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Critique my quick trip to downeast Maine, and I need help on the way, especially late night in Manchester!

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Hello Northern New England Chowhounds;

Hubby and I are flying into Manchester, NH (Southwest was just far and away the most affordable alternative, even with cost of gas to drive up, and not even including the free luggage bonus) next week and then heading up to Maine for a family wedding. Work has been so crazy that I haven't had much time to think about the chow, but I am very excited to be making my first trip to the area. We will be spending one night in Manchester, one night in Bar Harbor (to get in a quick visit to Acadia NP, which has long been on my bucket list) and the rest of our time outside of Orono, where the wedding will be held...

Everywhere we are staying includes breakfast, so that is covered...but we could use some advice and feedback on the rest. I've tried to research the boards, as (being a regular on the SF Board) I *know* how annoying general questions can be...but could still use some help! Hubby and I will eat anything, and prefer spots with casual dress, though price isn't as much of an issue (I am hoping that Maine is like SF, in that one can wear jeans almost anywhere)...despite my handle, btw, I no longer live in San Francisco; we are in California's Central Valley and thus would particularly love to eat lots of seafood and good cheese, two items that seem to be in particularly short supply where I live (other than on weekend trips back to the coast)...

Wednesday: First night: Manchester: this is where I need the most help! Cafe Momo sounds great, but alas, it closes at nine and our plane lands at ten. Is anything delicious open late, or are we basically out of luck here? Our hotel is near the airport, so close to airport would be great, though I gather Manchester isn't that big of a town to begin with...

Thursday: Driving up to Bar Harbor: Although I realize the best lobster and prices aren't until later in the year, a lobster roll seems like a must. Harraseeket Lunch sounds like it is in the right location more or less, and sounds like a winner. Anyone disagree? Other options?

Dinner in Bar Harbor: Havana or Mache Bistro? I have to admit that the current menu at Havana is slightly more appealing only because it is a bit more seafood centric, but we do like chef-owned, small places that use local ingredients and Mache definitely seems to fit the bill. Since they just opened for the season I assume not too many people have been there recently, but any thoughts?

Friday: On our day in Acadia we will want to picnic if it doesn't rain, or maybe even if it does; where is a good spot in Bar Harbor to get provisions?

Friday night, Saturday and Sunday day we will be occupied with family and wedding stuff, and eating where the family has planned...however, we will probably want to have dinner Sunday night in or around Orono or Bangor with hubby's brother and wife. Would welcome suggestions for places that are delicious but good for not too adventurous diners. Hubby's brother does enjoy a nice wine list...

I am coming up fairly empty handed on my Orono search; I see references to pizza places, but I am definitely not into pizza. The groom and bride to be, who are at University of Maine, did send a list of favorite eateries, including Market Cafe, Harvest Moon Deli and Thai Orchard. They also recommend the Sea Dog Brewing Co, but that doesn't seem to get much love on the board (and wouldn't make BIL as happy as a place with wine). The (casual) rehearsal dinner is at Verve Burritos in Orono. Sigh. Apparently they make "California-style burritos". I don't like those even when I am in California, but hey, weddings are all about family, right?

Which just leaves Monday for our trip back down to Manchester. If there are any other great lunch options, or just places for ice cream, snacks, cheese, or any other must sees, please chime in with opinions. Late lunch/early dinner options open all afternoon in Manchester for eating before we get on the plane, as well as a place to get some great sandwiches for the plane, would be welcome as well... I will report back! Thanks to all of you... Susan

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Cafe Momo
1065 Hanover St, Manchester, NH 03104

