We are blessed here in Midcoast Maine with wonderful restaurants. Heck, not one but two of our local chefs are (once again) semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef award for the Northeast. (Let’s hear it for Keiko Steinberger of Suzuki’s Sushi Bar in Rockland and Erin French of the Lost Kitchen in Freedom!)
In the past year or so, several new places to eat have opened up around here. So we thought we’d provide an update for those of our guests who visit every summer. Or for those staying with us for the first time who just want to know what the newest, hottest thing is around here.
We were all sad when chef Brian Hill moved out of state and his award-winning Francine Bistro closed. Chef Jack Neal and his wife Jennifer have opened a new restaurant with a similar name in the same funky little space. While not an exact imitation of Francine, the new eatery strives for a similar foodie vibe. It even offers the same steak frites that regulars loved on the original Francine menu. 55 Chestnut St., Camden. Reservations recommended.
The “meats and provisions” part of Maine Street Meats isn’t new. It’s been a local favorite in its former home, tucked away in the State of Maine Cheese building on Route One. A recent move has taken it just up the road. And now, in its beautifully renovated space in an 1848 schoolhouse, there’s room for a cafe! So in addition to the same high quality butcher shop and its selection of meats, cheeses, specialty foods, and freshly made baked goods, there are also delectable breakfast and lunch offerings. Don’t miss Banh Mi Monday! 310 Commercial St. (Route One), Rockport. (Where Hoboken Gardens used to be.)
In the heart of Rockport village, this clean, well-lighted place is much more than a coffee shop. With its tempting selection of baked goods and coffee drinks, as well as breakfast and lunch offerings (including an amazing avocado toast), this has become one of our favorite spots to hang out on the weekend. Also offers a surprising view of Rockport harbor. 22 Central St., Rockport.
Open since late 2017, this has quickly become a hopping hot spot in downtown Rockland. Ada’s offers traditional Italian cuisine, including handmade pastas, pizzas, and salads. A bustling happy hour regularly fills the cocktail lounge area, thanks to their craft cocktails, wide selection of Italian wines, and many local microbrews. Reservations recommended. 449 Main St., Rockland. (Where 3 Crows used to be.)
If you’re looking for fresh seafood, this cozy little place right down the sidewalk from Ada’s has been getting rave reviews. In addition to, of course, a great selection of fresh local oysters, you can find such creative treats as shrimp toast or charred octopus. Get lots of small plates to share! Also, if you’re lucky, Chip Dewing, the former bartender for Francine, will be on duty to mix your drink or recommend a wine. Only open for dinner. Seating is limited, so get a reservation if you can! 421 Main St., Rockland. (Where Amalfi, and then Lily Bistro, used to be.)
Tiny Appleton finally has its own restaurant, thanks to this great addition to the neighborhood. You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere as you drive there–it’s about 20 minutes from Camden–but it will feel like home when you get there! Specializing in affordable comfort food, the Briar Patch offers up wood-oven pizza, burgers, and hearty entrees of BBQ pork, steak, and seafood. Also features a full bar. Dinners and Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended, as this place is very popular and worth the drive. 48 Peabody Rd. (Gushee’s Corner), Appleton.