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bar harbor restaurants?


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Haven't been to Bar Harbor for ten years or so and don't know the present scene. But, it's a small town so you could just get there, park your car, and walk around checking places out. There are many places to eat and drink within a small area.

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Last Summer, when in Bar Harbor, we visited these places.

Actually all four were very good, respectively for what they carried.

Chart House Lobster Roll and Chowder.

The Cottage Street Bakery and Deli ,

Big Cinnamon Buns, delicious Raspberry Pie (This place is also good for picnic lunches).

Ben and Bill's , Ice Cream you won't want to miss, but I would suggest you also try the place up the street ( C.J's ) maybe the best Butter Pecan Ice Cream (Gifford's Maine Black Bear Ice Cream!

Epi's for Sandwich

Peter
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  • 11 months later...

It's been a few years since we were there, but I'd go back to both Galyn's Galley (good seafood with a little more variety than just lobster and chowder) and the Jordan Pond House in the national park (for the popovers). One of the local microbreweries does a nifty blueberry beer as well, which we were calling "liquid muffin" by the end of the trip. Dave insists that I point out that popovers are just Yorkshire puddings with jam. :laugh: They're good, either way.

Contact info for Galyn's

Jordan Pond House

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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There's more than Bar Harbor to the area, so keep in mind other towns on Mount Desert Island)(MDI) as well as the nearby mainland, especially Ellsworth.

Also, almost all restaurants on MDI are casual, some some less so than others. Of those listed below, the Bar Harbor Inn, Thrumbcap and George's are "casual smart", in other words, while you might be able to push it to wear shorts, cutoffs would be frowned upon.

Here are some ideas:

LOBSTER POUNDS

I’ve yet to visit a lobster pound restaurant in Mount Desert or anywhere in Hancock or Washington counties that didn’t do a great job cooking crustaceans. Just steam them so many minutes per pound and you’ve got a perfect seaside meal. Same goes for the clams (soft belly clams, the true clam, not the quahog pretender).

So, as for the debate of who does a better job, Beal’s in Southwest Harbor or Thurston’s in Bernard (on Bass Harbor), the quality of the food is not an issue. Both use fresh-hauled, minimally impounded lobsters. Both know how to cook them. Both charge about the same price.

What does make the difference is ambiance, and here Thurston’s is the clear winner. Beal’s seems hemmed in and does not offer a wide view of its harbor. Thurston’s dining area is at the end of the wharf with an expansive view of the harbor. Another edge for Thurston’s is that you can order the steamed seafood and all other offerings (dessert, burgers and hot dogs, etc.) at the same window. At Beal’s you have to walk halfway up the wharf.

Last time I was on MDI I was going to try Head of the Harbor in Southwest, but when I saw the prices for clams (I eat more pounds of clams during a week on MDI than lobster by a 4:1 ratio) my penurious personality got the best of me and I drove to Beal’s instead. Nice view, though.

Keep in mind that the prices are less expensive at the pounds in Trenton just before you cross the bridge onto MDI. I've found that Lunt's in particular is quite reliable.

SEAFOOD KETCH, BASS HARBOR

This staple seafooder on the southernmost part of MDI (Probably a 35-45 minute drive from Bar Harbor) offers reliable, tasty and fairly priced fare. When you want basic fried or broiled fish or seafood, come here.

WEST STREET CAFE, BAR HARBOR

I haven't been here in a few years, but similar to Seafood Ketch, though I think they also do a lot of pasta, here.

EPI'S, BAR HARBOR

Freshly made Italian-style sandwiches. Maybe not like a South Philly hoagie or a Ninth Avenue sub, but filling and good. Great to take along on hikes (hold the mayo).

LITTLE NOTCH BAKERY & PIZZERIA, SOUTHWEST HARBOR

Great Italian style breads (of the rustic variety) and very, very, very good pizza and hot sandwiches. The retail restaurant is on the main drag, the actual bakery out near the wharf, though you can buy the bread at a number of stores in the area.

RIVERSIDE CAFÉ, ELLSWORTH

Last August, before we even hit MDI, we stopped in Ellsworth for lunch at the Riverside Café. You may have known it as “Dick’s” when it was located at State & Main; for at least a few years, it’s been up Main Street closer to the Grand and across the street from Maidee’s. It’s a great place for breakfast or lunch, but be prepared to wait during the peak summer season, unless there is room at the counter. She Who Must Be Obeyed (SWMBO) highly recommends the excellent bacon to accompany your eggs in the morning (or at lunch). Homemade onion rings were generous, sweet and took up just the right amount of grease. I thought the clam chowder was too thick and had a higher potato/clam ratio than necessary. The fried haddock (I had it as a sandwich, but it’s also available as a platter) was excellent: very lightly battered, perfectly deep-fried with no trace of residual oil.

