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May 28, 2012 02:07 PM

Family/Foodie Friendly Maine - large groups

July 4th week, we are taking a huge (think 18 total) family vacation to Maine. We are staying a week in Castine, taking day trips all over the place through the week. Can I get some recs for family friendly and foodie friendly restaurants around Portland, Camden, Belfast, Rockland, or Bar Harbor? We have 5 toddlers, 8 30-something's, and 5 60s+ adults. Thanks!

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  1. That's a tough one.

    Some thoughts on Rockland/Camden/Rockport:

    Primo does have a room upstairs off of the antipasti bar that is typically reserved for large parties...and I think 18 might be about the max. That is about the "foodiest" restaurant you can get, but not really the "family friendliest". It's acceptable...I have seen young children in that room...but there's nothing on the menu that caters to kids (unless you want a gourmet pizza or burger?).

    I saw that you had posted elsewhere on the acceptability of Shepherds Pie, but there are a couple of problems...they don't take reservations and it's not really family friendly. It's loud, dark, and few to no kid options on the menu. Now, it MIGHT be possible to state your situation and have them keep a few tables in the back for you...especially if it's not on Thu/Fri/Sat...could be worth calling. But it's still not a great kid restaurant.

    Amalfi on the Water has enough space...and is ok for kids. Good harbor views...decent food.

    There's another restaurant in Rockland....Pearl on the Pier that recently hired a great new certainly has the space...and great harbor views. My guess is that the food will be fantastic...I might be going there tonight so I can report back.

    Smokestack Grill in Camden is certainly large enough and family friendly enough...but don't expect the foodiest of experiences.

    1. I assume that Portland would be a stop enroute and not a day trip from Castine, otherwise you're looking at a 6 hour round trip for a meal.. and then you have a tough group. I might do flatbread for a lunch with that crowd. Not gourmet, but good pizza on the water and very toddler friendly. You could ferry over to Peaks Island from the Old Port for lunch at the Inn. Also not a foodie destination but acceptable pub food and if it's nice out, a great 20 minute ferry ride. 100 yard walk uphill to the Inn. Most 60 y.o. should be able to handle with ease. In Castine, have the older folks babysit one night and head to Primo with the remaining folks....

      1. Oh yeah, in the Portland area there is also the obligatory stop at Two Lights for the lobster rolls or head over to the Portland Head Light (also in Cape Elizabeth) to see the lighthouse and have some creative lobster rolls at the lobster roll food truck - that's right, food truck. Toddlers can run around in the park. Great picnic spot (other food carts as well) with unsurpassed scenery.

        1. We are really trying to find a place for our first night, Saturday, as it is one person's birthday. That and we arrive that day, so we don't want to cook. :). Thanks for the suggestions. Like the idea of the food truck. We are definitely used to those in Texas.

          4 Replies
            1. re: hmoore

              If you'll be in Castine, the last thing you're going to want to do is drive 3+ hours to Portland on your first night. Stick with Castine. Consider Dennett's Wharf and don't order anything fancy on the menu, and you'll be fine. Call ahead, get seating on the deck over the harbor. The lovely Pentagoet Inn is probably too fine dining for your party, but you might be okay at The Manor Inn--call and ask if it it's a fit for your group.

              Over in Sargentville (probably about 30 minutes drive, give or take, over squirrely back roads) El El Frijoles is a good bet, but the only seating is outside, so go on a nice evening. Consider Barncastle, in Blue Hill, for a gourmet pizza night. If you get to Blue Hill, Black Dinah Chocolatiers just opened a shop there (I think it's in the floral shop downtown, but ask).

              Two places on Deer Isle worth a look-see: Seasons of Stonington, on the harbor in Stonington, and Whales Rib Tavern, in Pilgrim's Inn, in Deer Isle. Fisherman's Friend in Stonington is a good family friendly spot--nothing fancy, just good home cookin' with an emphasis on lobster (prepped 30 ways) and fried seafood paired with great harbor views.

              And if you're seeking a classic Maine lobster shack (emphasis on shack with picnic tables on a pier), Perry Long's on Newbury Neck, Surry, is the place. And don't miss the homemade ice cream sandwiches.

              1. re: Mainegal

                With such a large group service is not going to be fast and with all those toddlers, I worry that the parents will spend the whole meal outside trying to keep the kids from climbing the walls. I've been there and it's no fun especially if it's an expensive meal. You could stop in Belfast on your way to Castine and eat at 3Tides. They take reservations, are very family friendly, have a great quirky outside area, and lots of menu options.


                Book something soon though. I would imagine that July 4th weekend is one of the busiest of the year.

              2. re: hmoore

                If you are arriving in Castine that day, wouldn't it make more sense to look for something close by? Driving on the July 4th weekend in Maine will be hell on wheels and I can't imagine anyone will want to hop back in the car for a long drive for dinner. I know when we arrive in Maine each summer, my husband grabs a beer and will not budge from his Adirondack chair until the morning when Rockland Cafe fish cakes call.

              3. oh man, blood is coming out of my eyes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dwdunn

                  I think what we are all trying to say in our own ways, is that this doesn't sound like a very pleasant vacation, perhaps overly ambitious. Summer traffic in Maine is bad, July 4th weekend is hell. Castine is located at the end of a peninsula so it isn't a quick trip anywhere. You've got a lot of people to herd around and lots of little ones who would be happier just playing on the grass. Why not stay closer to home with just a couple week day trips and maybe in smaller groups? Castine is a gorgeous town and time spent as a family hanging out and talking is very special. Cooking together maybe? Are you renting a house? Seafood is dead simple to prepare and chasing lobsters around the kitchen will be a story to tell for generations.

                  For your first night, this place is on the harbor in Castine and has reasonable food and good beer.

                  Fort Knox in Bucksport would be a great day trip if any of you are into history, architecture, etc. And tthere's lots of room for toddling. Bring flashlights and poke around in the tunnels and bunkers of this old civil war fort. Great spot for a picnic. We do this as a day trip from Rockland combined with Castine and Belfast but we're only 3 people! I've done big family vacations and the best times are always when we're just hanging out. Trying to see the sites as a group just gets to be too much. No one can agree on where they want to go, everybody goes at a different pace, it just gets cranky. And add the traffic and I think you will be miserable. And NAPS! OK, now my eyes are bleeding :)