[jwplayer player=”3″ mediaid=”25084″]
Portland proper isn’t the only foodie haven on Casco bay. Just a ferry ride away, the islands are scenic spots for scrumptious coastal dining.
By Kate McCarty
Photographed by Douglas Merriam
Jones Landing. 207-340-0026. facebook.com/millysskillet
This bright-green food truck is hard to miss: located just across the street from the Peaks Island ferry terminal, its welcoming patio is furnished with orange Adirondack chairs and umbrella-shaded picnic tables.
From the diminutive kitchen, owner Molly Ritzo and her staff serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. For breakfast, Ritzo keeps it simple, offering an egg sandwich, a slice of watermelon, Greek yogurt topped with flax seeds and honey, and a cinnamon roll made by South Portland’s Mainly Grains. The lunch and dinner menu is heavy on seafood. The chowder is simple and perfect — the thin, smoky broth is filled with large chunks of skin-on potatoes and flaky, locally caught pollack. Large, seasoned pieces of grilled pollack also appear in the tacos, nestled in two crispy corn tortillas and topped with roasted red peppers, a lively cabbage slaw, and a spicy chili drizzle.
The lobster roll is the real showstopper: overflowing with chopped meat, lightly dressed with mayonnaise, and topped with a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. The buttered and grilled brioche bun lends a sweet richness to the roll, complementing the fresh lobster salad. This roll is easily in the running for Portland’s best.
The Cockeyed Gull
78 Island Ave. 207-766-2800. cockeyedgull.com
A short walk from the ferry terminal, “the Gull” emphasizes local seafood in classic preparations with Asian influences. The best seats are on the back porch, where umbrella-covered patio tables offer a view of neighboring House and Little Diamond islands.
The crunchy seaweed salad, all too rare outside of sushi restaurants, makes for a nice start to a meal, as does the pan-seared shrimp with beurre blanc, served with grilled slices of baguette (the Gulf shrimp are the only non-local seafood on the menu). Other appetizers include saffron seafood chowder, baked Brie, grilled scallops, and sautéed calamari and linguica sausage in marinara.
Entrées emphasize Asian flavors. The sesame-encrusted salmon comes with a drizzle of wasabi aioli and a garnish of seaweed, and the peanut curried shrimp is served over coconut rice. More traditional fare includes a comforting risotto with thin slices of mushrooms and fresh peas topped with grilled scallops or shrimp. House-made desserts like key lime pie and carrot cake avoid the common pitfall of excessive sweetness.
Order the local seafood, like fried scallops and baked stuffed haddock, and save room for the homemade banana cream pie and chocolate bread pudding. Expect seafood classics like steamed mussels, fried clams, and cedar-planked salmon, as well as pub favorites like Buffalo wings, burgers, and chili — oh, and Shipyard beers! Try the egg-and-cheese croissant sandwich or the turkey wrap with mango chutney or the vegetarian wrap with hummus, avocado, tabouleh, and artichoke hearts.
20 Island Ave. 207-766-4400. thepeaksislandhouse.com
33 Island Ave. 207-766-5100. innonpeaks.com
50 Island Ave. 207-766-2600
Order the local seafood, like fried scallops and baked stuffed haddock, and save room for the homemade banana cream pie and chocolate bread pudding.
Expect seafood classics like steamed mussels, fried clams, and cedar-planked salmon, as well as pub favorites like Buffalo wings, burgers, and chili — oh, and Shipyard beers!
Try the egg-and-cheese croissant sandwich or the turkey wrap with mango chutney or the vegetarian wrap with hummus, avocado, tabouleh, and artichoke hearts.
Chebeague Island Inn
61 South Rd. 207-846-5155. chebeagueislandinn.com
This charming, restored 1920s inn serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails on the porch seven days a week. The menu incorporates seasonal and local ingredients at every turn, like the sweet corn butter that accompanies the steamed lobster and the colorful heirloom tomatoes that make the base for a feta, tomato, arugula, and pickled watermelon rind salad. Pemaquid oysters on the half shell are accompanied by a lively peppercorn mignonette, and Bangs Island mussels are served simply with garlic, cilantro butter, and a sprinkle of crushed Aleppo pepper.