JORDON POND HOUSE

Operated by the company which holds the franchise for food and shops within Acadia National Park, the Jordon Pond House, while offering okay but overpriced food for lunch and dinner, is essential for afternoon "tea and popovers". The setting, with a view of The Bubbles up the pond, is delicious, the popovers hot and eggy. Reservations are a must for tea (and even then you'll probably wait 10 or 15 minutes).

BAR HARBOR INN

Sunday brunch at the Bar Harbor Inn has gone up in price in the two years since I last visited. Back then, brunch was under $20 a head and included mimosas. Now, the tab is $23, I believe, and drinks are extra. But that should not deter you from going if you enjoy buffet brunches, especially ones with outstanding views. The food is mostly what you expect for a Sunday buffet brunch – carving station, omelets and Belgian waffles to order, pastas, salads, breakfast meats – with a moderate emphasis on seafood. How many places offer Finan Haddie on a buffet table, or at all? Decent smoked salmon. The bagels were pre-sliced and divided into eighths, so it would be impossible to make a sandwich, but in this instance I considered that a plus, because it helped to prevent me from overindulging in carbohydrates. Also a nice selection smoked mussels, shrimp and scallops. What was missed from previous years, however, were the crepes with strawberry sauce.

XYZ, MANSET

Alas, I am told that the owner of one of my MDI favorite restaurants as sold it. Whether or not it will operate this summer I know not. With that caveat, here's a report on it I wrote after last August's visit:

XYZ remains one of my favorite Mexican restaurants anywhere (certainly east of Chicago, and it could compete there, too) and is one of the best eateries on the island. We dined there twice. The first night, dessert was the highlight. The proprietor made fresh blueberry sorbet from berries she had picked in her yard that day. Absolutely the best blueberry dessert I’ve ever had, including some exceptional pies and cobblers. The appetizer and entrée offerings have been updated. To my disappointment (but probably not to most diners), braised tongue no longer graces the menu. But there is a good range of other offerings. SWMBO particularly enjoyed the mole poblano chicken thighs. I found the braised short ribs an excellent replacement for the tongue – it was served as one long rib with meat on the bone, and I had enough left over to shred it into leftover pasta for dinner at the cottage the next evening.

We enjoyed XYZ so much that we went back for our last night’s dinner before leaving the island. I started out with a special appetizer, which has been offered occasionally in past seasons as well: octopus, scallops, and shrimp in a devilish sauce over guacamole. Quite yummy and appetite stimulating. The previous time, I had ordered the queso fundido with shredded pork as an appetizer; this time SWMBO did, much to her satisfaction. For an entrée, she continued with one of the two shredded pork entrees (one spicy, one not; she selected the latter). I tried the “chef’s choice”, which I had hoped would be an off-menu surprise from the kitchen. I was a bit let down when it arrived as a combo platter. But it was a most satisfying melange with the chile-enhanced shredded pork, a milder shredded beef concoction, and chile rellenos, as well as rice, black beans and a nicely intense garlic-enhanced chile sauce. The chile rellenos was not of the batter-fried variety; instead, it was a most mellow composition, a poblano with a cheese and corn interior, baked with cream.

For dessert, the waitress kindly excavated with pick and axe from the deep freeze a serving of that blueberry sorbet (they had not intended to offer it that night); though icy, I enjoyed it. XYZ’s featured dessert is XYZ pie, described on the menu as “layers of coffee and butter crunch ice cream divided by a rich ridge of solid chocolate covered in warm Kahlua chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream.” SWMBO is a chocoholic, but religiously avoids the combination of chocolate and coffee. (Silly girl!) So she asked for chocolate ice cream which, alas, XYZ does not stock. The proprietor, Janet, suggested a dish of chocolate sauce which SWMBO snapped up. She loved it, not knowing at the moment that it had a bit of coffee in it via the Kahlua.

THRUMCAP, BAR HARBOR

I had enjoyed Porcupine Grill on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor in past visits, but a number of years ago the owner changed the menu and renamed the establishment Thrumcap, and I had not had an opportunity to try it. So, we made a point of stopping by last august. It offers quality ingredients, imaginatively prepared (perhaps too imaginatively) and well executed. The menu is prix fixe only: $39. This buys you a soup or salad course, a “next” course, a small mains plate, and dessert. Wine, of course, is additional.

But be warned: this is a restaurant with a single serious problem, based on our visit there last August.

