Maine: Where We Ate in and Around Acadia

Greetings, Everyone! We’ve just returned from Maine where we spent eight days in and around Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island (MDI). Almost every single one of those days was postcard-perfect weather, which we decided to accept as the universe evening the score for 2020 in general. Since we were coming from New York, which has a “similar or better coronavirus experience” than Maine, we weren’t required to self-quarantine, and other than maybe one popular trail where mask-wearing was far from exemplary, it felt safe. As usual, we followed a pretty predictable script every day: Light breakfast at home; Drive to Acadia National Park (we were in a vrbo outside the park, in a small town called Hancock) for a long hike or walk; Eat a big outdoor lunch on the later side at a lobster pound or seafood shack; Return home by way of farm market shopping; and lastly, a cocktail and super easy, fresh dinner at home. Unlike my typical vacation round-ups, I’ve decided to focus on Where We Ate, which I figured you’d like to hear about first. Later, I’ll report on how we cooked….

NOTE: Be sure to check on each restaurant’s hours before you head out. Many are closed from Monday through Wednesday.

Abel’s Lobster
Mount Desert
We found Abel’s from a page in the Eventide cookbook listing the authors’ favorite classic New England seafood shacks. By now you know how I feel about Eventide, so I figured this was a good lead. Because of COVID, there was only outdoor seating on picnic tables, but with string lights and charming views of the harbor, I can’t imagine that seating could be improved upon. It was our first lobster roll in Maine and delivered on every count — the roll was toasty, but not too bready or buttery, the extremely generous lobster filling was tossed lightly with a chive-mayo. (See opening photo.) Chased down with Maine Root blueberry sodas, it was an A+ way to kick off vacation. (And the crab roll above, was pretty nice, too.) Two things you should know: 1) Even though this was the best roll I ate (tied for first actually), it was also the priciest 2) The lines can be long and the service can be slow.

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
Trenton (just outside MDI)
True story: In search of a place to eat for lunch one day, I requested advice on an instagram story. Only a few minutes later, my friend Sonya sent me Martha Stewart’s most recent post from MDI singing the praises of Trenton Bridge. (Her famous Skylands summer home is in the area.) The lobster roll was solid here (not nearly as good as Abel’s or C-Ray), but the oysters were some of the best we’ve had.

Peter Trout’s Tavern and Inn
Southwest Harbor
With its weathered shingles, picnic tables, and view of the harbor, Peter Trout’s looks like most no-frills Maine eating. The menu, though, is another story. Yes, they have the obligatory lobster roll and fried fish fare but they are on the “house bun” made with “house aioli”…

…and they also serve, get this…an heirloom tomato sandwich! A burger! A “simple arugula salad!” Even if you don’t order any of these things, it’s nice to know you have another option. (And maybe there’s someone in your travel party who’d appreciate a nod to them?) Note 1: We didn’t have trouble getting a table on the day we went for lunch, but it’s very limited space (no indoor dining right now because of COVID) so call ahead to assess the wait. Note 2: The T-shirts they sell are awesome.

Beal’s Lobster Pier
Southwest Harbor
Full disclosure: I never actually ate at Beal’s, but it was on the Eventide List, as well as many many others, so I feel obligated to recommend it here. (We actually tried to go, but we showed up at prime lunch hours one day and the line was prohibitively slow and long. Other people can tell me if that is typical.) It’s been there almost a hundred years old, and lobstermen unload their catches right on the restaurant’s back pier.

Charlottes Legendary Lobster Pound
Southwest Harbor
When we were driving up to Charlotte’s, my 16-year-old said, “Oh yessss. This is exactly what I want right now.” You know what she means, right? Look at that storefront. I went off-roading with a fried clam roll, which was, of course good (how could it not be?) but the sandwich wasn’t my top pick of the week. This would be a great place for young kids: There’s a huge menu, lots of space for kids to run around (socially distanced) while you wait for food.

Thrive & Coffee Matter 
Bar Harbor
As much as we would’ve liked to, we couldn’t eat lobster rolls and fried seafood for every meal out. Thrive, on a quiet side street in Bar Harbor, was good for those days. They serve what my daughters would call healthy-queen fare: salads, smoothies, a killer avocado toast, and açaí bowls. They also share a take-out window with Coffee Matter so you can get your latte fix at the same time. We went here after watching a 5:25 sunrise at Cadillac Mountain and then back a few days later for a mid-morning smoothie. (Photo credit: Thrive.)

C-Ray Lobster
Bar Harbor
By Day 7, you’d think that we’d get sick of lumps of seafood stuffed into buttery rolls. By sheer luck, though, our last lobster roll on MDI was our best lobster roll (or at least tied for first with Abel’s). Not quite as packed as an Abel roll, but the right ratio of meat to bread if you didn’t want to collapse into a post-lunch food coma. The menu was almost fine art in its breakdown: Cooked Seafood, Chowder, Sandwiches, Lobster Bakes. Under each category, three or four things, everything you’d want, nothing more nothing less.

P.S. Abby just read this post and said I should add the following statement: “If you can only eat one lobster roll this week, make it from C Rays. If you can have two, go to Abel’s.”

