Readers first voted in a write-in round, from which the top five vote-getters in each category became finalists (give or take, in the event of ties). Then, thousands of voters picked the winners in a multiple-choice final round this summer. Click here to read more Maine “bests” from years past!
My mother-in-law and I refer to Manchester’s Longfellow’s Greenhouses, as our “happy place.” In spring and summer, we’re there picking up seedlings and supplies and enjoying the blooms in the display beds. The wide selection of plants (grown in 23 greenhouses) is second to none — the range of herb seedlings particularly blows me away, with tons of hard-to-find culinary herbs. When winter is dragging on, we escape to the huge, lush houseplant room and dream of warmer weather. It’s part gift shop, part garden center, part nursery. And it’s dog-friendly, so my Goldendoodle loves to visit too. — ABIGAIL SOLLOWAY-HILT, AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
I passRe Find Furnishings often, whenever I head into Machias, and I always stop with hopes of striking gold. But as I squeeze through the rooms of secondhand stuff — a lot of it big-box–store furniture, inexpensive kitchenware, and the like — I mostly just find deals on basics, like a $100 recliner. Occasionally, there are gems: an antique sideboard, carnival glass, the life-size silkscreen peacock now preening in my boho bathroom. What I always find are chatty neighbors and a laid-back community vibe. Former owner Kim Gardner fostered that for 10 years (and gave discounts to those in need). Happily, Michael and Adly Acebal, who bought the store in May, are keeping up that spirit.
— JOYCE KRYSZAK, CONTRIBUTOR
OUR PICKS: BEST OF DÉCOR
Catherine McLetchie opened The Good Supply 10 years ago this summer, stocking a building behind her Bristol post-and-beam barn with home goods, gifts, and crafts by 16 local artists. Today, the shop has taken over the barn and represents more than 90 artists and artisans from all across Maine. The word “curated” is overused in retail, but The Good Supply is the too-rare indie shop that genuinely feels like it reflects a proprietor’s hand-picked aesthetic — in this case, McLetchie’s eye for understated rustic cool. From wall art to handmade kitchenware to candles to planters and other vessels, everything at The Good Supply feels homespun without feeling homely, threading the needle between fine art and folk art. Visit before the end of September to check out the shop’s cool anniversary installation, a 9-foot whale sculpture made from beach trash by artist Cindy Pease Roe.
More than once I have pulled off of I-95 on exit 102/103 in order to nab an impromptu housewarming or host gift at the Center for Maine Craft. It’s no boutique — the 2,500-square-foot emporium is inside an interstate rest stop that it shares with a Starbucks and a Burger King and some coin-operated massage chairs — but it’s your loss if you write the place off as an exit-ramp tourist trap. What’s inside represents the work of more than 300 Maine makers. Highlights include an entire wall of gorgeous pottery, tea towels screenprinted with every imaginable bit of iconography, beautiful basketry and turned wooden bowls, sun catchers and stained glass, and a lot more. — BRIAN KEVIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF
The novelist Helen Ellis has written that shopping at an independent bookstore should feel like “you’re in someone’s living room,” and by that measure, Fort Kent’s Bogan Booksis downright quintessential. It’s not just the overstuffed easy chair and pillows and books stacked up on mismatched household furniture that gives New England’s northernmost bookstore its welcoming atmosphere. It’s also the earnest enthusiasm of owner Heidi Carter, a graphic designer by trade and dyed-in-the-wool book nerd who opened the Main Street shop in 2018. Carter’s kids’ shelves are particularly dialed in and her cookbook section lavish, and she keeps the store’s calendar full of fascinating author chats. — B.K.