For openers, SWMBO enjoyed a green salad accented with pears and feta while I selected a tasty tomato-less gazpacho dominated by corn and cucumber. “Next” I had a highly satisfactory feta-beet salad. SWMBO went for the cheese plate, selecting three cheeses from among the half-dozen offered, including a Dutch goat gouda. It was on the third courses where there was some displeasure on our part. I ordered the mackerel filet, which turned out to be much too frou-frou for my taste (though not to SWMBO's), adorned as it was with tropical fruits among other over-the-top additions. SWMBO opted for the bistro steak, which was an excellent choice with a notable exception: she was never asked how she wanted the meat done because, we learned too late, the chef always prepares it rare unless otherwise instructed. Now, I would have had no complaint, because that’s how I like my steak, but SWMBO does not. I think it was unthinking not to ask. Maybe the chef dislikes cooking it that way, but he/she is there to serve. Bottom-line: the server should have announced that the steak would be cooked rare unless otherwise requested; that would have avoided the issue. (At least they took it back to the kitchen and cooked it to her liking.) Desserts were good, if unexceptional: SWMBO liked her thin chocolate torte with ground almonds; I found the peach-rhubarb cobbler just okay.

The problem we had with Thrumcap was its presumptuousness. We were told repeatedly how good every dish was and why, and how we should eat it. The implied message: “We know what’s trendy and good, and you don’t.”

While this attitude was clearly expressed by the steak doneness episode, I found it most telling in the wine list. I have difficulty understanding how a restaurant that prides itself on wine and prominently displays Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” certificates (that’s another story, well-covered by Mrs. Latte a few weeks ago in the Times) does not offer a single riesling. It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but there is no finer all-around wine for food than riesling. Yes, the Alsatian pinot gris offered instead was fine, but it wasn’t riesling! When I asked the a functionary in the front room (he may have been the owner, or perhaps just a barkeep – by my measure, if not his, he was no wine steward) his explanation was that they used to offer a riesling, but he doesn’t like German rieslings so he removed it from the list. This alone demonstrates the true value of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence”.

(A few other wine observations. Each dish on the menu comes with one or two wine recommendations, yet some of them do not appear on the wine list. Hard to know if they have them or not. SWMBO requested the chardonnay from the wine list with one of her dishes; they did not have it and replaced it with another without checking.)

Again, it’s not that any of the dishes or wines were bad or even mediocre. All were good, some excellent. It’s just that the place has an irredeemable attitude problem.

GEORGE’S, BAR HARBOR

In three decades of visiting MDI, I have yet to find another restaurant that offers the combination of food, service, and gracious surroundings of George’s. It remains my favorite destination dining room on the island.

I was concerned a few years ago when I learned George had retired and sold his establishment after some 20+ years of operation. But both two years ago, when I was last there, and last week prove that while there have been natural and evolutionary changes, the high standards (as well as a few of George’s standard dishes) remain in place.

I went for the smoked salmon followed by the lobster strudel. The strudel was the same one George made when I first dined here 25 years ago: triangular phyllo (it had to be homemade) crisply layered around lightly seasoned, defiantly and properly undersauced lobster meat, served with chanterelles on the side as well as perfectly cooked and incredibly fresh sugar snaps. SWMBO began with fried green tomatoes surrounding a local goat cheese flan, followed by swordfish with a pineapple salsa. For dessert I savored a blueberry zabaglione, while she was disappointed in a dessert much less chocolate-intensive than desired; it appeared that her and the pastry chef’s conception of ganache differed greatly.

SWMBO’s disappointment in dessert notwithstanding, we retain George’s on the top of our list of fine MDI dining establishments. And it would hardly fall in rank on any other island

DEACON SEAT, SOUTHWEST HARBOR

If you have read my previous postings on MDI restaurants, you know that I’ve recommended the Deacon Seat as a breakfast/blueberry pancake spot over Bar Harbor’s Jordan’s – not because the food is necessarily superior, but because the lines are shorter.

Although there appears to be new management/ownership at the Deacon Seat, the menu seems the same and the pancakes unchanged. But I had an unwanted experience this year. Perhaps I am letting my parsimonious nature get in the way. So I’ll let you be the judge.

I ordered blueberry pancakes with a side of sausage. The “side” of sausage cost $1.80. I received one sausage, slightly bigger than a Brown’N Serve. What really ticked me off is that the cook had nearly bisected the sausage (indeed, it was butterflied) in a feeble attempt to make it seem more than it was. I complained to the waitress, who commisserated with me, then I asked to see the manager (who was also the cook). When he eventually came out his explanation was simply that his costs have been going up. Other than telling him his reasoning was unsatisfactory, I let it go. But my guess is he either (1) overpaid in buying the restaurant and is cutting back to try to make it work or (2) he is a rotten manager or (3) both.

