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Jun 22, 2012 11:09 AM

"Thank You" Dinner near Owl's Head (Maine)

Hi Northern NE CHers. Can you help this NY Hound out by with some recs for a nice dinner in or near Owl's Head for July? This will be our first trip to Maine and since we will be staying with friends who live there part of the year, we want to take them out for an exceptional dinner.

We don't want anything too formal. A casual spot with exceptional food, a fun/hip/contemporary vibe and good service would be perfect. We haven't considered price point so just throw everything you've got our way. New American and all ethnic categories are welcome. We aren't opposed to seafood but if it is, should be an interesting take on the category.

Since our hosts live and eat in Maine a good part of the year.we are not looking for a quintessentially "Maine-ish" spot for this and definitely not a lobster "shack" or the like - we will do that for all of our other meals!

Thanks everyone.

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  1. Primo hands down. The best restaurant in Maine in my opinion. It's right on the Rockland / Owls Head town line on Rt 73.

    Some people may say it's formal, but it isn't fact pretty much any restaurant on the Midcoast can be as informal as you want it to be. In other words, you wouldn't look out of place in jeans and a t-shirt (though maybe just not ripped!).

    Upstairs is a much cooler vibe...very busy and happening. Sit at the antipasti bar (or one of the tables in the room) and watch Matt prepare the small plates. No reservations required upstairs (but necessary downstairs).

    Have fun!

    4 Replies
      1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

        Definitely Primo. Make rez well in advance.

        1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

          Primo doesn't have to be expensive...they have a great bar menu with everything from salumi & cheese to burgers. Very reasonably priced. And bottles of wine starting in the mid 20's.

          I've been there probably 20 times in the past 3 years and can honestly say I've only had a couple service experiences that I would consider average (and even then, it's usually because it can be cuckoo busy there at times). Never once what I would call a "bad" experience.

          If you're looking to go a little cheaper, In Good Company on Main Street in Rockland is a great choice. Much more relaxed but diverse menu, and a very large wine list.

          I love Shepherds Pie, but be warned that they do NOT take reservations.

          Natalie's and Francine Bistro in Camden would run you at least as much as Primo, probably more.

          If you're looking for something a bit different (and decidedly "un-Maineish") go to Long Grain in Camden...excellent Thai "street food".

          1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

            Good point about Primo's bar menu. I just figured that given that the occasion is a "Thank You" dinner, the person is looking for a more formal atmosphere.

          1. Thank you. Primo looks great and is obviously a top choice. I've made reservations and we will likely go but, just in case DH would prefer a slightly less expensive option (menu prices look like it can easily be $100 a head and we will be four people) any second choices?

            4 Replies
            1. re: laylag

              A word of caution about Primo; there's no doubt that the menu is compelling, but ever since the expansion I've found that the service has suffered and the execution has gotten a bit sloppy. While it would be near impossible to have a "bad" meal there, I think it's worth considering other options, such as Natalie's in Camden, ME (similar price point but more precise and focused execution), or Shepherd's Pie in Rockport (cheaper yet still upscale protein-centric fare.)

              1. re: laylag

                As MidCoastMaineiac mentioned, In Good Company is an excellent second choice if you want a less expensive alternative to Primo. It is a really lovely spot and just a little further into Rockland. It's right on the old part of Rockland's main street. Ask for a table in the back room, I think it's a little more special.

                1. re: laylag

                  Went to Primo last night. My wife and I had:

                  6 Oysters
                  1 Farmer Salad with Egg (salad was split into two portions - egg put on each portion)
                  1 Josh Pie (pizza with sausage, mushrooms, and onions)
                  2 Beers
                  2 Glasses of White Wine
                  1 Glass of Macallan 12 Year
                  1 "Affrogato" Espresso Float (vanilla & chocolate gelato with zeppole)

                  Total was $106 before tip.

                  One other can split the pasta dishes on the "main" menu. That isn't advertised.

                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                    Agree with Primp, one of my favorites. But as much as I wish I could have had MCM's menu (except I 'd want the chocolate budino for dessert), just thought I'd point out that there's a raw oyster special-- Sunday's only -- of $1 an oyster. I was there on a Thurs last month, which used to be the other $1 oyster night, but they'd cut that out.
                    I've been eating their food since they started in Old Chatham, NY, and now much prefer to eat at one of the upstairs bars. Can't speak to the full restaurant service, as I've been eating upstairs for years.
                    I love Shepard's Pie too, but getting in can be problematic. Only ate at Natalie's once, and was dissapointed. With so many great restaurants, never felt the need to return.

                2. While the food at Natalie's is lovely and very well executed, you will pay more than Primo for very mignon portions. I don't think Francine Bistro is as expensive as Natalie's and is a much different sort of experience--less fine dining and more upscale but casual bistro. Chef Brian Hill at the latter is a master. Re. In Good Company: owner/chef Melody was in the same CIA class as Melissa at Primo. We are indeed blessed here on the midcoast!

                  1. I second In Good Company in Rockland and Francine Bistro in Camden.

                    I may be the only person — at least to post on Chowhound — to have had a truly bad meal at Primo. I agree with diningsense that the food and service are not what they used to be!