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Off-season mid-coast ME

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Looking for suggestions in the mid-coast area that would be OPEN for this weekend. Definitely need a seafood/lobster recommendation, and may do one more formal meal as well.

I am aware that nigh-on the entire state is closed up in March, but would appreciate any suggestions.

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  1. The Sea Basket in Wiscasset is supposed to reopen sometime in March. Outstanding seafood. Casual, order at the counter/call your number place. Impeccably clean...sweet potato fries, great chowder. They use convection fryers....incredibly crispy and virtually greaseless!

    http://www.seabasket.com/

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    Sea Basket
    303 Bath Rd, Wiscasset, ME

    16 Replies
    1. re: Science Chick

      Ever since the change in ownership, it (Sea Basket) just hasn't been the same. We used to stop there often, but after a few sub-par performances we have not returned. I believe that they changed some of their suppliers and now are serving a few frozen-fish options which just is not the same (and shouldn't happen in Maine of all places). Maybe it's just me though...

      Would second RMH.

      1. re: obraustin

        Wow.....bummer. We were there twice last year with the new ownership and thought things were just great. When were you last there?

        Another great option is Dolphin Chowder House outside of Brunswick in South Harpswell...oh wait, they don't open until May 1.

        1. re: obraustin

          I was there several times last season and didnt notice any change at all. I didnt even know it changed ownership. I love the place. I almost always get the same thing. Shrimp basket with onion rings, and perhaps a chowder. My DC always gets the fish/chips. All those things were excellent all last summer and for as long as i can remember

          1. re: hargau

            I didn't know there was a change in ownership either. Was last there a few months ago, but I always order the same thing--fried belly clams with nothing else. As always, they were well fried and excellent.
            Can't attest to any of the other food.

            1. re: mjoyous

              Yeah, we were a little nervous when we found out that the original owner had sold. But everything we had, from chowders, fried fish/clams, salads, sweet potato fries and lobster rolls were as tasty and wonderful as ever. I'm planning on going back in May..will definitely report!

              1. re: Science Chick

                Its one of the highlights of my summer!

                also im not sure what would be frozen, you can watch them breading the seafood right behind the counter.

                1. re: hargau

                  Well, they could use frozen fish, thaw it and then do the breading/frying. We, the customers, wouldn't be able to tell visually that the fish was thawed out. I recently met w/ the proprietor of a fish joint in southern Maine, and he ONLY used "FAS" stuff (Frozen At Sea). Fish, clams, everything. I saw him thawing it out in the walk-in fridge and everything.....yuck!! From his point of view, it was most cost-effective and made the minimum waste since he only had to thaw what he used. I tasted it and it was definitely lacking.

                  That being said, the fish/clams at Sea Basket tasted fresh as a daisy to me. My BF has a VERY sensitive palate, and he would know for sure if it wasn't on the up and up. Maybe they used frozen/prebreaded chicken strips or something? Obraustin.......this has raised alot of questions.....what did you have that was sub-par??

          2. re: obraustin

            I've been following this thread today and hearing from Hounds who's tastes and opinions I've long respected. I also have been a patron of Sea Basket for many , many years and was there several times last Spring, Summer and early Fall. Like SC, I was aware of the change in ownership and watchfull about their upholding the rep of one of the best seafooders on Rte.1 anywhere. The bottomline was they were/are just as good as always.

            "and shouldn't happen in Maine of all places"

            Which leads me to the question; where do you come by your information regarding their use of "some" frozen in lieu of fresh seafood? I don't mean to be confrontational but It's a serious accusation that needs some clarification.

            Harp

            1. re: Harp00n

              I actually never said that they definitely changed fresh food to frozen. I think all of us have been to a restaurant where we felt we had frozen seafood/product, right? That's just how I felt on a couple of occasions. Perhaps my untrained palette was incorrect, or perhaps it was correct. I do not know for sure, nor have I purported to know for fact as you have implied (Harp00n). My experience is just that: my experience. I do feel as though the quality of the food has changed, thus, I have not returned. No ill will. No hard feelings. It's just not what it was to me previously (I would go there very often - any reason for celebration means Sea Basket time). The batter seems to be more noticeable to me. I always felt that previously, the batter did not impede the fresh-fish taste. I obviously felt different last year. The scallops were just not how I remembered them. And the lobster stew did not seem as incredible as before. Maybe I was on the look-out for something new and set myself up for disappointment. Who knows. I certainly could be wrong...

