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

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?

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    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!

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        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?

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          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?

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              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.

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              Red Arrow Diner
              61 Lowell St, Manchester, NH 03101

              Red's Eats
              Main, Wiscasset, ME 04578