Harraseeket Lunch
36 Main St South, Freeport, ME

Sea Dog Brewing Co
26 Front St, Bangor, ME 04401

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  1. I’ll 2nd Harraseeket Lunch in South Freeport. It’s one of my favorite places to send people “from away” (that would be you) who want to hit up a lobster shack type place. The food is good and the view is classic Maine with lobster boats on moorings on a very scenic little harbor. It’s also relatively easy to get to and makes it easy to hit LL Bean for the obligatory stop.
    With very few exceptions (your itinerary doesn’t look like you’ll be hitting any of those), you can wear jeans pretty much anywhere in Maine – it’s a very casual state. Although you can find good wines in any good restaurant, Maine is pretty much a beer-centric place with many good micro-breweries. Orono is pretty much strictly a college town although I’ve read on this board about a few places in Bangor. Generally speaking (I’ll get crap for this), the further away from the coast you go, there is a corresponding drop in quality of dining. On the drive back to Manchester, were you looking to stop in Maine or back in the Manchester area?

    -----
    Harraseeket Lunch
    36 Main St South, Freeport, ME

    2 Replies
    1. re: bobbert

      thanks for the input....microbreweries are great for hubby and me (do you have any favorites?), but not sure BIL will be interested, unfortunately. (and just to clarify, it is BIL and SIL who aren't adventurous eaters...as I said, hubby and I would go for anything. Well, almost anything, despite the fact that I mentioned the two things I really don't like all that much (pizza and what folks in SF call 'Mission style burritos' :-))..

      thanks for the mention of LL Bean. My Stepmom told me I needed to stop there. I wasn't planning to, but if it is obligatory, perhaps we will fit it in...

      Since I live in a (new) college town myself, I wouldn't mind something that isn't, and Bangor suggestions are welcome.

      Flexible about stopping places on the way back; perhaps both in Maine and in Manchester? Thanks!

      1. re: susancinsf

        I love love love Smuttynose beer, they are out of Portsmouth, NH. The Maine Beer Co. is fairly new (and small), but I thought their Peeper Ale was fantastic. They only offer tours on Fri (in Portland). If you are interested in the beer scene, I would head to beeradvocate.com to search for micro breweries in the area...I only know about beer bars in Portland.

        It's a good thing you don't like pizza, because you won't find anything spectacular around here ;).

    2. If you get to Bangor from Orono (Sunday?),I recommend Fiddlehead. Food with some sophistication in casual,friendly environs. Wine list thoughtful and good value.

      1. for Manchester: arriving at 10, your best bet would probably be the Airport Diner on Brown Avenue. It's open 24 hours and it's run by the Common Man group of restaurants. Reliable, no surprises. Don't be put off by the fact that it's attached to a Holiday Inn. http://www.thecman.com/restaurants/ai...

        Going home, I highly recommend Republic, a casual place that serves locally sourced, beautifully prepared food. Lots of positive posts on this board. http://republiccafe.com/

        If you want to entertain the kids, there is a branch of Woodman's, voted best fried clams by Yankee Magazine, located in Mel's Funway Park just south of Manchester in Litchfield. Miniature golf, go-karts!

        -----
        Airport Diner
        2280 Brown Ave, Manchester, NH 03103

        3 Replies
        1. re: whs

          thank you so much for the Airport Diner recommendation! I was worried we'd starve if the plane was late...as a west coast person, I've not heard of the Common Man group, but it looks like that will definitely fit the bill, and the prices are very reasonable. Hopefully we will make it there before 11 so I can try the fried belly clams, even though I am sure there are other better places to sample them..... (after 11 they have a more limited menu, though it certainly still has plenty of options. Including, apparently, a meatloaf omelet...really?). How is the clam chowder there? (I prefer thin, flavored with clams, to thick and gloppy).

          Republic looks great, and since it is open all afternoon, I will definitely put it on the list for the return. As for kids to entertain, won't have any with us, is Woodman's worth a stop anyway?

          -----
          Airport Diner
          2280 Brown Ave, Manchester, NH 03103

          1. re: susancinsf

            You should have ample opportunity to sample fried clams while in Maine, as well as lobster rolls and fresh raspberry pie. If you have the time, take the ferry from Bar Harbor over to Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula. There's a little diner called Chase's that has the real chowder deal and their crab roll is delicious.