              Your bottom line is yours, Harp. Mine may be different. If you and others still enjoy it, fantastic. I personally have chosen to patronize another location for my fried seafood fix. I appreciate the way you presented your views and asked questions, Science Chick. It seemed to come from the "we all have different experiences" paradigm, rather than the confrontational one. That dialogue really makes chowhound threads a fantastic discourse :-) Maybe I'll have to give it another try (although I'm not admitting defeat just yet).

              1. re: obraustin

                Hi obraustin,
                Yes, we've all had frozen seafood at one time or another, besides fishsticks of course. In fact, one of my go-to places, The Chickenbone Saloon in Framingham, MA. serves flash-frozen Icelandic haddock and it is one of the best fish n' chips to be had in the area. As you say; your experience is yours and no one can deny that or should. I just get a little perturb when people, in general, state with a certain degree of sureness in their tone that restaurant X uses canned hash, frozen veggies, fish or whatever. That may not have been your intentions but thats how it struck me. I may be alone in interpeting your statement but I doubt it. In any event, it wasn't personal. It was an inquiry as to what drew you to that conclusion and knowing, as most did not, that the ownership had changed. Again, it wasn't meant as a personal attack and I'm sorry if it struck you that way..

                All the best,
                Harp

                1. re: Harp00n

                  Harp and obraustin,
                  Got to agree with Harp on this one, your post doesn't only comment on your experience it states "now are serving a few frozen-fish options which just is not the same (and shouldn't happen in Maine of all places). " Them's fightin' words for a place with this rep. Seems like other posters aren't seeing or tasting your experience and that is the benefit of a board like this, to each their own. I don't think Harp was out of line to find out if you "knew" that they are serving frozen and in fact, many establishments on the coast to a flash frozen item for things like Haddock. Maybe it's worth another try all around??;)

                  1. re: jspear

                    Oh my! The upcoming season is sure to be an acid-test now!! Hold onto your bootstraps!

                  2. re: Harp00n

                    Not to revive any sense of tension after a nice ending to a thoughtful debate....and I mean this to all as purely food for thought....but FAS is actually considered by many to produce a high quality seafood product, as there is little time for quality to deteriorate on the vessel or in transport. Once thawed, the fish is virtually as fresh as the moment it was removed from the sea.

                    That said, I am a HUGE proponent of eating local seafood, and could not be happier to see that others seem to share this value. Instead of emphasizing the importance of fresh seafood, you might consider encouraging your favorite local restaurants to purchase very local seafood whenever possible. There are growing numbers of fishermen pursuing direct marketing opportunities to local restaurants and other customers--ensuring a better price for the fishermen and exceedingly fresh product to the customer.

                    1. re: mminmaine

                      Hi mminmaine,
                      I'd rather revive one of the 103 lobster roll debates on this board, kidding, just kidding!

                      As I commented north of here on this OP, the Icelandic haddock at the Chicken Bone Saloon is FAS or flash-frozen and virtually undetectable from fresh caught. The point, as you've appreciated in your second paragraph, is consumers being provided knowledge of the sources for their meat, fish, veggies & fruits and how they were "grown" and subsequently handled enroute to restaurants or to their own kitchen tables.

                      Harp

                      1. re: mminmaine

                        I could not have said it better. Oddly enough, fish will rot if not kept cold. I think that people who demand fish that is fres-from-the-hook should go fishing. Moreover, learn something about the process. (Would they rather have tremendous waste, even if THEIR fish could make it to THEIR restaurant table in time?) I'll take FAS that is local anytime.

            2. I think you'll find Damariscotta River Grill open, and very nice food, indeed: www.damariscottarivergrill.com And if you're getting as far as Camden/Rockland, you'll find lots of places open: Lily Bistro in Camden, e.g.

              1. Conte's, Rockland. Italian seafood, extremely casual.

                1. Thanks, dzop for asking that -- I'll be up the following weekend.

                  Over Rockland/Camden way, I was wondering if Suzuki Sushi or Francine Bistro are open this time of year -- or whether anyone has other good suggestions (taking note of LIly Bistro and Conte's). Many thanks in advance.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: harrie

                    Primos and many others on many other mid-coast threads,

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      Primo is closed this time of year, no?

                      I checked out the threads before I posted here, and am trying to weed out the places that are closed in the off-season. Never mind, I'll just make some calls.

                      1. re: harrie

                        Sorry I misread, I've moved a bit further north, and don't frequent the Rockland area as much as I used to. Rockland Cafe for fishcakes and beans for breakfast.. Amalfie, 2 Pubs and I'm not sure what else. Mainegal, where are you?

