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looking for help with our Down East Eating Adventure

My husband got us front-row Red Sox tickets for our anniversary. I gave him the gift of a planning and taking a trip that I called “The Down East Eating Adventure.” This trip has a lot to live up to--did I mention front-row Red Sox tickets?! I’ve done a fair amount of research, but still have a lot “holes” in our itinerary, so any insights you can provide would be helpful (I’m looking at you, Passadumkeg). We tend toward food-driven travel, coupled with outdoor activity that allows us to eat more. :) We are not fancy people, and we love all kinds of food. We will have our dog with us, but she is very good in the car as long as it’s not too hot. So, outdoor dining is a plus but not required.

I plan to drive from our camp west of August to Belfast via Route 3, with a stop at John’s for ice cream. Then I plan to drive north on Route 1 and stop somewhere for lunch—any suggestions? I see lots of mixed reviews of Just Barb’s, what do you think? Or somewhere in Bucksport? From there, I plan for us to hike Schoodic Mountain and then eat dinner at the Mexican Restaurant in Hancock and spend the night around there somewhere.

The next morning, I plan to drive from Hancock to Cutler. It looks like we could go a number of ways (Route 182 to Route 1 or Route 1/1A/1), and I’m happy for us to take the most Chow-ish route possible. Definitely need a breakfast recommendation. Helen’s or Bluebird Ranch in Machias? Also, can you recommend a place to pick up provisions for a picnic lunch? In Cutler, we will hike the Bold Coast Trail.

I had originally planned for us to eat dinner & spend the night in Machias, but I am certainly willing to adventure further east if that would be better. I can’t tell if driving all the way to Lubec is worth it. Any dinner recommendations in or between Michias and Lubec? In Lubec, I know there’s the Sea Salt place and Smokehouse, are those worth visiting? Anything else I’m missing? We’d obviously do more hiking/exploring as well (I know, I know we’re not supposed to talk about that on here!).

On the way home, I plan to drive Route 9 to Bangor. Is there anything noteworthy along this route? For dinner, I was leaning toward Fiddlehead, but now I’m worried it will be mobbed because it was written up in Down East this month. What do you think? I’d also like to see the campus in Orono—anything Chow-worthy there?

Thanks so much for any recommendations you can give. I read these boards a lot, but I don’t post much as much as I should. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for all the passion and advice that Chowhounders provide!

Just Barb's
24 Main St, Stockton Springs, ME 04981

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  1. Depending on what day you're driving back, Fiddlehead should be OK. If it's a Friday or Saturday night, it might be best to try something else - Bennett's Market on Main St is lovely. They do an a la carte and a prix fixe menu, best to call ahead. There's also Luna Bar & Grill on Park Street, nice bistro food. However, if it's Sunday, Fiddlehead shouldn't be too crazy busy, especially if you get there before 6 or after 8. Bear in mind Fiddlehead is closed on Mondays.

    1. Have eaten at "Just Barbs' recently, and it's .....OK, but not more. If you're going through Belfast, a more interesting lunch choice would be Chase's Daily. The further Downeast you get, the less chow-ish. We did have an excellent dinner a few years ago at the Riverside Inn in East Machias, but I don't have any up-to-date information. Smokehouse in Lubec has superb stuff...but pricey. Enjoy the Bold Coast trail: great, and not difficult walking. There is a B&B in Lubec with decent food: name, anyone?
      Orono has a reasonable pub, with good pub food, the name of which is escaping me. And of course, that's the home of the original, and never matched, Pat's Pizza. Totally local, great thin crust: try with fresh mushrooms, bacon, and roasted red pepper.!

      Chase's Daily
      96 Main St, Belfast, ME 04915

      Riverside Inn & Restaurant
      US Route 1, East MacHias, ME 04630

      3 Replies
      1. re: mainemal

        Anyone know if the Smokehouse in Lubec is still chow worthy?

        1. re: qianning

          Assume you're speaking of Vinny Gartmeyer's Bold Coast? Yes, his smoked seafood is excellent. Bring a cooler--you'll likely want to buy quite a bit of it.

          1. re: Mainegal

            will do. after i posted the above i figured out that it wasn't a restaurant but a real smokehouse.

      2. Skip Just Barbs and have a triple scoop at John's !

        1 Reply
        1. re: jackattack

          Instead of Lubec, go to Eastport and The Pickled Herring. The town is terrific, and so is the restaurant.

          Pickled Herring
          32 Water St, Eastport, ME 04631

        2. I had a great time at the Maine Sea Salt Company. The owner is a great guy and will give you a small tour and explain how he does everything. If your heading down Rt. 1, Tracy's is a great roadside place for the best and cheapest lobster rolls and a great fried haddock (my favorite) sandwhich. And it has all you can eat haddock friday nights (as does Chester Pike's galley a few miles down the road). If you're heading to Bangor, Ellsworth is about 20 miles east and, I'm sure Keg would absolutely agree, Cleonice in Ellsworth is where to stop.

          112 Main St, Ellsworth, ME 04605

          1. I agree with the other posters - you can skip Just Barb's. We ate there last weekend and it was really just not good.

            The best food we ate during our long weekend in Bucksport was out our bed and breakfast, William's Pond Lodge. David, the innkeeper, put up some outstanding breakfasts every day. First day was German pancakes, filled with fresh berries that he picked and cooked in local maple syrup. They were puffed up so high they were like bowls for the berries. Just delicious. Another day he made biscuits with a mushroom sage gravy that were flaky, light, savory, creamy perfection. And the desserts waiting for us at the end of the day were just as great - a perfect mixed berry crumble with those same freshly picked berries, cream cheese coffee cake, and Scottish shortbread cookies my mother declared the best she's ever had. (They were mighty good.)

