I do food, so I love finding destinations that have local and delicious dishes that really defines them. My recent trip to Maine left no shortage of incredible and fresh seafood to indulge in. I was so in love with everything I ate, I wanted to share some of my favorite roadside stops and what I think are the best restaurants in Maine.
For five days I ate my weight in fresh lobster, oysters and crab. But it IS Maine, so mostly lobster. When it comes to this state, it really is a seafood lovers paradise. Last year I decided to go vegetarian and that was just moments after I realized I actually liked seafood. Lately I’ve been more of a flexetarian though, allowing myself to indulge in the local meat dishes only while I’m traveling.
I did not hold back in Maine, having delicious and fresh seafood for almost every meal. I stopped at every one of the below restaurants on my road trip from New York City to Bar Harbor. This list is a great little food tour up and down the coast of Maine with one very important stop in Providence, RI. All the below restaurants are pet friendly so bring your furry friend along for the ride if you so desire!
More on Maine:
Click here to read my 5 day road trip itinerary from New York to Maine. That post is full of tips, coastal towns to stop in, and my favorite hotel in Maine!
1. Dune Brothers in Providence, RI
We’re starting in between New York City and Maine for the best fish sandwich I have ever had. I highly suggest that no matter where you’re driving from that you make the stop in Providence to try out Dune Brothers. This little shed with its picnic table surroundings is turning out some serious fried fish.
I ordered the fish sandwich and my boyfriend ordered the massive serving of fish and chips. The fish was incredibly fresh and the batter was light and crispy. The restaurant is centered near downtown in a rather unconventional place. It really looks like it belongs right on a beach somewhere not in the center of the city.
The outdoor space is filled with picnic tables and a grassy area that has chairs for lounging in the sun. There was a DJ playing music and I could totally see just spending an entire day here when the weather’s nice. One tip is to bring hand sanitizer on your trip because a lot of places have Porta Potty bathrooms with no sink.
2. Portland Lobster Co in Portland
I never made it to Portland, Oregon when I lived in California and now it has some serious competition: Portland, Maine. I was only able to spend an afternoon here and I can’t wait to go back and explore it more. That has a lot to do with the Portland Lobster Co. You may come across a few reviews of this place that call it a tourist trap, but I promise it’s not.
I live and work in a city full of “tourist traps” and I didn’t get that vibe here at all. To me a tourist trap is something that is conveniently located but giving out a crappy product because they know the sheer volume will keep them in business. They don’t typically rely on returning customers. That wasn’t this place at all. A line out the door does not mean it’s a tourist trap, it usually means it’s good.
Not a Tourist Trap
When it comes to exploring a city, tourists are usually the ones willing to put in the time to experience the best a city has to offer. How many New Yorkers take advantage of the things that people travel from all over the world to experience? How many Parisians go to the Eiffel Tower? Not that I’m comparing Portland Lobster Co. to the Eiffel Tower, but you get my point. It also doesn’t have a line around the block.
This place has an incredible beach bar vibe with live music, placed scenically right on the water. I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon with delicious lobster rolls and a great local beer selection. It’s a casual vibe with open bar seating. You just order your food at the bar, grab your pager and the kitchen will let you know when your food is ready. We found a table easily and enjoyed the atmosphere while we waited for our food. Everything was delicious and reasonably priced!
3. Claws in Rockland
When making a list of the best restaurants in Maine, it has to include a stop in the lobster capital of the world. Having lobster in Rockland, Maine seemed like a no brainer. Getting to Claws is as easy as turning off of the US Route 1 into the parking lot. And since it’s open daily, it’s almost impossible not to stop here.
I arrived full of the lobster roll I had a few hours earlier, so I decided to try some other lobster dishes. I ordered the lobster tacos which were insanely delicious and unlike anything I had eaten so far on the trip. The jalapeño crema and blueberry salsa were to die for.
The real star of the show however was the lobster bisque and crab stuffed mushrooms. The lobster bisque had a sweet creamy taste to it the was incredible. The crab stuffed portobello mushrooms were cheesy and practically exploded in my mouth (not to make it sound too sexual). I’m telling you that you don’t want to leave Maine without trying both!
4. Stewman’s Lobster Pound in Bar Harbor
My dog Chewy made me include this place on my list of best restaurants in Maine. It’s safe to say he loved Bar Harbor the most. Probably because he wasn’t able to pass anyone without getting pets. There were a few couples I was sure he would have gone home with if he could have. But he got the most attention at Stewman’s Lobster Pound. Located right on the water, this place is extremely dog friendly, right down to a menu for your dog.