It could be I’m just cheap. But $1.80 seems a steep price to pay for a puny piece of minced pig meat and fat.

BURNING TREE, Otter Cove

A "nearly" vegetarian outpost, which many swear by. Not me.

CHASE'S, WINTER HARBOR

Across Frenchman's Bay from Bar Harbor (you can drive or take a passenger ferry) is this diner-like restaurant in beautiful downtown Winter Harbor. Incredible fish stews and chowders. Excellent fried clams. Non-Bar Harbor prices.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Yes, many thanks for the detailed reviewsRlibkind...and also Hannah for your comments, I feel I have some sense of your palate after several meals together and I am sure I will check out some of these places you enjoyed.

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Local seafood other than lobster: we got a very nice Maine crabcake (lots of sweet chunky crabmeat) at Jack Russell's Pub. On the plus side, there is a nice garden patio with a view; on the minus side, this was a couple of years ago; and on either side, it's also a brewpub, so there may be hits and misses in whatever's on offer in the beer/ale department.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I second Chase's in Winter Harbor--the best raspberry pie, hand-picked crab roll and non-floury clam chowder. (Or you can eat it in the reverse order.)

Also our friends Kathy and Karl own a more upscale place right by the ferry. They've been going to Thailand in the winter, and have brought lemon grass to the Schoodic Peninsula.

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  • 1 month later...
There's more than Bar Harbor to the area, so keep in mind other towns on Mount Desert Island)(MDI) as well as the nearby mainland, especially Ellsworth...

Fantastic. I'm heading up to Bar Harbor in a couple of weeks, and this massive information was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

I'd be interested to hear the experiences of other eGulleteers who've gone recently: Varmint? Malawry? What's good, or not so good?

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  • 3 weeks later...

... and I'm back. Lots of good food up there on Mt. Desert. We were there for only a couple of days, so had to be pretty selective.

Mostly we hit the lobster pounds. I pretty much only eat lobster when I'm in New England, and when I'm there, I eat a lot of it. So the pounds were the way to go for us. As Bob remarked in his excellent notes, they seem to be all pretty consistently good. We started on the way in, we stopped at Lunt's for some late lunch. Lunt's is just a little roadside lobster shack, with no decor; also blessedly free of lobster kitsch. Lobster rolls and clam chowder got us into the mood.

That night, we hit Thurston's, and the next Beal's. Both excellent, though Beth liked Beal's whole lobster better, not because the crustacean was superior, but because they crack it for you, which makes it a lot easier to eat. Thurston's gives you a lobster cracker to do the job, but that's still more work. Me, I'm just plain lazy, and while I had a whole lobster the first night, I switched to a lobster roll for dinner on the second. (Which, while it was overstuffed with lots of meat, is made with Miracle Whip, and I prefer mayo. Still good, though.)

We were a lot hungrier at Beal's (with a whole day of hiking behind us) and also tried the fish chowder (excellent). Beal's also has a menu of fried seafood, so we had some fried shrimp (good) and onion rings (frozen; shoulda skipped). And dinner both nights was washed down with the local blueberry ale. Aw yeah.

The other memorable meal was tea at the Jordan Pond House. It's a little bit of a circus there: lots of crowds, and you have to carry a beeper, Cheesecake Factory-style, while waiting for a table (even if you make a reservation, you'll have to wait. Make a reservation!) But the popovers were good, the view from the lawn, of the pond and the Bubbles is lovely, and after spending the day climbing Mt. Pemetic, it all felt very well-deserved.

Very nice trip, if a bit short (we'd spent the weekend at a friend's lake house outside of Portland). Next time, we'll stay longer, avoid Bar Harbor, and maybe expand our eating range a little bit.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'll be up there this weekend. Sounds like Beals is a must-try. Any others I simply HAVE to go to? I'm from the NW so I love a good microbrew. thanks!
  • Thurston's rather than Beal's (because of the view - see my previous message in this string).
  • George's for a fine dinner with excellent service.
  • Jordon Pond Houe for tea and popovers, reservations highly recommended.

Atlantic Brewery in Town Hill offers a decent ale; I haven't tried its other brews. Available all over the island as well as at the brewery tavern.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm bumping this to the top, because we leave for a two week rental on Long Pond in less than a week. Anyone one with any more recommendations? We have been to Mt. Desert many times over the years and we are always looking for something new and great. Cafe This Way is our current favorite.

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wish i was going again! anyways,,,,if you have time for a day trip try stonington island. its about and hours drive from ellsworth. its a small fishing village with a couple of little restaurants. i forget the name of the restaurant but theres only a couple in town so either one is nice and its a really beautiful area. enjoy! :wink:

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