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.
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
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
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
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
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.)
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.”