In the Knightville neighborhood of South Portland, Artemis Plus Size Resale fills a void in the area for stylish, all-bodies-welcome thrifting. The consignment shop, new this summer, recognizes that brands don’t use standard sizing — and that preferences for fits vary widely — so its racks are organized loosely by style and size ranges. The queer-owned shop also stocks pieces like chinos and button-downs, since not everyone who comes through the doors prefers to dress femme. For around $60, I left with an athletic skort, a new dress, a canvas romper, and tips from owner Chelsea Rourke on how to style my finds. — BRIDGET M. BURNS, CONTRIBUTOR
Is it a home-goods shop? Some kind of low-key florist? Owner Coco Martin bills Wildings, in downtown Damariscotta, as a “plant and lifestyle boutique,” and it is both a lovely space to browse and an exquisite spot to find tasteful, unexpected gifts. Maybe a potted prayer plant or a succulent in a terrarium? A swoopy, stainless watering can or a stylish hardwood hanger for a wall-mounted vase? Plenty of Wildings merch is horticultural, but the shelves are also filled with cool bags, ceramic mugs that would blend in at the MoMA gift shop, and jewelry from Kennebunkport’s snazzy, modern Minka label. And the airy, light-filled space is a perfect fit for Main Street’s stately 1850 Day’s Block. — B.K.
It feels a long way off, but in the deep freeze of winter, I like to drive out to Cedar Grove Sauna, in Montville, where a cozy wood-fired sauna sits nestled below, you guessed it, a massive cedar tree. I prefer self-care with a side of fortitude, and the icy-cold plunge bath outside — which frequently needs to be cracked open, like a crème brûlée — provides instant adrenaline, waking up all your senses before you rush back into warmth. Owner Jackie Stratton recently renovated a mobile sauna for pop-ups around the midcoast, even in summer, visiting hangouts like Edgecomb’s Glidden Point Oyster Farms, where you can sauna ashore, then plunge into the (empty) oyster pens. — TARA RICE, PHOTO EDITOR
I’ve been to many different studios since starting my yoga practice, but my heart belongs to Yoga on York here I attended my first-ever class. Every other Sunday, May through September, the studio hosts a class atop York’s Mount Agamenticus. Students hike about a third of a mile up the Blueberry Bluff Trail (or they can drive the access road), then practice on the mountain’s scenic summit, overlooking the ocean and 10,000 acres of conserved land. The studio, celebrating its 20th year, knows how to connect its students with nature (beach yoga and farm yoga are also on offer) to help them feel peaceful and centered — and that’s what yoga is all about. — A.P.
OUR PICKS: BEST OF SUSTAINABILITY
For crunchier types in western Maine, Cornish’s Amolette Herbal Apothecar is a gem of a store. Filling up half the ground floor of Main Street’s striking, red Little River Building, it’s a cozy space packed with inventory. For naturopaths, there are floor-to-ceiling displays of bulk teas, extracts, and herbs and culinary spices, along with natural toothpastes and toiletries, CBD beverages, and more. The eco-conscious will appreciate all the zero-waste soaps, shampoos, and detergents. And anyone can admire the wide selection of gorgeous hand-woven baskets, perfect for toting whatever products match your convictions. — GRETA RYBUS, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Eliminating single-use items from my lifestyle has always seemed daunting, but it got easier in 2020, when Marla Baldassare opened Kittery’s We Fill Good, a one-stop shop for refillables and eco-friendly household goods. On all my visits, Baldassare has recommended products without hard-selling and answered my zero-waste questions without judgment. Her empathy for navigating lifestyle changes and enthusiasm for protecting the environment has made it my go-to for sans-packaging shampoo and conditioner bars, plastic-free toothbrushes, and natural cleaning products. — ADRIENNE PERRON, ASSISTANT EDITOR
Pastoral views abound at The Meadows Golf Club a low-key gem nestled into the Litchfield countryside. Longtime player, first-time owner Randall Anderson bought the 18-hole, par-68 course, together with friends, in 2017. Come for the lovely woodland course (watch for wildlife on the fairways!), stay for Doolin’s Pub, a lively, down-to-earth watering hole where golfers and non-golfers gather year-round for comedy nights, trivia, and more (the swings don’t stop in winter, thanks to indoor multi-sport simulators). Don’t skip the pub’s signature Reuben or perfect chicken wings. An ideal Sunday morning is a round followed by brunch and a spin through the Red Dawg Bloody Mary Bar. — KATHLEEN CAPETTA, FORMER EDITOR
The pogies were jumping in Belfast Bay when I went out for a rowing lesson with Nicolle Littrell, of Belfast’s DoryWoman Rowing. The seals chasing them around the harbor kept popping up to stare at us as I tried to perfect my blade entry. It was the best kind of distraction. You can keep your sightseeing cruise — there’s no more classically Maine way to spend a guided afternoon on salt water than in a traditional wooden boat. Littrell’s professional background is in filmmaking and academia, and she was a recreational rower before a pandemic layoff nudged her into a guide license. Now, she offers lessons, plus tours and specialty trips, like full-moon rows, from the beautiful 19-foot Swampscott dory she’s named Sorciere (it’s French for “witch”). — B.K.
