Kennebunkport/Portland/Bar Harbor Suggestions - May 27-June1
MSP Chowhounder here. The hubster and I will be visiting your fair land at the end of May for a double birthday celebration and to satisfy my puffin obsession. :) We are foodies and are looking for some great suggestions. As you can imagine, fresh seafood is not in abundance in land-locked MN, so we're looking to get our fill of that while we're in Maine. And while we love fine dining, we love hole-in-the-wall places just as much. We'll be spending 2 nights in Kennebunkport, 2 nights in Portland and 2 nights in Bar Harbor. For at least one of the Bar Harbor evenings we'll be partaking in a lobster bake at Thurston's Lobster Pound but the rest of our meals are wide open. I was thinking about getting a reservation at Arrows while we're in Kennebunkport, but a quick perusal of the boards here makes it seem like it's not worth the time or money. Is this a valid assessment? We don't mind getting a little gussied up, but pretention is not our thing at all. Primarily I'm looking for the following in the aforementioned cities:
- great breakfast/brunch options
- seafood, seafood, seafood - everything from clam shacks/lobster roll places to fine dining
- at least 1 really good fine dining restaurant, perhaps with a seafood tasting menu, that doesn't require a jacket for the hubster (dress slacks/button down is fine)
- restaurants with lovely views, but good food is a must.
- if we want to ship live lobsters back to family in the Midwest, who would you recommend?
Can't wait to hear all your recommendations. We're so excited for this trip!
I know you have come and gone, but we just got back from 5 days in Maine and I wanted to contribute to the general food knowledge of Bar Harbor and the drive to and from.
We stopped in Belfast, at Chase's Daily, on our way up to Acadia. What a find! The food was excellent (breakfast and lunch only) and the vibe was great. Besides the restaurant, they have a bakery and they sell their farm-raised veggies towards the back of the big loft-like space. The food is vegetarian, which for me was a surprise as I am NOT a vegetarian, and I would not have chosen to go there, but the flavors and the choices were completely satisfying. My husband got the Bahn Mi sandwich and I had an omelette with carmelized summer squash and onions. We also had a cherry tart from the bakery that was excellent and bought GORGEOUS vegetables for our trip.
The food in Bar Harbor and Mt Desert Island was hit and miss. Our favorite turned out to be Red Sky in Southwest Harbor. We had dinner there and it was a place where the love of the food and genuine interest in our experience as guests was decidedly present. We did not make it to XYZ in Southwest as it was after labor day and their hours were limited. Havana, in Bar Harbor, was quite the opposite of Red Sky: our experience as guests was only valued by the bartender, who was great. Whoever was making the food that night had lost the love. It was not worth spending one of our few evenings there. I so wish we had gone elsewhere.
Trenton Bridge Lobster pound was excellent. We went there twice.
Cafe This Way was good for brunch, but I found Two Cats to be slightly better. Two Cats has an excellent Lobster Omelette and their blueberry pancake was light as a feather, besides the blueberries, of course.
We ate at Jordan’s Pond one rainy day. Their lobster stew was better than a lot of other places and of course the popovers were great. I was pleasantly surprised.
We also ate in Bass Harbor, but it wasn’t that great.
On our way home we stopped in Boothbay. We went to the Boathouse Bistro on recommendation from someone at Chase’s Daily. Another great find. The food was excellent, the service was genuine and it was all very casual and relaxed. Our favorite dishes were the smoked fish platter and then we basically tried all of the different things she could do with lobster. I was impressed.
We did not make it to Portland or to Rockland. I have heard great things about Eventide and Duckfat.
We’re heading back to Kennebunk in October. Is White Barn Inn worth it or should we look elsewhere for a nice dinner out?? Any other recommends for brunch or lunch?
I can give you a fellow Twin Cities resident's perspective on coastal Maine munching. I have vacationed there every September for the last 12 years and can't wait to go back.
First of all, the posters on this board are the best! They know and love their local food and are unfailingly generous in sharing their insights and opinions. So take their posts to heart-they know what they're talking about!
Coming from Minnesota, I still find myself utterly enchanted by the concept of "luxury food" (fresh seafood) eaten outdoors at a picnic table. Consequentially, I have not been able to dine at any of the finer dining establishments discussed here (by that time of day, I'm already stuffed!). So most of my dining experiences in Maine have been ultra-casual.
