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Nov 15, 2009 04:07 AM

Anthony Bourdain coming to Conte's 1894 and Rocklnd, Me in January??? A Conte's Introduction.

My better Keg and I went to our favorite Chowhound destination (not a foodie destination) Conte's 1894 Restaurant for a huge pot full of one of our favorites, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and sweet Italian sausage over an olive oil, garlic with a bit of tomato sauced pasta. We love this place. We do not know of another place that gives one so much fresh, very fresh, seafood for such a reasonable price. We get a real kick out of the anti-foodie atmosphere; ramshackle old wharf building hanging out over the harbor, w/ the entrance barricaded w/ old lobster traps; the interior is old miss-matched tables and chairs covered w/ newspaper, with old wine bottles w/ lit candles. Walking in the front door, one immediately encounters a big green chalkboard with all the day's offerings listed in a very neat printing, all in caps. We quickly decided on the shrimp, mussels, scallops and sausage dish and since we were not greeted, continued to a water-side window, were quickly brought up short with a, "Hey! You're supposed to order at the Board!" We knew better and once the waitress saw who we were, backed off. We love the 2 waitress, they have been there forever and have "brass balls", take no guff, and do their jobs efficiently. We ordered and dug into a big crisp Romaine and tomato salad w/ house dressing and crunchy (over baked) focaccia. Before we finished the salad a huge, hot skillet arrived so smothered in seafood, we couldn't see the pasta. The mussels were plump and juicy, the shrimp large and tender, as well as the scallops. The sausage was was of goodly size, tender too and very flavorful w/out overpowering the seafood. We dug in w/ gusto. They only offer red or white wine (Corbett Canyon) and a selection of draft and bottled beers. Ms Keg had the red, and since we had a long drive home, I abstained w/ lemon water. They offer no apps and a limited but very tasty dessert menu. staks and pork chops for the carnivores amongst us.
The entre was $16, which we knew from past experience to split, and we had enough left over for dinner the following night. W/ wine and tip, a romantic feast was ahd for under for 30 bucks.
Now, for Anthony Bourdain. One of the reasons we made the pilgrimage to Conte's was that we read that "an Iron Chef" was buying Conte's. We found out from the waitress that the deal fell through, but did also find out that Anthony Bourdain was taking his show to Rockland in January and Conte's was his first stop. It is his his kind of place. Has anyone else heard the same or have more infoa about his visit to Maine?

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  1. "We get a real kick out of the anti-foodie atmosphere; ramshackle old wharf building hanging out over the harbor, w/ the entrance barricaded w/ old lobster traps; the interior is old miss-matched tables and chairs covered w/ newspaper, with old wine bottles w/ lit candles."

    I don't understand how this is "anti-foodie" atmosphere. Foodies don't care about atmosphere, they care about food. :) I'd totally eat there. :)

    11 Replies
    1. re: Morganna

      I know "foodies" that view Conte's w/ great disdain for that very reason and the lack of a "fine" wine list. Primos or up.

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Your account of Conte's is wonderful, I would go right now if I could, it sounds great!

        But I must agree with Morganna that your use of the term "foodie" is confusing and it struck me the same the first time I read your post. I'd like to direct your attention to what I believe to be the current usage:

        By this definition I would classify most Chowhounders as "foodies" and those that prefer better wine lists or "Primo and up" to be "gourmets," as in I love to dine out with "gourmets" (when they're paying the bill).

        I once knew a restaurant owner that told me of his disdain for "foodies." He considered them to be "snobs." He went out of business for his lack of customer base as he mainly wanted to cater to bikers. Ironic that.

        Please keep us informed on the Bourdain front. It seems the Food Network is focusing more on the region.

        1. re: bewley

          Isn't Bourdain with the Travel Channel?

          1. re: Shooley

            Yes. He has great contempt for the Food Network these days because of how they treated him. :)

            1. re: Morganna

              How exactly did they treat him? He has a show that still runs there and which, by his own admission, sells books for him. I think he just doesn't like them because of the "mediocrity" that he feels they least that's what he said in him interview. He never alluded to any maltreatment by FN to him.

            2. re: Shooley

              Hmm, yes, you're correct. (This is the problem with having no TV and having to watch all of my tv on Hulu.) Regardless, it does seem like Maine is getting much more attention from food media and towns like Rockland/Belfast deserve it.

              1. re: bewley

                Bewley, I too am dependent on Hulu, Netflix and other internet video. The question remains, however, is Bourdain indeed coming to the midcoast in January???