OUR PICKS: BEST OF FAMILY
Carved into the woods (with a sensitivity for preserving mature trees, as privacy screens), Wild Acadia Camping Resort opened in Trenton this summer with 90 RV and tent sites and an all-inclusive model new to Maine. I love how brothers Andy and James Allen made gallons of lemonade out of the early-pandemic closure of their Wild Acadia Fun Park. Now that it’s reopened, gone is the pain point of having to keep reaching for your wallet to keep kids entertained on vacation. Campers enjoy free use of the updated Funzone’s waterslides, mini-golf course, “sprayground,” zipline, ropes course, climbing wall, and trampolines. Acadia National Park is 15 minutes away, but your kids may talk you into skipping the MDI traffic. — KIM KNOX BECKIUS, BRANDED CONTENT EDITOR
Since Scott and April Shanaman took over Auburn’s Lost Valley in 2016, they’ve doubled the number of ski runs and opened a nano brewery in the lodge. All great stuff, but parents of littles may most appreciate their addition of the Maine Family Snow Tube Park, where a rope tow offers no-sweat access to four fast, 600-foot lanes. The Shanamans have made sure the fun doesn’t stop when the snow melts too. On Friday nights in summer, various Maine bands take the stage at the foot of the mountain for a free, family-friendly concert series. Hundreds attend every week to jam out to covers of Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Tom Petty, and other dad-rock variants. — A.P.
When Betty White died on New Year’s Eve last year, just shy of her 100th birthday, Maine journalists went looking for the local angle and reported that, in the 1960s, Madison’s Lakewood Theater put on three summer shows featuring everyone’s favorite Golden Girl. (We see you, Blanche fans. Sit down.) This summer, they revived one, the 1962 comedy Critic’s Choice. It played on the heels of an adaptation of novelist Paula Hawkins’s bestselling 2015 thriller The Girl on the Train. Next up, it’s Dickens (Great Expectations), then an adaptation of a 1906 French farce (Anything to Declare?). That kind of programming range is how you get to be the country’s longest-running summer stock theater. — B.K.
No signs point the way to the secluded, discreet Sarah Bouchard Gallery, which curator Bouchard opened in April on a back road in Woolwich. An arts-scene vet with gallery and nonprofit experience, Bouchard asks would-be visitors to book reservations for exhibitions in what had been her garage (now fantastically renovated). So far, the down-low strategy seems to be working: the gallery’s June exhibit of Waldoboro painter Dozier Bell got rave reviews and nearly sold out. Bouchard’s eye is for minimalism, abstract or representational, and her stable of artists alone — Bell, Josefina Auslender, Michael Mansfield, and Kate Russo among them — makes the gallery worth seeking out. — EDGAR ALLEN BEEM, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
“Of course I do! He’s the one with the dog that shakes her booty!” That’s how my teenager responded when I asked if she knew of @mistermainer, who is likely Maine’s most followed TikTok celebrity. At first, I was puzzled by the popularity of midcoaster Dmitry Pepper’s short video snips of Biscuit, his rescued English-bull-terrier-and-whippet mix, who has more than 13 million fans, along with her own line of merch. But the more I tuned into my daughter’s peals of giggles, the more I “got” the release valve this dancing pup provides for a generation that’s come of age in COVID times. And, yeah, I ordered a logo hoodie (from mistermainer.com).