A few of my must-haves every trip are Duckfat (fries and a shake), Eventide (oysters and a unique lobster roll), Harraseeket Lunch and lobster (everything), Sea Basket (lobster stew), Bett's Fish Fry ( fish and fries), Beals and/or Thurstons (lobster), and my latest addition, Fisherman's Grill.
A true hole in the wall where you will eat some of the freshest, most simply prepared delicious seafood anywhere. The owner/chef is a super friendly talkative guy who loves what he does. He asks us what we liked and when we said "lobster rolls and scallops" we ended up with about 2 dozen perfectly deep fried scallops and a giant lobster roll that we estimated contained over a pound of tender just-cooked lobster meat.
Each trip gets harder as list gets longer!
I think you'll love Maine.
I'll add a little update to our rapidly changing food scene in Portland. The Fisherman's Grill has a new owner. I was there last week and thankfully the clams were as good as ever.
In the Old Port the Blue Rooster is getting quite the buzz. I've been several times now and have enjoyed hot dog and sandwich but the highlight for me has been the red eye breakfast sandwich, possibly the best breakfast sandwich I've ever had.
Noooooo! Although I'm glad to hear that the food is still good. Part of the experience was conversing with someone who enjoyed his work so much and took such pride in his food. Do you know the backstory? Is it still affiliated with the wholesale/retail fish store next door ( which I believe he said was owned by a relative [brother, maybe])?
Not too sure of the backstory or if there is one. The new guy, who was very nice, said the old guy was looking for a new location. I had heard somewhere else (maybe here on CH) that he might be considering South Portland and something bigger. Anyway, the clams were still excellent. I know what you mean about the banter with the old owner - never saw anyone get so worked up talking clams before.
Well, this is potentially disastrous news (if the new guy can't keep up the superlative quality) OR great news (if the old guy opens up a new place and there is therefore an additional place in town serving superlative lob rolls and fried clams).
The old guy was indeed a trip. On our first visit (one of my greatest chowhounding finds ever, the place was virtually unknown at the time), we asked him if the clams were fresh, and he said "They were dug outta the mud in Friendship [ME] yesterday."
re: Bob W
Wow, that is definitely out of left field. Going from an obscure location in non-tourist Portland where he can make one lobster roll at a time to a big old house on the main drag in Freeport. Need to keep an eye on this development!
Wonder what Linda Bean and the other downtown Freeport lobster roll purveyors are thinking today?
re: Bob W
In my research for my upcoming trip:
Forget about the old reviews for Jameson Tavern, it's under new management now. Former owner of the Fishermen's Grill (Forest Avenue, Portland) Tom Hincks does it again. The food here is outstanding. The fried clams, lobster rolls, clam chowder, haddock, etc. are as good as, if not better than when he was at Fishermen's Grill. The quality, freshness, and attention to detail are top notch as always.
When we found out Tom sold Fishermen's Grill we made the trip from Portland (about 30 min) to visit his new establishment and it was well worth it. The service was very good, and the wait staff was friendly and attentive.
The resturant has about 12 tables inside, a bar and a nice outdoor patio with additional tables. The atmosphere is warm, cozy, and there are a few tv's that you can watch while enjoying your meal or having a few drinks. If you can't quite decide what to eat, since there so many mouth watering choices, I highly recommend the "Allies Trio" (small lobster roll, fries, cup of clam chowder, and a side of fried clams) you won't be sorry. The prices are reasonable for what you get and Tom gives generous portions (you get what you pay for). So if you're in Freeport doing some shopping don't pass up a chance to grab a bite here.
Ate at Jameson Tavern a few days ago and am not impressed. Seems like Tom turned the cookin over to a chef and its not the same as when he was in Portland. He now has huge overhead so things have changed. I thought the haddock had way too much batter attached, and when this happens it reminds me that they are hiding something. I remember the haddock in Portland being outstanding. Its not the same now.
Hope he does well, but I am afraid that the little chef who served outstanding food in Portland moved to Freeport and now is looking at the bottom line more then satisfying all his previous customers with outstanding food. Yes, I should of taken a picture....
