hill in SW--doesn't look like much from the road, but the food is very good and the prices low, their lobster feast is downright cheap, for what's included.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Mainegal

      Mainegal, what kind of research do you do? It sure as hell ain't The Jackson Labs or the MDI Biological Labratories! Wo, I live here 12 mos. a year and you come for a few days and I learn. Do ypu have a blog? A book? The chef at The Spot was the owner of The Seaweed Cafe, a place my kids learned to cook and a place we sorely miss. I staart work in BH on the 21st, I'll get to check t out then; funny, so near but so far away.

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Blog, yes, to update readers of my three books. You can link through my profile. I don't want to be accused of pimping my causes here. But I cover the chow scene in my books, and I'll be in the Acadia region often this summer.

        I didn't know The Spot owner formerly owned Seaweed. I sorely miss the Seaweed, too.

        I tell ya, Cafe Milagro's crepes looked mighty fine--it's doing both sweet and savory. I'll be trying those when I return at the end of this month. And the gelatto, again.

        Speaking of gelatto, I think BH has more ice cream /gelatto per square mile than any other place in Maine, perhaps New England, maybe the world: Bill's, MDI-2 locations, Jordan Pond, the place on Main St. facing the green that I never can remember the name of, West End Drug, and a bunch of other storefronts also selling ice cream in addition to t-shirts and trinkets. No wonder the town washes down the sidewalks at night.

        1. re: Mainegal

          The chef at The Spot is the former owner of the Seaweed. If you remember the cute tow head blond sushi chef at Seaweed, that was my son!
          You do an excellent job, your observations are always spot on!

      2. re: Mainegal

        We ate recently at McKays and Emily is no longer there. Know where she might be cooking now? We loved her Northeast Harbor restaurants.

      3. 'Ol Mathah has the old Edsel Ford place, Skytop, in Seal Harbor. The goin' joke is that she also purchased his wine collection for 200k, but he kept all the good ones. Don't try to drop in uninvited, she likes to prosecute. The Cranberries are a short kayak paddle from Seal Harbor. You can launch from the beach and from the water, get a nice view of Marthah's humble abode.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          I went to McKay's on Saturday night with two of my sisters. We shared apps of Baked Brie (wedge wrapped in phylo served with mango egplant chutney and crispy flatbread, Crab Cakes and a spring "pizette" which was like a grilled pizza with roasted garlic, caremilzed onions, fresh spinach and cheese (parm maybe?) All were OUTSTANDING especially the crab cakes.

          We then went right to dessert and shared the lemon cheesecake. It was a HUGE square piece with a light, almost whipped cheesecake with lemon zest and a wonderful oatmeal crust that was hint salty. I wasn't wild about the raspberry drizzle, it had kind of congealed. We also shared creme' brule that was good, but not amazing.

          The three apps, two desserts and three glasses of wine came to $64. Service was excellent. The atmosphere was perfect for a rainy night. Dark, warm and inviting.

          We went into the Thirsty Whale after for a drink but it was crowded and loud. We ended up down the street at Bubba's where they had an entertainer (guy singing, playing guitar) The interior is really nice with beautiful wood booths. Service was fine, drinks were EXPENSIVE. $8 for a stoli and tonic.

          1. re: delong99

            Didn't Bubba's (unfortunately) close?

            1. re: Alica

              Alicia - that's what our inkeeper asked too! It was open with a Bubba's sign hanging. I guess it had changed names, or was going to, or is going to?

              1. re: delong99

                My husband and I are vegetarians and we used to LOVE Bubba's! They had the best vegetarian tempeh reuban we have ever had. We were so sad when they closed. I would be so happy if they ever came back! I guess you never know!!

        2. Thank you, Mainegal and others....and hey, what's up with that mysterious retail space in Southwest Harbor on Clark Point Road, just east of Main (Rte 102)? Every other year for ten years, it was a different restaurant.

          Speaking of retail, Port in a Storm bookshop (Somesville) is still open, right?

          6 Replies
          1. re: Ukulele Ike

            Yes, Port in a Storm is still open in Somesville, and it now also operates in Bernard out of the faux lighthouse with the lobster buoys on it--you know, the one in every photographic essay about MDI.

            Let's see--on Clarke Point, just east of Main Street: Red Sky (one of the tops on island--right up there with Burning Tree), Sips (wine and espresso bar, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and serving lightish fare), the bar that replaced the hot dog emporium place that was there last summer, which replaced Maddy's, which replaced--is that the space you mean?

            Also on island, tucked away and not on most folk's radar scan is Town Hill Bistro--I haven't been, but I've heard good things from friends. Might be worth checking out.

            1. re: Mainegal

              Uku Ike. is the space the former Deacon's Seat? Yes it does change often. Or is it the post office building? Things change there a lot too. Just not enough winter business. Yes, The Bistro in Town Hill is an often missed gem. The same owner as Cafe Bluefish and home of the famous lobster strudle.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Ahhhhh - Town Hill Bistro is definitely NOT owned by the Cafe Bluefish! The Town Hill Bistro just opened last year and it REPLACED the Blue Sage (which WAS owned by Cafe Bluefish). One of the owners of The Town Hill Bistro was the original owner of Mache in downtown Bar Harbor. This new restaurant is open year-round and was busy all Winter!

                1. re: morla

                  Thanks for the correction; gettin' old, I guess.

                2. re: Passadumkeg

                  No, the post office building is on the north side...I meant the space just past the corner on the south.

                  Wait, there's a Bistro in Town Hill? With Lobster Strudel?!? The kind of strudel that George's of Bar Harbor was famous for? Wow...I've always thought of Town hill as being just that gas station/general store at the crossroad of 198-102 and Knox Road. Where you can get rat cheese, homemade baked beans, and the Sunday New York Times, if you're lucky.

                  1. re: Ukulele Ike

                    Town Hill has become quite the neighborhood. It is one of the areas that the people who live year-round on the island can afford. There is a lovely small bakery "Delice" and right next door there is the Bistro - both are open year-round. This is not a "tourist" spot but a thriving year-round community. There is a brand new $100,000 playgound going in this year. Mother's Kitchen has been a lunch staple for years. There is also the famous "Atlantic Brewing Company" and delicious "Mainely Meats" bbq. If you haven't been to Town Hill in awhile - well....maybe I shouldn't be posting this on the internet :)