Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Every December, I head up to Ogunquit and Kennebunkport in Southern Maine to check out the Christmas festivals, but other than an occasional day trip, I rarely find myself in the area during the warmer months. Well, I did get to spend a few days up there recently, and I got to try four restaurants that I had never been to before, as well as a "repeat" dining spot.
It was chilly in Southern Maine for nearly the entire time we were up there, so the crowds weren't all that bad, allowing us to find easy parking in areas that otherwise would be nearly impossible for finding a spot for the car. Our first dining spot proved this, as we parked directly in front of Huckleberry's, a diner-type place by the main parking area for Ogunquit Beach. The restaurant was nearly completely empty when we arrived, and it was literally completely empty for most of our meal (other than the workers, of course). Huckleberry's was an ultra-casual spot that had a definite retro beach-eatery feel to it, with comfortable booths, photos of beach scenes on the walls, large windows looking out toward the parking lot and the water, and a menu with classic American fare and seafood dishes. We started out with a rather thick but tasty clam chowder, then went with a basic BLT and a delicious fried haddock sandwich, each of which had the type of rough-textured deeply-fried French fries that you either love or you hate (I happen to be a fan of them). Service was a bit reserved but efficient, and prices were somewhat high, though being right at the water probably justified a slight boost in prices. While Huckleberry's was nothing to write home about, we were basically looking for a place to get a quick bite to eat at that point in time and that's exactly what this spot gave us, so we had no real complaints about it.
After spending the afternoon wandering around Ogunquit and Wells, we decided to do an early dinner at the Ogunquit Lobster Pound, a place on Route 1 that I hadn't been to since I was very young. Based on my somewhat foggy memory, the place hadn't changed a bit, as the huge pine trees were still there along with the Adirondack chairs and outdoor lobster tanks, and the sprawling and rather rustic indoor dining areas. Once again, we found ourselves in a mostly empty restaurant (though it did tend to fill up just a bit as the evening went on), and we were seated at a prime window spot where we could look at the tanks. We started out with a couple of salads, then had a boiled lobster that was a little over one pound, and a lobster alfredo dish. the boiled lobster was absolutely tremendous, as it was cooked perfectly in seawater that added a briny flavor to the meat. The lobster alfredo was filled with delicious (and fresh) lobster meat, though there seemed to be a little too much cream sauce, which threatened to overwhelm the taste and texture of the lobster and the pasta. The cost of the lobster wasn't too bad, but the lobster alfredo was a tad on the high side. Service was friendly and efficient throughout, and the cozy atmosphere helped make for a terrific dining experience overall.
After dinner, we took a trip up to Kennebunkport, winding our way over to Cape Porpoise and Goose Rocks Beach, checking out some of the local seafood joints long the way. One spot we noticed (and which a friend had told me about a few days earlier) was a rather well-worn place on Ocean Avenue called Mabel's Lobster Claw, a local favorite that was just outside of the center of Kennebunkport. We ended up going there for lunch the following day, arriving during the peak of the lunch hour, and this time, we hit a fairly crowded restaurant. Fortunately, there were a couple of tables available in the front porch area, and since it was warming up a bit outside, we gladly took one of the tables. Once again, we started with clam chowder (it wasn't quite as thick as the chowder at Huckleberry's, and was very tasty), then moved on to a plate of crab cakes and a lobster roll. Both meals were tiny in size--though granted the crab cakes were an appetizer--and fairly expensive for the amount of food, with the crab cakes being delicious (almost no filler) and the lobster roll being stuffed with lobster meat and decent tasting, though not quite memorable. Service was fine and the atmosphere was really quite nice, with the front porch having one of those protective screens in which parts of it can be moved aside to let in more air or sunlight. I'd like to try this place again, mainly because of the local flavor and the atmosphere, perhaps giving it a try at dinnertime at some point.
Our last day in Southern Maine began with breakfast at the Wild Blueberry Cafe on Shore Road in the center of Ogunquit. The place was bigger than it appeared to be from the outside, with several dining areas, including an outdoor patio and an attractive room up front with beautiful paintings from local artists on the walls and a shiny hardwood floor that brightened the place up a bit. We sat in this front room by a window that afforded views of Shore Road and were greeted by what was most definitely the friendliest server of the whole trip (he was also a very good server, checking in on us at regular intervals to make sure things were ok). For our meals, the "South of the Border" breakfast burrito was excellent, featuring delicious sausage as well as cilantro, Pico di Gallo, eggs, and tomatoes. Possibly even better were the blueberry pancakes, which were crusty on the outside and soft and moist on the inside, and it almost seemed like there were pancakes within the pancakes, as they appeared to have layers within them. The corned beef hash may have been the highlight of the entire meal, with tasty shredded gray corned beef mixed with shredded potatoes, various herbs and spices, and just a hint of onion. Prices were a little high, but the food was so good that we had no problem paying extra.
I would like to mention a few other places that we went to while in the Ogunquit/Wells/Kennebunkport area, one of which was Bintliff's in Ogunquit, a place that I have talked about several times now. We went there for dinner one night and had a very nice ribeye steak as well as a crispy and golden brown eggplant lasagna. We also went to the Scoop Deck on Eldredge Road (just east of Route 1) in Wells, enjoying some terrific ice cream (the oreo cookie ice cream was wonderful) while sitting on a picnic bench in the rural-feeling area next to the place. And we spent a good amount of time at Perkins & Perkins/The Vine Cafe on Route 1 in Ogunquit, kicking back with wine flights and beers on their shaded porch (the heat lamps felt nice on our second trip there, as it was very chilly). This last place is one that I really can't wait to get back to, as the people there were great and they had an impressive selection of drinks. It will be just one of several spots in the area that I hope to return to later this summer if I have a chance to get back there before the fall arrives.
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