That's two not-so-great reports in a row. My clams a few weeks ago were excellent - just like his Fisherman's Grill days. When I went it was pretty dead (very hot outside and almost no one inside) so that might have been a factor. Jameson can easily turn out at least 30X the food as FG so I guess the days of the guy shucking his own clams in the morning and then manning the fryer the rest of the day may be gone. Jameson is certaining not a one-man show. Maybe I just happened to hit it just right. Bummer.
Thanks so much! We're really looking forward to the trip and it'll be here before we know it. We're going to wing breakfasts and lunches, although Duckfat and Eventide are on the list for those and I've been following the Blue Rooster buzz. But we've got reservations at the following for our dinners:
On The Marsh
Street and Co.
Primo (glad I got this one in pre-James Beard win!)
I'm going to have to walk... a lot... I'm thinking. :) I'll definitely give a full report when we're there/get back. I think it says a lot when you go back there year after year - especially given the ridiculous flight times involved! :)
After some significant research, I think I've narrowed down our choices so I'm looking for feedback now to narrow it even more or keep us from making a big mistake. Keep in mind we're most interested in seafood and local dining (i.e. things we probably can't get in MN).
Breakfast options - Need 2 - All Day Breakfast & H.B. Provisions - good or other suggestions?
Lunch option - Need 1/possibly 2 - The Clam Shack - seems non-negotiable and a must do, unless there's a better option. If a second lunch option is needed, we're thinking Cape Pier Chowder House. Thoughts?
Dinner options - Need 2 - Ocean, Earth, On the Marsh, Frankie & Johnny's - can only go to 2. Thoughts?
Breakfast options - Need 1/possibly 2 - Hot Suppa, Bayou Kitchen - seems like there's lots of options for weekend brunch, but we'll be here mid-week
Lunch - Need 1/possibly 2 - Duckfat, Bite into Maine food truck, Eventide Oyster Co.
Dinner - Need 2 - This one is tough - Bresca, Fisherman's Grill, Fore Street, 555, Street & Co.
Bar Harbor/way to Bar Harbor -
Breakfast - Need 1/possibly 2 - Home Kitchen Cafe, any additional suggestions? Even a great bakery would be nice.
Lunch - Need 2 - Five Islands Lobster Shack, Jordan Pond House - lunch in Bar Harbor proper seems challenging - any more suggestions for this?
Dinner - Need 2 - The Lost Kitchen, Primo, Thurston's Lobster Pound (non-negotiable)
Any other must sees? Candy shops? Ice cream? Other goods?
Thanks in advance!
I'll comment on the Portland choices. Breakfast: I'm a pseudo regular at Bayou Kitchen and when they have it as a special the biscuits and gray are great. Hot Suppa also a very nice breakfast. To me, it depends on where you're staying. Bayou is a drive out of downtown or the Old Port area. Hot Suppa closer but in the west end. If I could walk to one, that would be the deciding factor. In fact, if I were staying in the Old Port I'd do something completely different. Weather would be another factor. A nice morning? Outside, waterfront at the Porthole or maybe takeout something from Standard Bakery. I just don't think I'd make a special drive "out" of the city for either spot (though you could probably walk to Hot Suppa).
Lunch: You CAN have it all. IF you are visiting the Portland Head Lighthouse anyway, then at least split a lobster roll (I had the one with curry last season and it was great). That could easily hold you off until Duckfat/Eventide. They are across the street from each other and easy to try both (I'm a grazer). Duckfat for fries (a must if only to see if the hype is justified), maybe split a pinini then walk over to Eventide for some oysters. I would then walk over to Two Fat Cats and split the best whoopie pie around. It's Maine and it's almost our state dessert. Yes, you CAN have it all!
Dinner is a bit tougher choice as we're talking apples and oranges and, throw in Fisherman's grill, kumquats. Once again where you're staying could factor in. Fisherman's Grill: tiny, hole in the wall, a drive to an incredibly un-scenic part of town but they have the best fried clams and the lobster rolls are raved about.
Bresca: wonderful. Tiny. But only Friday and Saturday dinner. Lunch Wednesday through Saturday.