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41 Comments

Julie

We left Maine five years ago for St. Louis. And this post made me heartbreakingly homesick. Thanks for the update, and glad you made it home safely

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Steve

Thanks for the memories! We were not able to get to Maine this year, and C-Ray’s is our #1 spot for lobster.

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Maria

New York hardly has a “better Covid experience” than Maine! With only 125 deaths in the entire state, Maine is one of the best places to be right now. And no, masks haven’t been mandated until recently. In such a rural state, they hardly seem necessary. Hopefully tourists won’t bring Covid into the state with them.

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Jenny

That was a funny way to phrase it — I think the Maine.gov info meant “similar or better” CURRENTLY, not historically. The other states listed were New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

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Faye Matson

Next time your in Southwest Harbor be sure to stop at Milagro Coffee & Espresso for the best coffee you will ever drink and fresh made pastries and burritos. The seasalt and rosemary bagels are my favorite with cream cheese and capers. You won’t be disappointed!

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Carolyn Wright-Marietta

I will be visting Maine in a few short days. I’m required to provide a negative COVID result, less than 72 hrs old. Mine will be less than 24 hrs old and I have and will take full precaution. Hope that information alleviates some your very valid concerns.

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Ray

Headed to Southwest Harbor for a week on 9/12. Look forward to following some of your footsteps. Looking forward to your next Maine posts.

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sallyt

I LOVE all the lobster roll reviews! Our Maine vacation was cancelled, and we’re still sad about it.

Do you mind sharing the VRBO listing? It’s so hard to find a good one – thanks!

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Carolyn Wright-Marietta

I’m counting down the days until I return to my beloved Maine. Not my home state but the place of my heart. Four days and counting. Naked lobster roll, here I come!

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Morris

No mention of Thurston’s in Bernard ? puts the others to shame. Abel’s Trenton Bridge

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Jenny

Haha. Many people suggested Thurston’s and it was on the list, but we never made it there. Doesn’t mean it isn’t great!

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Neha

What VRBO did you stay at? I’m looking for something for my family. Looking forward to trying your food recs.

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Liza

I’m with you in suggesting Thurstons, but love Abel’s and both are different places and experiences unique in their own way!

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Liza

I am with you in recommending Thurstons in Manset which is delicious. Abel’s is a great and delicious experience too right on Somes Sound outside of Northeast Harbor. If one has time, do both!

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Bret Murray

Looks like we’re were there about the same time as you! We were looking to be by the sea, but also avoid being in crowds, which we managed to do, more or less. Our group mostly cooked in or got food to go, but the one time we did dine out, we went to Mainely Meat BBQ at Atlantic Brewing Co. If you’re looking for a brief reprieve from Lobstah, I’d highly recommend checking it out. Great bbq, an open air dining area and super nice waitstaff, made it a very pleasant experience. When looking to get back to seafood, we had a great togo meal from The Traveling Lobster. Also highly recommend. Thanks for the article. I already miss being up there.

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Barbara Grygier

You brought back MANY MEMORIES of the best vacations EVER! My Late Husband and I spent the time centered around Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island. We also visited Lubec and truly enjoyed it…fog rolled in~fog rolled out like clockwork. Those vacations are the stuff life long memories are made of…especially John’s Ocean Adventure.

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Alan

My Family and I just returned from Northport Maine 8/2. We’ve been vacationing at Point Lookout for the past 3yrs now and we have fallen in love with the area. While there we dine at the Whales Tooth Pub and The Hoot. But our morning gets started after a trip to which is perhaps the ‘BEST’ coffee spot, Green Tree Coffee & Tea.

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Kelsey Alfredson

I was SO EXCITED to see this post on Facebook! We leave for Acadia National Park on Thursday and we’ve never been to Maine. Glad you had a fun trip and thanks for sharing your tips!!

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Tricia

To clarify, Maine’s policy exempts out of state visitors from quarantine if you are from “states with a SIMILAR or better COVID-19 experience than Maine”, meaning that someone from that state does not necessarily pose a greater chance of bringing covid-19 into Maine. That said, this tourist season has been stressful for our community. Our little hospital certainly could not handle an influx of cases, and there have been tourists who get tested before they leave home only to find out they are positive AFTER they arrive here. If you must travel, please be kind, careful…and please wear masks.

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Janet

We, sadly, didn’t get to go to Maine this year as Massachusetts residents aren’t allowed. We usually go in April, too. Will save your recommendations for next time! Thank goodness we live near Cape Cod and the lobster rolls here are great too.

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Allison

Hi Jenny! I LOVE your travel posts. Thanks for this. A solid lobster roll recommendation saves a lot of time (and $). I just made the Bon Appetit “best of both worlds” lobster rolls and they were fantastic. Acadia is stunning and I can’t wait to read your hiking and cooking posts.

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Richard Queen

1st CONGRATULATIONS on making it to Acadia !!! While hiking is always nice, next time try a bicycle and really get around. Wish you had went to Beal’s (the big thing is lobsters cooked in fresh seawater) , it really would have been your first choice. Will check out C. Rays myself in the late fall before closing season.

