For those of you who are Facebook friends with me, it’s not news that Doug and I spent some time in Maine recently. We try to go once and year, but this year was a little different—we decided to do a “best of Maine” trip where we picked two of our favorite places in Maine. Our adventure: Boothbay Harbor and Bar Harbor.
I’m going to go a little rogue and not just talk about food in this post. I’m also going to mention a few great places to stay, things to do, and places to shop at while you’re in both destinations. But I’m obviously going to talk about food, too.
Let me start in Boothbay Harbor. Doug and I first visited for my birthday a few years ago. It was a torrential downpour the entire two days we were there. But what Doug and I loved was actually the place we stayed: The Tugboat Inn. The accommodations aren’t fancy: The bedcovers are old lady floral and the carpets probably haven’t been updated since the 80s, but that’s its charm. It’s also not every day that you find a restaurant that’s an actual tugboat! So of course we decided to stay here again. If you’re lucky enough to stay here during a Friday or Saturday night, head to the hotel lounge (which is only open on the weekend) for some drinks and wonderful entertainment—the last time we visited, we had the pleasure of being serenaded by a lovely piano player.
For lunch, we headed to the Lobster Dock—a Bobby Flay Throwdown spot. I recommend starting with their famous crab cakes (that won over Bobby’s) and then a cold lobster roll as your main dish. The crab cakes are smooth and full of crab meat and have this kick from the sauce that’s perfect. The lobster roll is packed with lobster and almost impossible for my tiny mouth to attempt to eat without using a fork.
That afternoon, we went to the Botanical Gardens, which is so much larger than we expected. It’s broken up into several different gardens—from a children’s garden with Mr. McGregor to a rose garden with a pergola featuring gourds hanging from the top. Since it’s the fall, the places was jam-packed with pumpkins around every turn. Definitely go down along the Shoreland Trail. It’s nothing fancy, but you have a view of the water and there are several spots to stop, including the Fairy Village and Contemplation Garden.
After a little rest, we were off to dinner at the 88 restaurant in the Spruce Point Inn. It’s a bit fancy with white tablecloths and piano with an invisible player, so if you’re not looking for fancy, I suggest another spot. It also supposedly has one of the best views of the sunset in Boothbay from its restaurant windows. We missed the sunset because of a late reservation, but the food was good. We started with a Portobello mushroom appetizer. For mains, Doug got the pork tenderloin and I got the grilled salmon with greens, garlic smashed parsnip and potato, and wasabi buerre blanc. We ended with a heavenly pumpkin crème brulee. It was silky smooth. It was creamy. It was dreamy.
The next day we were off to Bar Harbor—about a 2 ½ hour drive away. Upon arrival, we had some time to kill before we were able to check into our bed & breakfast, so we walked around town and did some great window shopping of the “terrible trinkets” (coined by Doug). But not all the places have horrendous tshotshkes. We found this amazing store called In the Woods that has locally hand-crafted wooden toys, kitchenware, and goods. Obviously I went nuts with all of the bowls and utensils and serving boards. The place is not cheap, but the pieces are spectacular. We left with a beautiful serving platter (meant to be a cutting board, but I gasp at the thought of cutting anything on this thing!), a little whale ornament, and a little toy for the soon-to-be niece. If you find yourself walking through town, this place is a must.
To warm up while we waited to head to the bed & breakfast, we stopped for a bite at Paddy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. It is the perfect place to grab a couple of drinks and something to nibble on. For Doug, that was their burger and fries, and for me, that was a bowl of their seafood chowder. And believe it or not, this chowder was HANDS DOWN the best chowder I have ever had. It wasn’t just clams—it was small shrimp, white fish, and a mixture of other seafood. It was just what I needed.
After filling up our tummies, we went to our bed & breakfast—The Coach Stop Inn. This place is everything you think of when you consider a bed & breakfast … and then some. It’s charming, it’s quaint, it’s warm. It is the only place I will ever stay at when we visit Bar Harbor. The owners of the inn—Jim and Anna—are originally from Atlanta, Georgia and were ready for a change. They’ve done some upgrades from the last time we visited in 2013, and it was just as wonderful as we remembered. The breakfast is gourmet (and I don’t tend to eat breakfast often) and always a great mix of goodness. For example, during our two mornings, we had a roasted plum parfait and blueberry ricotta pancakes one morning, and a cinnamon apple quesadilla and huevos rancheros with poached egg and homemade guacamole the next. There was no need for Doug and I to go to a bar after both of our dinners each night for more drinks. We just bought a bottle of wine and some beer and sat by the fire playing scrabble. What could be more perfect?
For our first evening in Bar Harbor, we decided on Mache Bistro, an amazing French restaurant I couldn’t get out of my had since our last visit. The spot is far down the main street so it’s nice and set apart from all of the foot traffic of the store fronts. We started with the seared crispy pork belly with spiced honey and fig pancetta jam. Yum! Then for our mains, Doug got the portabella mushroom stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized onions and served over white beans with shitake mushroom confit, and I got the slow cooked duck leg confit served over caramelized onion, smoked duck, and white bean ragu. They were both delicious, but our dessert took the win. It was a pumpkin, hazelnut, and marscapone tart baked in a pecan crust and topped with vanilla bourbon whipped cream. After one bite, and with his mouth still full of food, Doug looked up at me and said, “You must make this.” And after taking a bite myself, I agreed.
The next day, we were off on an Acadia Nature Cruise in the frigid wind. After picking up our tickets and buying hats to cover our ears, we were off. Some highlights of the cruise included seeing the summer homes of several wealthy owners, a family of seals piled up high on top of one another, and Doug’s favorite: a bald eagle. But by far the greatest highlight was our naturalist guide, who was a 30-year Navy veteran and an awesome guide, storyteller, and human being. We wished we could take him home with us!
After our tour and warming up a bit in the car, we were off to Acadia National Park. We did the park the last time we visited, but it’s always such a beautiful place to go and walk around. We stopped at the usual places: Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, and of course, Cadillac Mountain at the tippy top. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike or walk through, but it was a chilly day and we are more of the driving kind of travelers, so we drove from stop to stop. It is a must for a trip to Bar Harbor.
That evening, we went to the Looking Glass at the Blue Nose Hotel for dinner. The spot has beautiful panoramic windows along the far side of the restaurant that provides an amazing view into the harbor. But the spot is actually quite laid back with wooden tables and chairs without tablecloths or 5 different types of silverware. We started with the lobster rangoons and fried manchego (both delicious), and then dove into our mains: truffled lobster mac and cheese for Doug and miso maple pork tenderloin for me. I devoured my entire meal, however even after spending a great deal of time on his mac and cheese, it still didn’t look like Doug put a dent in it. As for dessert, we were far too stuffed.
So off we went back to the Coach Stop for a nightcap and a game of Scrabble by the fire. The perfect end to an amazing vacation.