            One other outstanding food experience we had was lunch in Northeast Harbor at the Colonel's Restaurant/Bakery. We just had sandwiches (turkey, lobster roll, chicken salad) but the bread was home baked and really fresh.

            Have fun on your Maine foodie trip!

            1. I hate to sound like a broken record in this postings, but I'll say you'll get a much better dining adventure by heading to the mid-coast. Instead of taking 3 from Augusta to Belfast, take Rt. 17 from Augusta to Rockland. You'll at least open up a whole new world of dining options that first day before heading north on Rt. 1. Lunch at Waterman's Beach and dinner at Primo. Or dinner at many other great options in the Rockland/Camden/Rockport area (Lily Bistro, In Good Company, Francine Bistro, Natalies, Shepherd's Pie).

              In Orono, I agree with Mainemal...you have to go to Pat's Pizza. It's the original...and still the best. Head down to the Tap Room, get yourself a pepperoni pie and a pitcher of Budweiser and feel like a genuine Black Bear.

              In Good Company
              415 Main St, Rockland, ME 04841

              12 Replies
              1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                Agreed about the mid-coast, but find Waterman's no different from othe lobster "pounds", but one pays more for the "Beard" mystique. Pat's is a U Maine (I'm a U Maine Dad twice over.) nostalgia trip. Why eat mediocre pizza in Maine, w/ the exception of Finneli's in Ellsworth?
                In Cutler there is a doughnut wagon that is unique. Eastport has some fine small restos. From my experience, stay away from Tall Jakes in Jonesport and WACO's in Eastport.
                Try Jordan's in Ellsworth for fried clams.
                Tracey's is covered, but don't for get Ruth & Wimpies for a cheap lobster dinner and fruit pie for dessert.
                I'm sorry about the late response. I moved back to New Mexicon on Aug. 5. We'll be back to Maine on 6/1/11. Hey I'm now a summer person!!!
                I had the lobster and angel hair special at Wow's Diner in Milan, NM, last week. I've had worse on MDI.
                Hasta la vista, Baby!

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  Good luck in New Mexico!
                  I'm going to miss your posts about eating places in Maine.
                  We've followed your advices over the years on our annual trip to Maine and you've "led" us to some very good eating in Maine----Thank You!
                  Looking forward to your "summer posts" when you return.
                  Appreciative Catnip

                  1. re: catnip

                    Thanks, we be back. we still own our house and camp.

                  2. re: Passadumkeg

                    Are you telling me that Waterman's is in the same league as the Trenton Lobster Pound?

                    1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                      How does Waterman's differ? To paraphrase Custer, "The only good lobster is a boiled lobster."
                      ps I lived 4 miles from The Trenton Bridge, but haven't eaten ther in decades. I have, however eaten at Waterman's relatively recently. To me, lobster "pounds" are 90% about the view as there is so little variation in a boiled lobster.

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        Perhaps, but it sure is easy to mess up a lobster roll. And mussels. And steamers. And dessert. And so on....

                        Waterman's has always pleased on all fronts, including view. And BYOB is nice.

                        The way I figure, the original poster can take the advice of a Mainer...or a New Mexican. I kid.

                        I also will say I make no apologies for Pat's. There's nothing better than sitting in the Tap Room eating a pepperoni pizza and drinking some brews watching some sports on the boob tube. Call it nostaligic if you want.

                        1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                          Hey, I used to go to Pat's every Sun. night after my Cardiac League hockey games at Alfond. I just don't thionk nostalgia is a good basis to recommend a local pizza joint to someone traveling through.
                          I still consider myself a Mainer, thanks and may have lived in the state longer than you have(been alive).
                          Remember JC's fried seafood shack right next of O'brann's? The little Finnish restaurant just before you get into Thomaston?
                          Chavanism is not becoming,

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Calling Pat's pizza mediocre is a stretch. I'll grant you there's a nostalgia factor, but in no way is it mediocre. Especially for the pizza scene in this state. The poster mentioned wanting to see the campus...I would argue Pat's is PART of the campus.

                            What would you recommend near campus?

                            And if you're not from the County, you're not a "real" Mainer.

                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                          Be nice ya awl. This does not become two such prodigious posters. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Eh? I guess passion is understandable. You both are very lucky, where we live, VA Beach, I would be hard pressed to recommend anything I thought was special.
                          We are two semi southerners, semi northerners heading up to the mid coast next week.
                          Arriving at the mid coast on the 19th. Two nights in SW Harbor, Two nights in Rockport and then back South. Stopping for two nights of chow in NYC on the way back. Eating plan. Jordans, Cleonice, Ruth and Winpy's, Bagaduce, Thurstons, Contes, Watermans. The trusty redhead and I have looked at the on line menu at Primo and just dont see how it would be special to US. Are we wrong? What should we add other than Primo in that area. Any comments?

                          112 Main St, Ellsworth, ME 04605

                              1. re: thespiritualmidget

                                Take them across the street and watch the North Haven-Vinalhaven ferries come & go for a different Maine experiance

                                Dumkeg the North Haven Boy

                  3. Bucksport- try MacCloud's- I have had lunch there a couple times, I liked it- but I can reccommend a nice treat in Lubec- Water St. Tavern. Best food I have had up here in years. But in Machias, Helen's has had amazing scallops all summer, but that's about it. The pie has gone down the chute...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KitchenHack

                      Macleod's in Bucksport is OK if it's open. Good luck figuring out when that might be - I've been trying to figure it out for over a year! Very little chance of being in the area and finding it open, and my recollection was that it's OK but not better than anywhere else around.