555 is in the Arts District with excellent food. Fore Street is in the Old Port and pretty much invented the farm to table movement. Much more lively atmosphere if that's what you're looking for. More meats although there are always fish options (the mussels are a huge hit while the truffled lobster Mac and cheese at 555 is also hard to beat). Street and Company (sister restaurant of Fore Street) is pure seafood in a pretty bustling scene on a cobblestoned street (actually an alleyway). Nice weather and you can eat outside on the street. Which one? I've never heard of anyone NOT enjoying Fore Street - for me it's the closest thing to a sure bet in town but...
Gelato Fiasco for dessert.
By the way, Primo (possibly my favorite restaurant in the state) is in Rockland, about a 2 hour drive from Bar Harbor.
Thank you! This is so helpful. In Portland, we'll be staying in Old Port. I had looked at Porthole, but it looks like they are or were closed but will be open with new management? But their website doesn't give details so I wasn't sure what was happening there. Sounds like that may be an option for us though. Standard Bakery is a great suggestion too - thanks!
It's funny you mention the whoopie pies because Hubster loves these disgusting, dry, moon pie things you get in gas stations around here. He'd probably think he'd died and gone to heaven with a gourmet one. LOL
Good to know Bresca is only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday. That won't work for us as we'll be in Bar Harbor those nights, but maybe Bresca would be good for a lunch? We don't mind tiny if the food is good.
Thank you for the distinctions between those dinner options. That helps a lot. I know Primo is outside of Bar Harbor. That would be our dinner option on our way from Portland to Bar Harbor - I'm really torn between that and The Lost Kitchen. They both sound awesome.
The Porthole is definitely reopened! I had breakfast there last weekend and it was quite good--a huge improvement. Their Facebook page has more up to date information/pictures/menu info. It's a good choice if the weather is nice--you can sit on the deck.
I'm seconding the whoopie pies at 2 Fat Cats (they're pretty special!), and Bresca for lunch.
Enjoy your trip!
Just an FYI re. our whoopie pies and your husbands obsession. Like your moon pies, we too have whoopie pies at every gas station and convenience store in the state. Some are quite good, most are disgusting imo. There are two things that differentiate Two Fat Cats from the others.
1st is the cream. With most whoopie pies, I find the cream way too sugary and it's almost like there is a sticky substance added to the cream so that after eating one, I swear I can actually feel my teeth decaying in my mouth (this may be the source of the many Maine/teeth jokes). Two Fat Cats cream is light and delicious and leaves a "clean" taste in your mouth (I feel like I'm describing a wine instead of a snack food).
2nd. It's fairly small. The typical whoopie pie seems like it can feed a family of 4 for a week. Two Fat Cats is just the right size. You can eat one and still look at yourself in the mirror in the morning.
You really should try these things at a couple of places to compare. Everyone has their favorite.
All Day Breakfast is a real restaurant with table service. I find it to be good, but nothing extraordinary. They make a competent breakfast, as any breakfast should be able to do. It gets crowded on weekends, so if you are going there, either get there very early or a half-hour before closing.
H.B. Provisions is not a restaurant. It is a deli/grocery/convenience store with a small seating area with stools and a few tables. You order at the counter.
IMO, the Cape Pier Chowder House is a better option than the Clam Shack. The food at CPCH is superior and less expensive, and the portions are larger. There's also seating. If you do go to the CH, stop at the Cape Porpoise Kitchen on the way (if you drive down School St. on the way into Cape Porpoise from Kport, it's on your left at the intersection in Cape Porpoise). The homemade cookies sold near the cash register are unbelievable, esp. the chocolate cowboy cookie.
In Kennebunkport, skip On The Marsh and Cape Pier Chowder. Two dinners should definitely include Ocean and Earth; two lunches should take place at The Ramp and The Tides. The lobster roll at the Clam Shack is the best in own, but as it's a stand, use it for an afternoon snack. Do not go near All Day Breakfast - try the new Edgewater Inn instead. Have an ice cream at Goose Rocks Dairy. Enjoy!
It's unfortunate that you said to skip On the Marsh. It was one of our favorite meals! That said, we did also enjoy a dinner at Ocean which was quite lovely and I have no doubt that Earth is great too - I spent a fair amount of time at the Tree Spa and we stayed at Tides Beach Club so I know their service is top notch!