All that aside, let’s get to why it was one of my favorite places: they put blueberries in my beer! Okay that’s a silly reason, but I DO love a good blueberry beer and the Seadog Blueberry Ale is officially my favorite. But with fresh blueberries in it?? Yea, I’m in on that all day long. I would have skipped Acadia National Park and stayed there all day if Ryan would have let me.
But onto the food. The clam chowder was probably the best I’ve ever had. My boyfriend and I also split the Stewman Shellfish Tasting which was a good sampling of crab, shrimp, oysters and Maine lobster. The service was insanely attentive. It helped that everyone wanted to stop to give Chewy pets. He was actually in heaven, just scroll a little for the best photo of him ever!
5. Red’s Eats in Wiscasset
Have you ever passed by a place and just had a feeling about it? When we were heading down the road from Rockland, full of lobster and crab stuffed mushrooms, we drove by this tiny roadside stand. It was late in the day but still had a good crowd of people out around it. I just knew it was somewhere special.
Obviously I was too full to stop and eat again. So I took note of the name and decided we were stopping on our way back down the coast. Little did I know that this tiny roadside stand is home to the best lobster roll in Maine. Some even argue that it is the best lobster roll in all of New England.
Red’s Eats is right on the side of the road in Wiscasset, Maine. It’s the kind of place that seems to have accidentally gotten famous but refuses to give in and be anything but what they are. They deliver the same service to everyone, don’t make you feel rushed through and are clearly proud of what they are serving.
This is no ordinary place and you’ll find that out the second you get in line. The press clippings and list of celebrities who’ve eaten there are proudly on display for you to peruse.
What to Expect at Red’s
I arrived at Red’s right before 11 am (when it was set to open) and there was already a line half way down the block. Be prepared to wait awhile or try to get there earlier than everyone else and be the first in line. It’s worth it, I promise.
I will say the women (yes, all women) who run this place know about hospitality. They will make your wait in line as painless as possible. While I was waiting they handed out ice water, fried shrimp samples and even had umbrellas to borrow to shield from the sun. The line moves slowly but that is also because you hardly wait for your food once you’ve ordered.
The lobster roll was market priced at $23.95. It may seem steep, but the amount of lobster on each roll was piled so high I couldn’t bite into it without chunks falling out. The roll is simple and delicious with no mayo or butter added in the kitchen. Instead the sauce made from locally sourced butter is poured into a little ramekin right from a kettle on the stove. It’s hot and fresh and you have complete control over what your roll tastes like.
I also suggest that you get an order of the fried shrimp. Of course once I had a taste while I was in line, I had to have more. I don’t know what’s in their homemade beer batter, but I want to take a bath in it. They have a variety of other sauces including a blue cheese dressing with paprika to add a little smokiness and a house made cocktail sauce.
Coffee Shops Worth The Pit Stop
1. Bucklyn Coffee in Blue Hill
Even though I’m focusing on the best restaurants in Maine, no road trip is complete without quality coffee shops to refuel at. So I wanted to include a couple of hidden gems I found. If you are taking any notes from my road trip itinerary post, you’ll find this place without even trying. But whatever route you decided for your road trip, I would try to make a stop at Bucklyn Coffee in Blue Hill.
This hipster little coffee shop feels like it was popped right out of Brooklyn, New York. It has to just be a coincidence that it’s just outside of Brooklin, Maine though. I grabbed a latte for the road and even stocked up on a bag of their specialty coffee beans. This place was a nice break from reliable chains like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Oh and their cran-raisin scone was the best scone I’ve ever had!
2. Brewed Awakenings in Wells
I ended up momentarily cursing the free breakfast at the Colony hotel when I stopped into Brewed Awakenings for a quick coffee to go. The place was pretty busy and it seemed like everyone but me was getting one of their breakfast sandwiches. Even though I wasn’t able to eat here, I was happy to to try their coffee.
The coffee was delicious but I’m a sucker for a good chai tea! Even more impressive than their iced coffee was their Iced Chai Latte. It was a shame I couldn’t try more, but since I have decided to summer at the Colony Hotel every year, I am looking forward to actually trying breakfast here on another trip. It was a great last place to stop and refuel for the drive back to New York City.