First of all, my favorite Bar Harbor restaurants aren’t in Bar Harbor.
For those unfamiliar with the area, Bar Harbor is the best-known among Mount Desert Island’s towns, but there are several other villages on this island of 100 square miles (roughly the same size as Martha’s Vineyard). Exploring beyond Bar Harbor will not only yield delectable dining, but also introduce you to the charms of what the locals call “the quiet side” of the island.
Restaurants on Mount Desert Island absolutely live up to the standard of the best restaurants in the world. And, as a New Yorker, I can say that in my opinion they are often better because everything is fresher in the relevant seasons. For example, last spring at the recitation of specials at my favorite restaurant in Southwest Harbor, the owner announced they were offering asparagus that had been “in the ground that afternoon.”
Unfortunately, I no longer eat lobster in Manhattan, only in Maine. There’s a sweet and salty flavor that comes from the freshness and the saltwater boiling method that makes lobster anywhere else disappointing.
All this doesn’t mean that all of the restaurants on Mount Desert Island are good, however. Frankly, you have to plan ahead a bit because reservations may be hard to get and walking into a random spot may give you the unwanted experience of a “tourist trap.” OUR ACADIA reviews the top spots from Trenton to Bar Harbor that range from wine bars to sandwich shops, beloved by locals and visitors alike. But here are three that we go to every time we visit Acadia National Park.
Thurston’s Lobster PoundThurston’s Lobster Pound
Steamboat Wharf Road, Bernard, 207-244-7600
You can get waitress service if you sit downstairs at this postcard-perfect lobster pound overlooking the working fishing docks of Bass Harbor. However, for us it’s a rite of summer to stand in line upstairs with a beer (we really like the local micro-brew Harbor Lighthouse Ale) and begin the debate: Should we have hard shell or soft shell? How many pounds? Steamers or chowder? Standing in line heightens the anticipation of the sweetest lobsters we know anywhere. You can opt to have your lobster alone or with a “basic dinner” of corn, coleslaw, roll, and Thurston’s blueberry spice cake (so good you’ll want to buy extra for tomorrow’s breakfast). Or you can enhance the experience with steamers, the chowder of the day, lobster stew, or crab cakes with chipotle sauce. There are lots of things for seafood-averse kids, too, including grilled cheese, burgers, and a grilled chicken sandwich with Boursin.
Red Sky Restaurant Sky
14 Clark Point Road, Southwest Harbor, 207-244-0476
A favorite of both locals and visitors to Mount Desert Island, it draws guests not only from Southwest Harbor and other communities on the “quiet side,” but also regulars from Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. Balancing warmth with culinary expertise, the owners James and Elizabeth Lindquist set a white table cloth for an excellent menu that features local products and seasonal produce. The pan-roasted breast of duck and grilled marinated lamb are among my favorites, as is Elizabeth’s martini. When we visited in June, we also indulged in the light lemon soufflé cake, another reason that Red Sky at night is a sailor’s delight, and everyone else’s, too.
Town Hill BistroTown Hill Bistro
Route 102 and Crooked Road/West Eden Commons, 207-288-1011
The first time we all went to Town Hill Bistro, only four months after their opening in 2007, there was a chalk board outside the front door announcing the restaurant was totally booked. Since Town Hill is off the beaten path, this is no small feat, but it’s no wonder once you experience the creative cuisine and very friendly, but competent service here. The restaurant serves about 30 guests in a cabin-like dining room that has a pitched, beamed ceiling and bar at one end and fireplace at the other. Guests include large and small parties, out-of-towners who rave (see TripAdvisor!), and locals who are regulars. Town Hill Bistro offers starters, small plates, and large plates that generally represent fish, steak, chicken, pasta, and vegetarian selections. We highly recommend the Asian Barbecue Salmon Filet over Udon Noodles!
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