First of all, thanks to all of you for the great suggestions! We LOVED Maine - all aspects - the scenery, the food, the people. People always talk about "Minnesota nice" but Maineians? Mainites? are giving us a run for our money!
Now on to the food! I regret not writing this right away when we got back or while we were in Maine because I have forgotten a lot of the details. :( But I still remember the stand outs! :)
Lunch - We landed in Portland and immediately drove down to Kennebunkport. We stayed at the Tides Beach Club so we had a quick afternoon snack there (cups of chowder and a lobster roll) before our dinner at Ocean. The food at Tides was good, but I wouldn't say it was anything out of the ordinary, but we mostly just had continental breakfast there. That said, the service at Tides is AMAZING. Would go back there in a heartbeat!
Dinner - Ocean - the views were amazing and the space was lovely. The food was also quite good, but the waiter, while very nice, did one of my pet peeves. He went through the menu highlighting what all his favorites were. I don't know when restaurants will get this, but I don't care what my waiter likes. If I wanted to know, I would ask him. Don't rave to me about the steak. What if I don't eat red meat? What a stupid waste of time. Sorry - that just irritates me to no end. In any event, the food was excellent, but not as memorable as the views.
Breakfast - continental at the Tides
Lunch - went into Kennebunkport to eat at the Clam Shack. We got a lobster roll, fried shrimp and fried clams. While good, I wouldn't say it was stellar and it seemed exorbitantly priced for what we got. We should have heeded the warnings on this one, but Travel + Leisure raved so I fell for it. We also went to Federal Jack's so the hubster could grab a beer which he quite liked.
Dinner - On the Marsh - It was SO quiet here. It was just us and one other couple, but apparently it was the first Tuesday of the season that they were open. The view of the marsh was quaint and serene and the food was delicious. I think we proclaimed this our second favorite meal of the trip. I had lobster and scallops and hubster had a local halibut filet with the most amazing foie and truffle oil whipped potatoes. If I could have just had those potatoes funneled into my mouth all night, I'd have been a happy girl. Seriously, to die for. They were SO good. We also tried their blueberry kuchen. I'm of German Russian descent and our kuchen looks VERY different from the cobbler-looking thing we were served. That said, the cobbler-looking thing tasted awesome! So regardless, kuchen kicks ass. :)
Day 3 -
Breakfast - continental at Tides
Lunch - Made it back up to Portland and lunched at Duckfat. We had a little wait, but it wasn't bad. Hubster and I both had paninis, milkshakes (he got salted caramel, I got creamsicle), and we shared an order of the poutine with the fried duck egg. Are you calculating all the calories there because I think we just stroked out 10 people. The food and shakes were all good, but the star here really was the poutine. We have poutine in MN but it seems like the mistake made here is that the cheese curds we use are too big so they don't really get all melty. Duckfat as the cheese curd ratio spot on.
Lunch Dessert - Went over to Two Fat Cats Bakery for a raspberry whoopie pie, which was delicious. I don't even want to know what our total calorie count was for this day.
Dinner - Fore Street - This is sad. I don't remember a lot about this dinner. I know it was good (we didn't have a bad meal), but it wasn't super memorable, aside from the $12 mussels appetizer the hubster got that would have easily cost $20+ in MN. We couldn't believe the quantity of mussels!
Breakfast - waffles at the Hampton Inn! LOL Supplemented by some baked goods at Standard Baking Co. - their molasses cookies are just like my grandmothers. Yummy!
Lunch - We trekked out to the Portland Head Lighthouse on an absolutely gorgeous day! As all you wise CH'ers said, everyone told us to go to Two Lights' Lobster Pound, blah blah blah, but we resisted and had lobster rolls at the Bite into Maine food truck. And we're so glad we did! Best. lobster. roll. EVER. I had the Maine style, hubster had the picnic style. They were awesome. Wish we could have brought them home with us. So good!
Dinner - Street and Co. - I had some amazing scallops and hubster had bluefish. Again, great meals. Hubster also was thrilled to finally have a slice of bourbon pecan pie that he had eyed at Two Fat Cats the day before.
Breakfast - Hampton Inn supplemented at Standard Baking Co. again.
Lunch - we made our way up to Bar Harbor on Day 5 and stopped in Camden for lunch. We ate at the Camden Deli because we knew it had a nice view and really - that's about all it had. The food wasn't great. Not inedible, but we'd been living high off the hog up until this time and this was not up to our standards. At all.