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Jenny

No! They looked great! (Everything looked great!) Since we usually ate lunch in Acadia, by the time we came back to Hancock (where Ruth & Wimpy’s & YU are) it was dinner and we just wanted to cook at home. We did manage to get soft serve at Jordan’s down the street…

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christine wellman

well you didn’t miss anything at ruth & wimpy’s; YU has excellent fried haddock, clams and shrimp (and fried mussels, when they have them)
Best, though, is that YU often has fresh-picked crab for sale: best tasting and best price, for miles around.
Also worth considering: Ironbound (also in Hancock).
And if you ever go to Schoodic Point (also part of Acadia and beautiful), there is Downeast Mexican Take-Out not far from the Point: pretty good though they can sell out well before closing.

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Marcella

So jealous as a Texan here!!!!! 🙁 Maine looks very refreshing, and I’ve never had a lobster roll! Lol. Would love to go to Acadia someday.

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Lee Lawrence

We canceled our trip to Maine, we were going to camp at Mount Desert Island then spend some time in Old Orchard Beach, but we were told we would either have to quarantine for 2 weeks or attest to negative covid tests within 72 hours of arrival. The only exceptions to this rule were New Hampshire and Vermont people, so I am a bit confused about how New York, with way worse numbers than all the surrounding states, somehow became exempt from these edicts.

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Jenny

I’m sorry you had to cancel your trip, that is a huge disappointment. This is how the Maine.gov website explains exempting NY, NJ, VT, NH:

Maine is exempting residents of other states from the testing and 14-day quarantine requirements because, when adjusted for population, the prevalence of active cases of COVID-19 in these states is similar or better to Maine’s, as compared to other states. Maine considers a number of quantitative measures in making this determination, which is designed to protect public health.

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I

This will probably come off as both rude and mean but it is not intended that way.
I am just curious how you justify travelling to a small destination for a non-essential reason during a global pandemic that is in fact just getting worse?

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Emily

SAFELY Supporting small businesses, enjoying family time, appreciating the great outdoors… a few reasons spring to mind…

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Amy C Gilbride

OMG those lobster rolls look amazing! I was supposed to go to Maine next month, but sadly have cancelled. This post definitely reminded me to make it a priority for next year!

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Kat

Ah, Acadia! I have such fond memories from when I did research at MDI Bio Lab 10 years ago. Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound was there back then as well, and I remember having the best fried scallops and steamed lobster there. My husband and I were hoping to go up there this summer, but sadly, Maine has decided to ban Massachusetts residents even though we’ve been doing pretty good with COVID-19 overall. So I’m living vicariously through your gorgeous pictures. Glad you guys had beautiful weather!

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Wendy Saling

Our trip to Acadia last August was our best vacation ever. We also stayed in Hancock. Our dining experience was different due to our youngest having celiac. That said we loved Beal’s…except for my 11 year old who broke down crying after watching her parents share a lobster. We also enjoyed Side Street Cafe and Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Bar Harbor and Morton’s Moo in Ellsworth.

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Susie Ballenger

Thank you so much for this post! Although I’m not sure we’ll be able to manage a trip this season, I’m grateful for all these great dining recommendations the next time we can get to Maine. We went several summers ago to Acadia and loved every minute of it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shared your vacation posts with friends heading off to a city you’ve visited (and used many of them myself). Lastly, I’ve been following this blog long enough to know that there is so much thought and care in what is offered here, and this pandemic season has been especially helpful to me and I’ve turned to it again and again for great recipes and thoughtful suggestions for how to make meaning and help others during this time. I’m really glad you all were able to get away as a family, be outside, and enjoy great food!

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Alexandra Dennehy

Hi! I am very surprised that you don’t have the Travellin’ Lobster listed! It has amazing lobster rolls and clam chowder. We ate there 2 days back to back, but the 2nd time, I ordered the classic lobster, but roll….it was absolutely delicious. My kids and I always stop there for lobster rolls and dessert…5 yrs in a row since made MDI our girls trip every yr since.

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend them! The are the best! Fully loaded , falling out lobster rolls….try the blt one too!

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Sasha

Were you going to do a follow-up post on what you cooked? Or restart the Project Pantry Purpose series? I haven’t been to Acadia, and would love to visit and check out all these spots in more normal times. I do have to admit that I am a little sad I won’t be able to enjoy a proper beach vacation this year. Here in the midwest, the beaches of Lake Michigan are completely full by people escaping from Chicago and elsewhere. When we tried to go, the sheer mass of people congregating there made me panic, and there is no cabin accommodation to the be found- everything has been rented out. My friends in upstate NY tell me of a similar situation there.

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Jesse

Planning to go to Acadia with my husband for our Baby Moon next month. Would love to know which VRBO you stayed in and if you liked it!

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Margee Krebs

So sorry you didn’t get to Thurston’s, which is our go-to when we’re on MDI. Great food, fabulous view.

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Delia

Absolutely LOVE MDI. Next time you’ve got to try Thurston’s lobster pound and Little Notch bakery. Best cinnamon buns in the world!

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