Our annual guide to the best of the best.
- Photography by: Mark Fleming
A menu of the state’s most delicious sandwiches, kate's homemade butter, unexpected place to find pie, best beer garden.
Best Beach Bite
Pier French Fries
12 Old Orchard St., Old Orchard Beach
Crispy crinkle-cut fries + $1.25 price tag + salt, vinegar, or ketchup + beach = amazing. Seriously, the fries at Pier French Fries are good, and you can justify eating them because we told you to. Did we mention these fries have 5,800 fans on Facebook?
Best Mexican Twist on Maine Food
36 Walker St., Kittery
Poutine, meet your caliente cousin, California Fries: French fries and steak smothered with cheddar cheese, lettuce, guacamole, fresh salsa, sour cream, jalapeno peppers, and dry ricotta cheese. With this dish, Loco Coco’s, a two-room take-out or eat-in joint just north of the New Hampshire border, has taken a Franco-Maine staple (poutine — fries, cheese curds, gravy, and sometimes beef) and given it a spicy, Mexican makeover. It’s ridiculously delicious and caloric. So is the rest of their fresh, flavorful grub.
Best BBQ Bonanza
1601 Portland Rd., Arundel
If you’ve got a motorcycle (or even if you’re more comfortable on four wheels), don’t miss the pig roasts on Saturdays at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel. This barn-like, boisterous bar and restaurant hosts a weekly BBQ for as many as 1,200 people. The pork plus two sides runs $12 and is accompanied by lots of beer, music, and, of course, motorcycles (up to nine hundred on a busy day). Did we mention Sunday is $10 lobster dinner day? Definitely not fine dining, but a darn good deal.
Best Town to Add to Your Culinary Tour
Columbia Falls has at least two great tasty reasons to visit. The first, Wild Blueberry Land (1067 U.S. Rte. 1, Columbia Falls, 207-483-2583) is hard to miss — it’s that blueberry shaped dome, the one slightly resembling a grounded UFO. Venture inside and buy the fresh blueberry pies and the delicious blueberry scones. If you’re looking for a heartier stop, each April the Downeast Salmon Federation (187 Main St., Columbia Falls, 207-483-4336, www.mainesalmonrivers.org) throws its annual smelt fry fund-raiser featuring smelts harvested in the Pleasant River basin. This year, six hundred people paid five dollars a head to eat the deep-fried fish served with sides, salads, and sweets.
Best Maine Butter
Kate’s Homemade Butter
P.O. Box 79, Old Orchard Beach
Nothing against the friendly Cabot cows over there in Vermont, but its butter doesn't hold a candle to the stuff made in Old Orchard Beach. Kate’s Homemade Butter is a widely available, extremely delicious product that brings commercial butter to a whole new level. It is a bit more expensive than your average stick of Land O’Lakes, but its unique, creamy sweetness — and the fact that you’re supporting a local, Maine business — makes it a must-buy.
Best Maine Food Ambassador Outside Maine
93 East 7th St., New York, NY
Many a Maine lobster gets shipped from our chilly waters and ends up on a plate in a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. But in terms of authenticity of the Maine experience, there are only a few places that make the grade. Top among them is Luke’s Lobster (slogan: “From ME to you”). Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden founded the small East Village joint in 2009 with the help of his father, Jeff, owner of Portland Shellfish. Besides making a mean lobster roll (or shrimp or crab), Luke’s also supports other Maine businesses by serving Gifford’s Ice Cream, Maine Root sodas, and Hurricane's soups from Greene. Of course, no lobster roll has that je ne sais quoi that eating one on the Maine coast provides, but Luke’s roll is the next best thing.
Best Food Store You Haven’t Shopped At
Good Food Store
212 Mayville Rd., Bethel
You wish you had a place like Bethel’s Good Food Store in your town. This aptly named natural foods store has been around since 1994 and has a bit of a hippie crunch — but not too much of one — along with bulk spices, delicious meals to go, a broad selection of specialty items, including wine and local food products. Oh, yeah, and one of the nicest staffs ever.
Best New Cooking School
Salt water Farm
Woodward Hill, Lincolnville
Now your fantasies of attending cooking school can merge with your dream Maine vacation, thanks to Annemarie Ahearn who recently opened Salt Water Farm, a seaside estate that hosts large feasts, cooking lessons, and special food-oriented events smack on the water in Lincolnville. With a vista to die for and delicious food, most of which is foraged or grown on the premises or nearby, this is a must-stop destination for the culinary traveler or for a diner simply seeking a beautiful Maine meal for all five senses.
Best Unexpected Place to Find Great Pie
Lincoln’s Country Store
434 Camden Rd., Warren
How’s this for a Maine gem: an old gas station that doesn’t even accept credit cards at the pump happens to sell some of the best cream pies in the state. Welcome to Lincoln’s Country Store in Warren, where the recipes of Jessie Jacobs were bought by owner Mark Lincoln four years ago. From savory shepherd’s to sweet strawberry, the store offers on average about twenty different varieties of pie. But the cream pies — the chocolate and the peanut butter ones in particular — reign supreme.
Best Beer Garden
Novare Res Bier Café
4 Canal Plaza, Portland
Tucked into an alleyway off Exchange Street (look for the Key Bank sign), this bar has a menu that says everything you need to know about this two-year-old indoor/outdoor hofbräu: twenty-five rotating taps. Two hand pumps. Three hundred + bottles. Reds & whites. Port. Tequila & single malts. Meats & cheese.
Five Best Sandwiches in Portland
1. Pork Fried Bahn Mi, Saigon Restaurant (795 Forest Ave., 207-874-6666): pork, pickled carrots and cucumbers, cilantro, and chili peppers on a Vietnamese baguette
2. Oyster Po’Boy, Po’Boy and Pickles (1124 Forest Ave., 207-518-9735, www.poboysandpickles.com): fried oysters, lettuce, tomato, praline bacon (for $1.50 extra), and red pepper mayo on a hoagie
3. Fresh Mozzarella, West End Deli (133 Spring St., 207-874-6426, www.thewestenddeli.com): fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, cucumber, and garlic aioli on a baguette
4. Roasted Vegetable, Aurora Provisions (64 Pine St., 207-871-9060, www.auroraprovisions.com): roasted mushrooms, peppers, onions, zucchini, goat cheese spread, and spinach on fresh focaccia
5. Reuben, Full Belly Deli (1070 Brighton Ave., 207-772-1227): corned beef or pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye
Four Favorite Sweets
Coco-Aztec Dolcelinos. www.dolcelinos.com
Whoopie Pie Fudge from Perry’s Nut House (45 Searsport Ave., Belfast, 207-338-1630, www.perrysnuthouse.com)
Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream from Garside’s Ice Cream (320 Ferry Rd., Saco, 207-283-0045)
Raspberry Scone from Aurora Provisions (64 Pine St., Portland, 207-871-9060, www.auroraprovisions.com)
- Photography by: Mark Fleming