Top Restaurants in Maine
Farm-to-table or lobster-boat-to-dockside-shack, Maine’s eating options are pretty attractive. With ingredients like local maple syrup and blueberries, just-caught seafood, and the freshest produce on the menu, your meals in restaurants from Portland food trucks to coastal resort dining rooms are bound to be good.
288 Fore Street
Make a reservation or arrive early to score one of the walk-in tables at Fore Street, the restaurant that launched Portland’s culinary fame. Chef-partner Sam Hayward won Maine’s first James Beard Best Chef Northeast award in 2004, and since then the accolades have continued—both for Hayward and for other young chefs in Portland. Located in a renovated former warehouse with big windows facing the waterfront, Fore Street is upscale casual, with a bi-level dining room accented by brick, wood, and exposed ductwork, and with an open kitchen that has a wood-burning oven, grill, and turnspit. The flavor is pure Maine: Hayward, a pioneer in farm-to-table, began working with local farmers, fishermen, and foragers decades before it became trendy. Although the menu changes daily, the signature items always available include house-made charcuterie, wood-oven-roasted Maine mussels, and wood-grilled hanger steak.
21 Wells Road
You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but the Well at Jordan’s Farm takes it to another level: farm-as-table. Culinary Institute of America grad Jason Williams sources most of the ingredients for his daily-changing menu from what’s in season here on Jordan’s Farm, a 122-acre land trust property operated by the third generation of Jordans. Reservations are essential to get a seat at this alfresco restaurant—there are only a few at the kitchen counter as well as a handful of picnic tables and dining gazebos around the grounds. For a small donation, pick fresh flowers for the table. Bring your own alcohol, and leave the credit card behind; this is a cash-only establishment.
515 Basin Point Rd, Harpswell, ME 04079, USA
Decisions, decisions: What’s the best reason to visit Dolphin Marina and Restaurant? Some come for the panoramic views over Casco Bay and its many islands. A few like the location on a working marina, where boats come and go. The savvy come for what many consider the finest “fish chowdah” and “lobstah stew” in the state—accompanied by a blueberry muffin, of course. The drive south down the Harpswell Peninsula and out to the tip of Basin Point enriches the experience. Seasoning the route are saltwater farms, sturdy New England homes, artist’s studios, lobster-trap fences, and dreamy boat-filled harbor vistas. It’s off the beaten track, but not unknown, so do make reservations, especially at sunset or on a full-moon night.
315 Island Rd, South Thomaston, ME 04858, USA
Traditional lobster shacks edge shorelines all along Maine’s coast, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic one than McLoons, tucked away in Spruce Head, south of Rockland. It’s situated on a working harbor, where you can watch lobstermen unload catches; seating is at picnic tables, outside or under a tent; it’s bring-your-own for all the go-withs, from flowers and a tablecloth to salad and wine; and finally, it also serves awesome seasonal desserts. The food is ultra-fresh, the scenery is calendar-cover-worthy, and the understated simplicity is perfect. Sure the lobster dinners and rolls are excellent, but don’t miss the oysters and the crab cakes, and for those who don’t eat seafood (sacrilege!), McLoons grills burgers.
2 Main Street
It is all about farm-to-table cuisine at Primo, where two-time James Beard Award–winning chef Melissa Kelly hangs both her toque and her garden shears. Behind the restaurant, in a Victorian house on the Rockland–Owls Head town line, are acres of pastures and organic gardens. Be sure to allow time to visit with the chicken and pigs, buzz by the beehives, ogle the greenhouses, and admire the produce, edible-flower, and tea gardens. Make reservations for the intimate and elegant Parlor dining rooms, or head to the upstairs Counter Room and Bar, where the menu highlights pizza, cheeses, and charcuterie, and tapas-size portions. The flavors are Mediterranean with a Maine accent. Don’t miss the house-made breads or desserts, either.
9 Thurston Rd, Bernard, ME 04612, USA
Slip over to Bass Harbor, on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island, for an authentic taste of Maine. Unlike most harbors on the island, Bass is filled with working boats, not pleasure craft, and lobster traps, crates, and other gear top the wharves and docks. Head for the bright-yellow roof; that’s Thurston’s Lobster Pound, cooking local crustaceans since 1992. Before you grab a table in one of the bi-level screened-in dining rooms hanging over the water, read the directions at the entrance: Order first—that keeps the diners flowing. You’re here for lobster, but don’t miss the chowders, and save room for dessert. Be sure to drink in the equally delicious views from the lounge.
15 Peabody Dr, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662, USA
Skip the crowds at the Jordan Pond House and opt for tea and popovers at the Asticou Inn instead. Say “Asticou,” and most people think of the lovely, 2.3-acre, Japanese-style pocket garden famous for its 70 varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, and laurels, not the inn of the same name across the street. Truth is, the garden was created in 1956, when Charles K. Savage, longtime Asticou innkeeper, learned that famed landscape designer Beatrix Farrand’s Reef Point garden was being dismantled. Credit him for saving many of the treasures. Betwixt and between poking around Asticou Garden and the equally delightful English-style Thuya Garden located nearby, savor a break at the Asticou Inn for tea and popovers on the back porch. The views extend down landscaped lawns and over the yacht-filled harbor.
111 Main St, Machias, ME 04654, USA
At Helen’s, it’s all about the pie. Sure, there’s more on the menu, but the wild-Maine-blueberry pie at the restaurant has earned fame far beyond the state’s borders. For starters, it’s an authentic taste of down east Maine. To be truly down east, you should be here, in Washington County, Maine’s wild-blueberry country, with a landscape defined by blueberry barrens studded with glacial erratics. Machias, the county’s biggest town and one of the few with a traffic light, is home to the Wild Blueberry Festival in August—and to Helen’s, which has been dishing out slabs of freshly baked wild-blueberry pie since 1950. One bite, and you’ll understand the love.
1888 Golden Road
One of the best ways to experience Maine’s North Woods—the wilderness expanse of mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests north of Bangor—is to immerse yourself in it by staying at a Maine Sporting Camp, but that doesn’t always fit into a schedule or budget. Solution: Dip into it with Katahdin Air’s Fly n’ Dine package. You’ll travel via floatplane to your choice of four remote, traditional sporting camps for dinner: Nahmakanta Lake Camps, the Chesuncook Lake House, Bradford Camps on Munsungan, or Libby Camps on Millinocket Lake. Bring binoculars to spy moose and other wildlife in the rugged terrain below or hikers climbing Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The return flight usually coincides with sunset; perfection!