Eating on a Maine Road Trip

I was promised lobster rolls. The best I’ve ever had. A lot of lobster rolls and reasonable prices. That’s what one does in Maine, right?

It costs how much for a lobster roll? I feel like my cubicle got moved to the sub-basement and they took my red stapler.

Moths fluttered out of my wallet as I went out to eat each day. Sorry, I can’t pay my bills for a few months because the state of Maine robbed me.

clam cakes
$10 for a couple clam cakes after visiting Giant’s Stairs

Yes, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. I had one lobster roll on my road trip, plus some lobster sliders — I wanted to enjoy my vacation but couldn’t justify those prices after all I spent on less-than-stellar motels. Aside from food I picked up at the grocery store for breakfast, I didn’t encounter a single meal, appetizer, or snack for less than $10.

maine sandwich
Half the Weber’s Delight sandwich at Bohemian Coffee House in Brunswick

While I try not to think about the cost of food when on vacation, it becomes a burden to expect a credit card bill the next month that exceeds the cost of rent. It’s also more difficult to get the best food options when traveling alone — having someone to share meals would mean tasting a wider variety, making the experience feel less expensive.

First tastes in Brunswick, ME

Ramly Breakfast Sandwich
Ramly Breakfast Sandwich at Dog Bar Jim

In Brunswick, there wasn’t a lot of choice for food, but Dog Bar Jim offered the best option for breakfast. It’s a great little coffee shop (don’t expect much space to sit down and eat) that seems popular with residents and students. If I had stayed another day, I would have likely gone back from breakfast — the coffee was good, too.

Sea Dog Brewing in Topsham, just across the river from Brunswick, is a worthwhile option for dinner. It’s far from being the best brewery in the area, but it offers a tasty menu that goes beyond bar food.

sea dog brewing
Dinner was better than the beer at Sea Dog

I should have bought a sandwich before I left Brunswick for Bar Harbor — the plan was to stop in Rockland for a break to sightsee, eat lunch, and try a brewery. Whether it was due to covid, regular Sunday hours, or both, there were no restaurants open in downtown Rockland. It turned into a stomach-growling drive in traffic the rest of the way to Bar Harbor (I would have considered pulling off at a roadside restaurant, but they were all crowded and traffic made the journey longer).

Eating around Acadia National Park

After checking in at the Wonder View Inn, I walked into town in search of food. It was low tide, which meant I could have walked out into the Bar Island Land Bridge, but I was far too hungry to stop for longer than a few pictures.

Everything in Bar Harbor is for the tourists, and prices reflected that. I considered getting lobster, but prices averaged over $30 for a lobster roll. I determined that eating in Maine would be less expensive the farther outside the towns I ventured.

lobster bisque maine
Mexican-style lobster bisque

That’s when I came across Finback Alehouse, with its open windows for better ventilation. It wasn’t too busy, so I didn’t have to wait, and the prices were reasonable. The food was better than expected as well — I ordered a Mexican-style lobster bisque that was spiced with chilis and annatto, which was delicious. To go along with that, I had mussels that were fresh and delectable.

maine mussels
Mussels at Finback Alehouse in Bar Harbor

I should have found a snack afterwards as it was a light dinner, but ended up walking around town before going to sleep for an early morning at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

fish chowder maine
A big bowl of fish chowder at The Colonel’s in Northeast Harbor

The next day, after getting lost on the drive around Acadia National Park, I stopped for a late lunch in Northeast Harbor — the town was much quieter than Bar Harbor, but there wasn’t much selection. At The Colonel’s Restaurant, I found a filling meal of fish chowder and lobster sliders for almost half the price of anything in Bar Harbor (the fish chowder was creamy and full of flavor, as well as large chunks of haddock).

lobster sliders
The Colonel’s lobster sliders

That evening and the following half day, I ate nothing worth mentioning in Bar Harbor — it was a mix of snacks and mediocre choices while searching for good drinks.

Eating in Portland, ME

Portland gave me more dining options than anywhere else I stopped. The only issue was finding the balance between what I wanted to eat in the right neighborhood and what was open — post-pandemic staff shortages affected restaurant days of operation, and I was in town on the wrong days.

My first meal was after biking to the breweries in the industrial park and then taking a taxi downtown. There wasn’t much near Hardshore Distilling, but the bartender recommended Otto, a pizzeria down the street for a quick meal. I was skeptical as it’s difficult to find a decent pizza outside New Jersey and New York, but I came away happy with a couple slices that included a mystery slice (I was asked whether I had any food allergies; that was the only information I got before ordering).

otto pizza portland
Mmm…mystery pizza

An additional mystery at Otto is the reason for the portrait of Colonel Sanders hanging above the fridge.

Later that first evening, I met a group of locals who suggested some restaurants, and I set out the next day on my bike for Boone’s Fish House. I immediately regretted the choice — this is a touristy restaurant. It’s not a bad restaurant, but it’s overpriced to the point of not wanting to eat for the rest of the day. But because I was already there and tired from the bike ride, I wasn’t about to go in search of another restaurant.

maine lobster roll
Going into debt for a lobster roll

Fortunately, interest rates were low, so I could mortgage my lobster roll. It was a good lobster roll. It came with plenty of fries, too. But it was not worth $34 plus tax and tip.

boones portland
Maybe a lobster picture would make the price sting less

I worked off my disappointment with a bike ride along the water with stops at breweries that further emptied my wallet.

After heading back to the industrial area breweries nearer my hotel, I picked up a couple of the strangest tacos that could ever be considered tacos from the Ironclad taco truck. Where else but Portland, Maine, could I expected to have a chop cheese taco alongside a “River Bottom Nightmare Beef” taco.

maine tacos
What the hell are these tacos?

The latter was much better and more innovative. It was beef, jack cheese, and blueberry gochujang (I’ve had gochujang many times, but never with blueberry). It was savory, sweet, and had a little spicy kick (though not enough spiciness for me).

By the time I made it back to downtown Portland, it was late for dinner, but I was hungry (a lobster roll and two tacos was not enough to go with all the beer). I ended up at East Ender because Duckfat next door was closed when I arrived.

maine oysters
It’s hard to pass up oysters when you’re near the water

This was one of the best meals I could get, though not filling. Half a dozen oysters that were so fresh they melted in my mouth was a great way to start. That was followed with fried deviled eggs — even the waiter told me it was a good choice. It was a delightful creamy texture under the fried exterior with a bit of sweetness from the shallot jam.

fried deviled eggs
You had me at fried deviled eggs

I might have ordered more had it not been so chilly that evening while eating outside.

Overall, my food adventures in Maine were good, albeit more expensive than anticipated. Had I been traveling with someone to split the cost of hotels and gas, I would have splurged on a dining a bit more.

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