Who says you need to fly to some exotic, overseas locale this summer? They don’t call Maine “Vacationland” for nothing, and for New Yorkers, it’s only a few hours a way by car, and even less by plane. So if you really want to experience the very best that Maine has to offer — from clamming on the coast to hiking in the mountains — you’ll book your next trip to the Bar Harbor & Acadia area, and follow our guide to the letter for what and where you absolutely have to eat. Spoiler alert: it involves lots and lots of shellfish!
Breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast: Best to rise and shine early in order to get a table at the perennially packed Jeannie’s in the heart of Bar Harbor; a breakfast-only café beloved by salty locals and lobster hat-wearing tourists alike. Take advantage of the pots of housemade strawberry rhubarb jam on each table, to slather on your warm slices of freshly baked toast, but don’t let it prevent you from further carb-loading — on stacks of Jeannie’s famous Blueberry Pancakes, or specials like Smoked Shrimp Omelets and mornay sauce-soaked Lobster Benedict.
Lobster Rolls at Dorr Lobster Co.: Prices for Lobster Rolls differ wildly throughout the area, from $16 and up for a freshly shucked tail and claw-stuffed sandwich to $13 for the low-grade stuff. So you wouldn’t expect the cheapest roll in town ($20 for two!) to be the absolute best; a heaping mound of lightly mayonnaised, top of the line lobster meat, piled in a top-split, perfectly buttered roll. As you drive into town on Route 1A, make a pit-stop at this tiny, unassuming storefront in Ellsworth; the retail branch of a 35-year-old, family owned and operated business, sourcing pristine lobsters and other shellfish from the cold, clean waters of the North Atlantic.
Fried Clams at Bar Harbor Lobster Pound: Real fried clams bear absolutely no resemblance to those desiccated, flavorless strips that used to be de rigueur at diners and fast food shops all over New York City. And while it’s easy enough to find fat, briny belly clams around town nowadays, they won’t be nearly as fresh, generously portioned, or gently priced as what you’ll get on the coast of Maine — most notably, the agreeably casual Bar Harbor Lobster Pound — a mountain of gloriously mineral, naturally salty bivalves, encased in a barely-there crumb crust.
Lobster Dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound: What we love best about Thurston’s Lobster Pound is its off-the-beaten-path location in Bernard, a blue collar community right on the shore of Mt. Desert’s busiest working harbor. Which means you (and the bare minimum of tourists) can watch lobstermen haul the days catch from boat to wharf to restaurant, before tucking in to the impeachably fresh goods; such as whole Lobster Dinners with steamers, mussels, sweet corn and slabs of moist blueberry cake.
Ice Cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream: Blueberry pie is the official dessert of Maine, and whoopie pies, their official treat — but believe it or not, we were most blown away by the ice cream. You’ll find shops selling Gifford’s — a family-owned creamery in Skowhegan, Maine — pretty much everywhere you go (get the Wild Blueberry or Blueberry Pancake!) and the offerings at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, a personal favorite of the Obama’s, are even more impressive. Think Bay of Figs, Callebaut Chocolate Wasabi, Blueberry Sour Cream, Blackstrap Banana, Maine Sea Salt Caramel, and the Harry Potter-inspired Butterbeer.
Steamer Clams and Mussels from Rat’s: If you have the means to prepare buttery steamer clams and sweet Maine mussels yourself (but don’t have the skills or license to harvest them right off the beach), make a beeline for Rat’s — you can’t miss his stack of hand-painted signs, beckoning you up the twisting side of a mountain. Make your way past a series of trees, tagged with arrows marked, simply, “clams,” and avail yourself of the grizzled fisherman’s succulent steamers, frisky lobsters and tender mussels (no, not rats, he just put that there to get your attention)!