Instagrammer Keela Ferrell (@eatswithspoon) trains her lens on Greater Portland’s culinary scene with cheeky humor but a deep appreciation for food and the cultures it reflects. A health-care professional by day and a home cook, opinionated restaurant diner, and multitalented creator off the clock, she’s recently gone beyond sharing plate pics and cooking videos to offer virtual cooking classes, curated gift boxes, and more to paid followers on Patreon. Give her a follow and you’ll feel like you’ve made a friend . . . one who’ll tell you straight-up you’re wrong to prefer lobster claws over tails. — K.K.B.
It’s not the prettiest bar in Camden (hard to compete with the harbor), and it’s not the world’s first bar to be self-consciously campy-divey, but damned if there isn’t something winning about Lucky Betty’s, an approachable canteen in a former auto garage on Camden’s main drag. Part of the successful formula owes to the space: big old bay doors, thrifted décor, sculptural blooms of melted wax in the candleholders. Part owes to the fact that owner Daiva Deupree and her staff mix mean (if simple) cocktails and incorporate cute, thoughtful touches, from candy dishes to bartop handicrafts. In a mildly froufrou tourist town, it feels like a pleasantly lived-in locals’ place. — B.K.
I’ve anticipated Wild Bevy coming online since 2019, when owners Mae and Michael Littlefield started building their distillery on a road in Wells I drive often. The Littlefields have spent the construction years distilling their spirits, including flagship botanical gins made with Maine-grown juniper, beach rose, sea kelp, white pine, and more. The huge new tasting room opened this summer, and it was worth the wait. The indoor bar and lounge spaces are mod and classy, the patios — with firepits and Adirondack chairs — a bit more laid back. Flights and cocktails are artfully presented (oh, the art-deco–ish glassware and elaborate garnishes!). On a recent visit, I tried a concoction of their Shearwater Vodka and house-made strawberry-lime shrub — sweet, tangy, and so refreshing. — A.P.
How often is a new eatery actually the talk of the town? Since Hey Sailor! opened in February, midcoast denizens have been marveling about sleepy Searsport having a restaurant with lines out the door on Sunday afternoons. Having stood in one, I’m happy to say that Kirk Linder and Charlie Zorich’s cozy, retro-futurist–styled taqueria lives up to the hype. Tasty (and, yeah, Instagrammable) West Coast–style tacos — soft tortillas, generous cilantro, sub cabbage for lettuce — plus excellent queso and mole. A bar-snacks menu full of creative, fresh, and piquant seafood bites, like zesty shrimp ceviche and fragrant coconut-curry mussels. The ample, fun cocktail list (organized by geographic influence) is praiseworthy in itself — you could come just to drink, but that’d be a shame. — B.K.
Behind every great fish sandwich is a great fryer. Biddeford’s Fish & Whistle has that (technically, it’s a donut fryer), but it also has a Beard semi-finalist pastry chef in Kate Hamm and a former Eventide sous chef (and seafood buyer) in Jason Eckerson. Hamm left a post at Portland’s acclaimed Leeward to open this unassuming, friendly joint with husband Eckerson. Now, she whips up feather-soft Japanese milk-bread buns for the simple menu’s sandwiches (there’s fish-and-chips too), while he puts his sourcing skills and meticulously honed yeast batter to work in that fryer. The results — whether a classic tartar-slathered Gulf of Maine fish or a fried “squidwich” (sometimes offered with a hot cherry pepper-dotted marinara) — are downright ethereal. — ALEXANDRA HALL, CONTRIBUTOR
With its handsomely restored barn turned brewhouse, woodsy beer garden, and loyal patrons who pack in for food-truck bites, bands, and trivia nights, Liberty’s Lake St. George Brewing already had one of the state’s finest taproom scenes. This summer, it got even finer with the addition of a bar on the namesake lake. Paddle ashore, motor up to the dock, or wander down a path from the barn for a pint. Danny McGovern, who runs the brewery with his wife, two daughters, and sons-in-law, has been making beer in Maine for more than 30 years, and everything from the English pale ale to the blueberry sour to the oatmeal stout is dialed in just right — terrific beers, now with terrific waterfront views. — WILL GRUNEWALD, SENIOR EDITOR