            Woodman's of Essex invented the fried clam, so it's pretty good. The original location in Essex MA is historic, the Litchfield location is somewhat lacking in charm, unless you like funky, local amusement parks. Disneyland it ain't, though the ice cream stand is good.

            1. re: whs

              After a week in Maine, I think you might be disappointed in Woodman's in Litchfield. We hated the lack of charm. It was very noisy. We got there early thinking we might avoid crowds and ended up with a bar crowd. I don't recall the clams as being worth it. We never went back.
              With the diversity of restaurants in Manchester, I think you would be better off choosing one of the recommendations for your last day. Cafe Momo for Nepalese? Cremeland for ice cream?

              -----
              Cafe Momo
              1065 Hanover St, Manchester, NH 03104

              Litchfield's Restaurant
              RR 1, Wells, ME 04090

        2. Bangor - my sister lives there. she likes fiddlehead. i've also heard great things about friar's bakehouse. it's run by franciscan monks and they have odd hours. cash only....no cell phones allowed. but the whoopie pies are supposed to be wonderful!

          3 Replies
          1. re: rizzo0904

            Hubby (who grew up in Central PA) had to explain to me what the heck a whoopie pie was....this might have to go on the 'must try' list just for that reason if by any small chance they are open on Sunday...thanks!

            1. re: susancinsf

              Ok, if you've never had a Whoopie Pie, then make sure you find one somewhere before you leave New England!

              1. re: susancinsf

                and the debate will continue on....maine or pa, maine or pa....both claim to be the home of the whoopie pie.

            2. The Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester NH is open 24 hours ( I believe) and while not the greatest food around has some pretty good tourtiere and baked goods. Think local color.
              Red's Eats is in Wiscasset and worth the detour off of I95. There will probably be a line, but it is worth it.
              You're a bit early for some of the restaurants Down East, but Finelli's pizza is good.

              -----
              Red Arrow Diner
              61 Lowell St, Manchester, NH 03101

              Red's Eats
              Main, Wiscasset, ME 04578

              1. Sorry, I meant to add that Finelli's is in Ellsworth. Pat's Pizza is a local chain and is absolutely awesome if you're a drunken UM student.
                Do not eat at Governors' under pain of ptomaine!
                Harraseeket Lobster is good.
                Fin's and Cleonice are your best bets this time of year in Ellsworth.

                -----
                Cleonice
                112 Main St, Ellsworth, ME 04605

                1. In Bangor, I can't recommend Sea Dog Brewing Co. Beer their can be good, but the quality and consistency varies widely. And their food rarely rises above mediocre. The best place for beer in Bangor is the newly opened Nocturem Draft Haus - The have a great selection of wonderful beers on tap and limited, albeit very high quality selection of light dishes. For a pub grub meal try Paddy Murphies or Geaghans. For a high quality dining experience go to Fiddleheads or to Mossimo's. And if you are in the mood for Sushi head across the river to Yoshi's in Brewer.

                  -----
                  Sea Dog Brewing Co
                  26 Front St, Bangor, ME 04401

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jbuttitta

                    I would concur on Sea Dog. Went once a few years ago. Truly mediocre pub food at best .

                  2. I've had two great meals at Thai Siam in downtown Bangor...fresh ingredients, extensive menu. I've also had good microbrews at the Bear Brewpub in Orono, though I haven't had the food (maybe others can help with that one). I'm unapologetic in my love for Pat's Pizza in Orono...though I'm biased as a former UMaine grad student....

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                    Thai Siam
                    1 Main St, Bangor, ME 04401

                    1. Susan: I was glad to hear a recommendation for at least one all-night restaurant in Manchester. The one time I landed in Manchester late at night (probably the same flight you're on:-) I ended up eating candy bars from the vending machines at the hotel. Manchester was not a big place, and when it rains there it RAINS. Trust me on this one. I do however remember that on the way back I had an excellent, fresh salad and soup at one of the restaurants in the airport...and one of those microbrews everyone mentioned. So that's always a possibility if you need to fuel up before the long peanut-filled ride home....(the cafe at the airport also seemed to have a good sandwich selection, so I think you'll be ok if you don't find a place to stop for provisions before you get there....)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: janetofreno

                        FYI, the Milltowne Grille at the Manchester airport is run by the folks who own Republic.