                  2. Primo is closed until late April/May; but In Good Company, Lily Bistro, Suzuki Sushi, Francine, etc. are all open for business year-round. There is also a very casual place, called the Boathouse, on the water by the former MBNA complex in Rockland's South End, that does a very reasonable lobster dinner. Last time I was there it was $14.95. The other food at the place is decent: hamburgers, fried clams, steamers, mussels, and those are the items most worth ordering, in my experience. I've heard the more upscale food they serve is not so hot. But the view is spectacular. Decent beer and a few wine choices worth trying.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Shooley

                      Thanks, Shooley!

                      Passadumkeg, sorry I cranked out on you.

                    2. Le Garage in Wiscasset and Robinhood Meetinghouse in Georgetown. RMH has a great theme night on Thursdays and tasters available....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jspear

                        Also, Mae's Cafe in Bath and Back St Bistro in Brunswick along with the Great Impasta in Brunswick, these move away from the seafood only genre however....

                      2. I'm fond of King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta. Totally unfancy but well prepared food, excellent beer list. Fresh oysters.

                        Plus you can go to Reny's after. :)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: the_MU

                          Not a fan of King eiders at all. Perhaps for beer or raw oysters its good- no cooking involved there.

                          1. re: hargau

                            It's true -- every time I go there I get beer and oysters. Never been disappointed.

                        2. Okay, back from the Maine adventure. First dinner, Cafe Miranda -- we were tired, it's a comfy place and we remember how to get there. I had an awesome salad of shredded beets and winter greens, with some pine nuts and a balsamic-type dressing. It was perfect, as far as the balance of peppery greens against the dressing and beets. I could eat that salad every day. My entree, the shrimp carbonara (with peas in a light creamy sauce over pasta), was excellent too, but I'm not going to wax poetic over every morsel consumed or anything. They're also featuring the Maine shrimp -- we split a plate of peel an' eats, and they were to die for.

                          Second dinner was at Lily Bistro. It was kind of a tossup, but I knew I could only get the hubby to go to one place with "bistro" in the name; and while you can't eat websites, the Lily Bistro website was much more informative and workable than the Francine Bistro one, so LB prevailed. It's a nice, cozy space, and our two-top was roomier than most; we didn't feel squished at all, tabletop-wise, which sometimes happens.

                          We did the Prix Fixe menu; for starters I had scallops on a tasty risotto, and the hubby had beef tartare. Both were excellent. Our mains were roast chicken and tuna au poivre; again, excellent, and though the wait between courses was on the edge of being long, the food was well worth it. Desserts were to die for, and we're not that big on desserts; but the choices were chocolate pot de creme and profiteroles with banana ice cream and chocolate ganache. If I could have licked the (profiteroles) plate, I would have. It was a really nice meal, overall. Not to mention a great deal at $40 per person (hell yeah, we took the glass of wine option -- without a drink, it's $35 per).

                          I know Lily Bistro is newish, and people have mentioned service lapses. If we were tough graders, there were things I could have picked on; but the quality of the food, and the willingness of the help to satisfy customers made up for any inconvenience. I'd go back again in a minute. I hope they succeed, because the food is really, really good, using local sources when possible, etc. - all good stuff, IMO.

                          We also noticed the owner (I think) running over to Suzuki Sushi to check on some diners who were running late; they were doing two courses at Miranda, two courses at Suzuki and finishing at Lily. I thought this was a great idea; loved that the restaurant community is working together to succeed/survive in tough times; and wish we'd known about this, because we'd have done it.

                          Lunch at Morse's -- delicious, and better than I remembered, even if it's basic sandwich fare. And of course, we walked out with a lifetime supply of pickles and kraut. That place is dangerous, but good. Other lunch at Rockland Cafe was really nice and basic. I had a fish cake -- I've heard so much about them! -- and it was very good; the hubby had the lobster roll and was quite satisfied wth it. I mean it was lobster and a kaiser roll -- what's not to love?

                          Also came home with 5 pounds of Maine shrimp and two pounds of scallops. We didn't realize the heads were still on the shrimp, which is fine, we cleaned them; but we'd have bought 10 pounds instead to make up for the discarded bits.

                          Thanks, everyone for all your help and information -- it helped a lot.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: harrie

                            After steaming the shrimp, suck the heads (not joking) after separating them from the body, quite tasty.

                            If this is too stomach churning for you, then use the heads to make shrimp broth.

                            1. re: skshrews

                              Thanks, I took Door No. 2 on that one -- looking forward to a nice bisque base.