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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!

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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.!

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      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.

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          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.

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          Cleonice
          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!