                        1. re: whs

                          AND they also have a Smuttynose pub!

                          http://www.milltownegrille.com/

                          Here's the airport food info...not sure what would be available on your flight in though:

                          http://www.flymanchester.com/about/

                          1. re: whs

                            great tip if we are running late and I am feeling compulsive about getting back to the airport early. Thanks!

                            1. re: whs

                              Ah, that would explain things. I ate there last fall before a flight and for airport food, not bad at all. I think they took it over relatively recently; it used to be accessed from outside security before it was renovated and made to enter/exit from the gate area. The former incarnation was pretty meh, but I noticed a difference under the new arrangement.

                              For lunch in Manchester I also like Z Food and Drink on Elm St.

                          2. For your MHT to Bar harbor drive, I'd reccommend stopping in Portland. It's about 1/2 way, LOTS of great dining options, and imho way more interesting than Freeport & its bean sprouts.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: qianning

                              there are bean sprouts at Harraseeket Lunch?

                              -----
                              Harraseeket Lunch
                              36 Main St South, Freeport, ME

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                My guess is that's some sort of reference to LL Bean. Bean sprouts being all the businesses (i.e. outlets) that sprouted up around the store.

                            2. Our favorite place in acadia is schoodic point. My father for his 80th birthday had always dreamed of watching the sun rise the first place in the US. This requires a very early rise to go up mount cadillac to watch the sun come out of the water..but it was worth it. We packed muffins from a small local bakery for our sunrise breakfast and it was surprising how many people were there for the samething. I don't know if its open yet, but the Jordan Pond House in the Main Park is a nice stop and experience and servies tea and popovers. .They have a web site.

                              1. From a former SF resident (MD at UCSF), welcome to my world of NH and Maine. I would stick with what we do well here. Personally, that only includes seafood. Anything ethnic of any sort will disappoint you. I would pick Red Arrow as it does not have a corporate feel.

                                Go straight down to the ocean in southern Maine, and hit Bob's clam shack or Robert's, both in Kittery. In Portsmouth, you can try the Beach Plum for an excellent lobster roll. For boiled lobster, I would hit Petey's in Rye, just across from the waves.

                                Republic is just like an average corner restaurant in SF. No good seafood places either.

                                Wanna exchange homes for a few months????

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: aadesmd

                                  Sorry, but the "only seafood" comment is outrageous!

                                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                    Totally...where you been eatin' aadesmd??

                                    1. re: Shooley

                                      LOL--and Red Arrow after 11pm is a collection of drunks. Enter at your own risk. Bob's Clam Shack in Kittery is in the middle of outlet mall hell, you can do better. And I totally disagree about Republic; it holds its own against anything we ate in SF in March.

                                2. Orono is lacking for dining options, though Verve for lunch and Woodman's for dinner are pretty decent. Pat's Pizza is a classic as well.

                                  In Bangor, there are a number of good options. Fiddlehead is fantastic, local, thoughtful, great atmosphere. Luna Bar & Grill is laid back bistro fare, great wine list (ask for the full list). Massimo and his newly opened bakery are higher-end, really very good Italian food. Paddy's is straight up pub fare. Zen Asian Bistro has pho, sushi, some Thai dishes. Thistle's is vaguely Spanish/South American fare. Market Bistro does lovely French dinners and a Sunday brunch that's awesome. I do not recommend the Sea Dog unless you like overcooked steak drowning in salt. You can also do Sunday brunch at Bagel Central, or at the Eagle's Nest, about seven miles from Bangor in Eddington.

                                  I could go on. Bangor's dining scene doesn't get much love, but it's quite good and growing.