Meats and seafood dominate the entrée selections (the goat cheese ravioli in a brown butter, tomato, and pine nut sauce is the sole vegetarian choice). Seafood is prepared expertly and served with just enough accoutrements, like the pickled white asparagus slices that hide under plump scallops, their tops brown and crunchy from searing. Meat lovers should order the burger — salty, rich, and topped with fried onion rings and Dijon mustard on a soft roll. This burger, with a side of the hand-cut fries, is by itself worth the ride to the Chebeague Island Inn.
Dessert offerings keep up the local motif, with choices like blueberry cobbler, mini whoopie pies, and strawberry ice cream. To finish your evening, retire to the west-facing porch for a glass of port or a specialty cocktail.
Calder’s Clam Shack
108 North Rd. 207-846-5046. caldersclamshack.com
With the (hopefully temporary) closing of Chebeague Island’s Slow Bell Cafe, this takeout shack with picnic tables in the Calder family’s front yard is the island’s only casual dining option. Loyal customers return every season for fried seafood baskets, lobster rolls, burgers, and sandwiches, many of which are named after employees (all members of the Calder family). For dessert, Calder’s serves a selection of Gifford’s ice cream — there’s even a “doggie sundae” for Fido.
Getting ThereCasco Bay Lines ferry makes the 60–90-minute commute between Portland and the southern end of Chebeague four to seven times daily. Located three miles from the terminal, the Chebeague Island Inn provides a shuttle for inn and dinner guests.
The Chebeague Transportation Company ferry makes the 15-minute trip between Cousins Island Wharf in Yarmouth and Stone Wharf on Chebeague seven to eleven times daily. Parking is at a satellite lot on Route 1 in Cumberland, and a shuttle bus takes passengers to the ferry 30 minutes before its departure time. The Chebeague Island Inn is a short walk from Stone Wharf.
Diamond’s Edge Restaurant and Marina
1 Diamond Ave. 207-766-5850. diamondsedgerestaurantandmarina.com
Housed in renovated 1890s army barracks, Diamond’s Edge is one of just three businesses on Great Diamond Island (the others are the neighboring Diamond Cove General Store and, up the hill, the new Inn at Diamond Cove). The atmosphere is lively in the dining room, bar, and on the deck. Those seeking a more romantic evening should head for seats on the lawn overlooking Diamond Cove.
Appetizers run the gamut, from a classic Caesar salad to raw and chilled seafood like shrimp cocktail and littleneck clams on the half shell to the flavorful Oysters, Pork & Beer, a dish that features a thick slab of pork belly topped with crisp fried oysters on a bed of wilted spinach with a bold mustard-porter sauce.
The entrées are equally expansive. The Island Bouillabaisse will satisfy all of your seafood cravings in one large bowl. The chunky, sweet tomato-fennel broth overflows with littleneck clams, mussels, and assorted fish (cod, seared tuna loin, and salmon on the night we dined). The accompanying grilled slices of baguette, perfect for dunking, add a pleasant smokiness. Filet mignon comes over roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus.
Other standouts include Southern fried chicken over grits and braised kale and whole roasted fish with a chickpea and tomato ragout.
Wash it all down with a local brew, such as the Sebago Simmer Down, a citrusy summer session ale, from the Maine-centric list.
Two historic wooden schooners, the Bagheera and the Wendameen, sail guests to their own private lobster bake on rustic Cow Island. Portland Schooner Company also partners with Wine Wise (winewiseevents.com) to offer educational wine sails with sommelier Erica Archer. 207-766-2500. portlandschooner.com
Portland Discovery Land & Sea Tours
The Bay View Lady can be chartered for private lobster bake cruises. Dinners include steamed lobsters served with traditional sides like seafood chowder, corn on the cob, and wild Maine blueberry cake for dessert. Passengers feast while sightseeing on a two- to three-hour cruise. 207-774-0808.
Maine Ocean Adventures
Guests can finish a Lobsterman for the Day or Casco Bay Sunset Cruise by requesting a catered dockside lunch or lobster bake. Or they can customize their own cruise around the bay, complete with a catered lunch on board.
Lucky Catch Lobster
Passengers help haul lobster traps on this 90-minute cruise. Afterwards, they can take their catch to Portland Lobster Company, where the kitchen will steam it and hand it back with side dishes for $10. 207-761-0941. luckycatch.com
Maine Foodie Tours
Passengers aboard the luxury lobsterboat Monhegan snack on smoked mussels, fresh oysters, and other local seafood appetizers while learning about the fisheries and seafood industries that drive Casco Bay. The tour includes a guided walk on one of the bay’s islands. 207-233-7485.