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  He hints at it in a July 2009 entry in his blog:

                  "Already filmed for Season SIX, are episodes in Brittany and Provence. And sometime in August, our intrepid crew will head out once again to destinations which may or may not include Prague, the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, Iran, Rome, Ecuador, Cuba, Kerala India, China, Maine,Turkey, the Congo ... and a return to Beirut (among others)."

                  So, I would bet that your waitress was correct. Have to wait and see.

              2. re: Shooley

                Food Network's parent company recently bought Travel Channel :-/

                Hope they don't screw it up too bad.

                1. re: ratbuddy

                  Just keep people like Guy and Rachel Ray away from it.

                  1. re: Shooley

                    Bourdain was at Johnson & Wales University last year and he was a classic funny man. If he accepts questions, ask him his opinion of chefs who call them chefs in a steak house. You will flip If he comes go and see him.

        2. Passadumkeg, wish I had answers for you on the Anthony Bourdain front. But I must say, I'm glad that the deal fell through, if indeed it did... I'd hate to see Conte's anything but what it currently is!

          And I'll support you in the un-foodie-ness of the place, largely for the fact that the food is crap as often as it's good. BUT! We keep loving it, despite (or is it because of?) the indifferent hygiene standards... Because when it's good, it's really good, and even when it's bad, at least there's a lot to look at! (That is, if there's enough light to see by... I understand that the proprietor only keeps bulbs in about half the light fixtures to cut down on electricity bills).

          My husband and I are moving from Rockland to Bath next month, and not being able to walk to Conte's is high on the list of things we'll miss.

          14 Replies
          1. re: happybellynh

            I must lucky, except during The Blues Festival, we've only had winners. I've heard about the food is best when opera is blaring out of the kitchen, and of the owner/chef's tantrums, but we've been spared. Speakiing about walking to Conte's, I used to live on North Haven and as soon as I got off the late ferry, I walked, double timed it, to Conte's. In Bath, we used to enjoy the sticky buns at Christine's.

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              Well, we once had a dish of pasta where the side was sauteed romaine lettuce, with nearly a 1:1 wilty lettuce/olive oil ratio... err... ? But thanks for the Christine's rec- is it still around? I haven't heard of it, but would love to seek it out!

              1. re: happybellynh

                Christine's (actually Kristine's, I think) has been Mae's Cafe for a few years now. I believe they still produce the Sticky Buns from the previous recipe though. Not *just* a bakery...they offer breakfast and an "all day" menu

              2. re: Passadumkeg

                I remember some very good but strange meals there. For instance, my SIL and I ordered the same thing, but the dishes were noticeably different - but good. And the night the wait staff left in the middle of service leaving the owner to serve us. At the end, I asked for the check, he asked what we ate, then said, "How's 70 bucks sound?"

                Always an adventure.

                1. re: domain

                  Unfourtunately Conte's will be closing it is too bad if the publish the piece on the Food network, they will not be able to reap the rewards of the publicity.

                  1. re: Mainecuisine

                    That sucks! And a summer restaurant too. Just what us year-rounders need! We'll have to make a last pilgraimidge.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      The article says they're opening up a new place in town, don't fret too much.

                        1. re: ratbuddy

                          I didn't see in article that Conte's was opening elsewhere. Where did you get that info? I need to know because if not, we have to go soon one last time to say goodbye, loved that place for years, had some good chats about music with owner.

                          1. re: starvinginNH

                            Dunno, I thought the Fanning guy in the article was the same one who runs Conte's?

                            1. re: ratbuddy

                              Sorry, but you're too late. Fanning now owns that whole pier area and he's already cleaned lots of stuff out of Conte's. He is not the guy who ran Conte's (that was John); and I've heard a few rumors about where he's going to resurface, but nothing definite, as far as I know. The new restaurant, to be called the Pearl, will have a nice long bar and at the end of it a raw bar; he's going to do seafood and lobster.

                              1. re: Shooley

                                I can't believe I missed it. *insert sounds of head banging against keyboard*

                                1. re: Shooley

                                  Bummer! Here I am sitting in Huntington Beach, CA and I'll have to go drown my sorrows in Little Saigon!

                2. I was at the new Conte's (on South Main Street now) over 4th of July weekend, and I have to say that I was stunned at how well he recreated the old place. It's just as wonderfully disreputable as ever. So glad it's not gone.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Mister Meatball

                    Yah, I love the overgrown shrubbery and grass, etc., out front right next to the sign advertising landscape work. Classic!