                                  -----
                                  Bagel Central
                                  33 Central St, Bangor, ME

                                  Asian Bistro
                                  25 Winooski Falls Way, Winooski, VT 05404

                                  1. My report back:

                                    thanks all for helping to make my first trip to Maine a great success! I loved it. We were relatively lucky on weather in that it was nice the days we drove, and on the day we went to Acadia...nephew wasn't quite as lucky with the weather for his wedding day, but it was beautiful and happy regardless!

                                    Highlights and not:

                                    Airport Diner: got in just in time to beat the 11 pm cutoff for the full menu, the place was surprisingly busy at that hour. I had clam chowder (meh, too thick and gummy, although the clams themselves were sweet) but decided I needed comfort food after a bumpy flight more than I needed to try fried clams. So, I ordered the meatloaf plate, which was fine, with decent meatloaf (not as good as mine, but what is?), nice mashed potatoes, and carrots that were not overcooked. Hubby had a pulled pork sandwich which I didn't taste but which he enjoyed. Service was fast, once we convinced the server to come over and take our order, which seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. But I told him I had been on a plane all day and was starving, and that seemed to do the trick. :-) Anyway, nothing outstanding, but a nice landing spot.

                                    Harraseeket Lunch: perfect pit stop: not at all crowded (when we were there, I could see how it could be), sunny on the patio, very nice views, a relaxing break. My first lobster role: really good amount of sweet lobster with just a touch of mayo. The tomato and lettuce seemed out of place but were easy enough to remove. Delicious. That said, it was $15.95, which seemed a bit steep to me given that you could order an entire lobster dinner for $21.95 (which I would have done, had I wanted to spend the afternoon). The blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream that we shared for dessert was great. I'd definitely return, order the full dinner next time. Someone at a neighboring table had the steamers, and they looked beautiful.

                                    Mache Bistro: We chose this over Havana because it was just two blocks from our B and B in Bar Harbor: SO glad we did! The best meal we had in Maine and one of my best in quite a while. Great service also, and an interesting if small wine list, as well as a few interesting beers by the glass, though I stuck with wine. Cozy atmosphere, but well-spaced tables, which I appreciate. On a weekday in May the place was very quiet, but I can't imagine it would be too noisy even when full. Starters: hubby had an outstanding crab cake (excellent meat to filler ratio); I had the evening special, a fiddlehead salad: definitely something I can't get at home and very nicely executed. My main was fluke; perfectly done; hubby had a delicious bouillabaisse that was positively addictive. We shared an orange/almond torte for dessert. Anyway, I'd go back in a heartbeat. Highly recommended, definitely on its game even before the start of high season.

                                    Our B and B, the Saltair Inn, offered very nicely executed eggs benedict for breakfast. Yum.

                                    We lingered over that breakfast and the lovely view, and forgot to shop for picnic supplies for lunch, which was definitely a mistake. After a great day in the park, we were hungry but found many places, including the lobster pounds in the area, still closed for the season (as was the Jordan Pond House). Ended up at the Lighthouse Inn in Seal Harbor for a late lunch. Pretty spot, very friendly service, average at best food. In particular, my lobster roll was mostly mayo (though at least it was only $12. Still, it doesn't even belong in the same universe as the one at Harraseeket Lunch....). Nice beer selection, though. By the way, no view to speak of despite the picturesque location. Probably best just for a beer in the afternoon, otherwise, not recommended.

                                    The rehearsal dinner was at Verve in Orono and was a hit, though it was privately catered so I can't speak to the normal menu (to me, a good thing since I am not into California burritos; Verve is closed at dinner; they bought the space out for the event). I did like the space, and the beer! I could see this being one of the better options in downtown Orono, which is cute and friendly.