Dinner - Primo in Rockland. This redeemed lunch 10-fold! The space is so fun and after we ate we toured the grounds. I loved seeing all the chickens and pigs (even if I'd rather not think about the end result of them) and the garden. I had peekytoe crab 3 ways as an appetizer and husbster got the monkfish cheeks. Both were good, but the peekytoe was a little hard to eat. For dinner I had the baseball NY strip, hubster had a special pork chop with grits. My steak was amazing, but his pork chop was otherworldly! Sadly we had zero room for dessert but I'm sure the chef knocks that out of the park too. Would go back here any time!
Breakfast - continental at Hotel
Lunch - Jordan Pond House - food was so - so overall, although the popovers were awesome! The big draw here once again was the view. We ate out on the lawn with a great view of the Bubbles.
Dinner - Thurston's Lobster Pound - This was part of an organized lobster bake for the Acadia Birding Festival, so it was a bit no frills, but the lobster was delicious!
Breakfast - McDonald's on our way back to Portland - sad, but true
Lunch - We had some extra time before our flight, so we zipped over to the Eventide Oyster Co. Hubster got a dozen oysters (6 different kinds) and I got a farewell lobster roll with the brown butter sauce. Not a shabby way to bid beautiful Maine adieu!
All in all, we had an amazing time and would definitely go back. Hubster is already plotting Maine home acquisition once we win the lottery. :)
We were in Ogunquit the same week you were in Maine. Had dinner at Ocean on Friday night and I agree, food, views were wonderful. I'm sorry you had that kind of waiter,that certainly is annoying. We had a woman and she was very good. Even had nice people sitting next to us and struck up a conversation. it was a great night.
You've got a long drive between Portland and Bar Harbor, would you mind stopping for lunch at Just Barb's in Stockton Springs (before Ellsworth) to see if it's as good as we remember? I see on their facebook page they opened for the season on April 18. If you are driving Rt 1, you're going to go right by it. No view, it's more of a local place.
We're definitely thinking of stopping along the way to Bar Harbor. It's pretty overwhelming with all the great options, but I'll add Just Barb's to the list. We love places the locals go!
I've been doing a bit more research on the boards and have a list of places. Just need to look a bit more at menus, etc. and then will ask for some advice on paring the list down. I think we're going to regret only being up there 6 days. :)
I'll throw out a few suggestions in the Portland area. First, on the way into town I will assume that you will visit the Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth because, well... everyone does. So, if you're looking for a great lobster roll, I highly recommend the Taste of Maine lobster roll food truck. Others might send you to Two Lights lobster shack but IMO there's no comparison.
As you're doing a lobster bake at Thurston's I won't direct you to the lobster bake type places in the area (I've enjoyed Thurston's and Bass Harbor is beautiful). The two pure upper-scale seafood plays in Portland are Eventide Oyster Company (great oysters, cocktails, fried oyster bun and more) and Street and Company. Eventide more laid back and open throughout the day to late at night - a great place to graze. Street and Co more sit down dinner (though a good bar to eat at). Dress at both (really everywhere in Maine - except Arrows and a few others) is casual. J's Oyster for a local vibe, though the food not in the same league but it has the potential for more fun. You can get excellent seafood on almost any menu in Portland but that's not necessarily what those places specialize in.
No one really has a seafood tasting menu but if you're into sushi, I'd definitely point you to Miyake for the 7 course omakase. Not just sushi and sashimi. Chef Miyake is in the process of revamping the menu which is pretty exciting as he has experience with many cuisines. A bargain compared to big city sushi places and it can hang with the best. He always uses both local fish and meats from his farm as well as imports from as far away as Japan. Google it.
Visit Harbor Fish on the waterfront - cool fish market and they'll ship anything anywhere.
For shipping lobster, you can try the Cape Porpoise Lobster Company, out of Cape Porpoise/Kennebunkport. They also run the Cape Pier Chowder House (same location), which is excellent.
I recommend the lobster roll (and chowder!) at the above, but for an amazing roll--and a gorgeous view--go to Fort Williams Park where the Portland Head Light is, get a lobster roll at the food truck there, and eat it at a picnic table.