                                    The wedding banquet was at the Lucerne Inn, where we also stayed for three nights, in the country near Dedham. It was a relatively small group (perhaps 35 people) and they did an excellent job. Great choices, given it was a wedding (thanks to my new niece in law, who did the planning herself :-)), hubby and I both enjoyed filet mignon and lobster tail, and were quite pleasantly surprised that the filet was perfectly to order (rare in my case) despite the size of the group, and the lobster was great. Good mashed potatoes and a nice salad, and a blueberry parfait for dessert. Well, well above average for banquet food. The open bar didn't hurt either, although the wine list is fairly sad, particularly by the glass. Nice private room with a beautiful view through the rain. If I needed a locale for a group dinner in the area, I'd definitely consider the Lucerne Inn.

                                    Indeed, we liked the wedding dinner enough to have a second dinner there when it was raining too hard to go much of anywhere....food was also above average at dinner. Their haddock chowder to start was excellent: creamy but not overly thickened, and the flavor of the sea really shone through. High marks for the chowder. SIL had a burger that was quite good. I had scallops, hubby had seafood as well (Not remembering too many details). Again, beer selection was better than the wine selection. Perhaps I am spoiled living in California in that respect (though the wine list at Mache was very nice!) The main dining room has a lovely view of a lake, although it was raining so hard that I preferred the bar, which is cozy, dark and comfortable with a fire going. (and where you can order both from the dinner menu and a separate, less expensive bar menu).

                                    Breakfasts at the Lucerne were continental and nothing to write home about. Overall, as a place to stay it was enjoyable, but overpriced, IMO. (although I did not think meals were overpriced, btw, though of course I have no idea what the cost was for the wedding dinner) A convenient location for us, however.

                                    I'd also like to say thanks for the mention of Nocturem Draft Haus; we stopped in there on Sunday afternoon when the rain finally got to us and we decided to check out downtown Bangor: where not much was open other than a few pubs, including Nocturem, and the very good antique shop across the street (very good by west coast standards anyway; hubby pointed out to me that one thing I miss by living in the west is really good antiquing). Anyway, Nocturem was great! Hubby and I agreed that we'd be regulars if we lived in town. He worried a bit that it can survive, but I pointed out that on a rainy, cold Sunday in mid-May he probably wasn't seeing Bangor at its most populated... In any case, the beer selection at Nocturem is outstanding, and the bar bites we tried were extremely good. Loved the mustard with the pretzel. Another highly recommended spot.

                                    We did end up dallying on our trip back, and had late lunch/early dinner at the Milltowne Grill in the airport in Manchester. I had a falafel plate. The dolmas on the plate were excellent and obviously house made. The falafel was also very good, but I was only given one small piece of pita. Seemed fairly chintzy. Place was slammed or I would have called the server over to ask for more pita. Can't remember what hubby had, but he had no complaints. Another good beer selection.

                                    That's about it for this quick trip. Again, thanks for the tips. We will be back.

                                    -----
                                    Harraseeket Lunch
                                    36 Main St South, Freeport, ME

                                    Airport Diner
                                    2280 Brown Ave, Manchester, NH 03103

                                    Lucerne Inn
                                    Bar Harbor Rd, Holden, ME 04429

                                    Lighthouse Inn & Restaurant
                                    12 Main, Mount Desert, ME 04660

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      Thanks for the report susancinsf! Always appreciated. You lucked out that it didn't rain the whole time...this spring has been less than ideal...though I think we've finally turned the corner on that front.

                                      BTW, it's not unusual to see a lobster roll price be within striking distance of a lobster dinner price...you're basically paying for the effort to create that roll sans shell!

                                      1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                        yes, we were happy just to have a clear view from the top of Cadillac Mountain! re the lobster roll: that makes sense....I guess mostly I wished I had had the time to sit there all afternoon and pick the lobster out of the shell. :-)

                                      2. re: susancinsf

                                        Great trip report--thanks for posting. Hope you'll come back and spend a little more time with us.

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          Nocturnem is wall-to-wall packed on Thursday-Friday-Saturday afternoons and evenings. It's quickly become a local favorite. Glad you visited!

                                          1. re: rockblogsterbdn

                                            yes, it is easy to see why it is a favorite. The food and beer alone would bring me back, but on top of that it had a very comfortable vibe.