We snuck down to Boothbay Harbor for a quick peek at Windjammer Days and to see what’s new and happening this season. Must say, the town looks mighty fine, better than it has in a long while, with plenty of fresh paint and bright flowers and inviting storefronts. Even better, the shopping and dining options have improved.
Quite a few new art galleries have opened, and those combined with the classics–Abacus crafts, Gleason Fine Art, Gold/Smith, Villiard Gallery–are turning the town into a far more interesting destination for art lovers. Sure, the touristy-trinket shops remain, but now there are other options. Quick update: The Palabra Shop isn’t planning on opening its museum of Moses bottles this season; that might change, but call if that’s your purpose in visiting. Now, if only the shops stayed open a bit later into the evening, most shopkeepers seem to follow the roll up the sidewalks at 5 p.m. theory here.
Boothbay Harbor has never been a dining destination. What, with what amounts to a two-month season, with a few weekends on either end, it’s hard for restaurants to retain staff. At some places, the owners obviously just don’t care. Food is usually passable, but eh. But there are a few spots are working seeking when you’re hungry.
Boathouse Bistro has a new chef (actually a former one from years ago is back). Food is vastly improved, and the tapas menu is just plain fun. We snagged a rooftop-deck seat for a fine view over the harbor and all the activity, then made a lunch of the hot and cold tapas choices. There also are sandwichs, salads, entrees and pizza, too. And yes, across the lane, the candlepin-style Romar Bowling Lanes keeps rolling along; talk about a time warp!
Ports of Italy remains the best finer-dining option in town, and the prices are lower than in past years; definitely a good thing. Other good bets: The Lobster Dock, for of course lobster, but also the crab cakes (object of a Throwdown with Bobby Flay); Baker’s Way, locally called The Doughnut Shop, for–duh–doughnuts, but also for, get this, Vietnamese foods, there’s even garden seating in back; the Boat Bar at the Chowder House, a local’s favorite, for burgers; and if you’re swinging over to East Boothbay, the East Boothbay General Store for light fare. And up Boothbay way, Bets Fish Fry is a classic for fish and chips, or if you’re craving something far more healthful, the cafe at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is worth a trip. Chefs are the former owners of Blue Moon, which unfortunately, which has suffered since they’ve left.
By the way, photo above was shot from the front lawn of the Topside Inn, which tops the intown McKown Street Hill; very nice, very convenient, great breakfast. If you’re looking for something in the budget range, a few doors down, without the views but with classic 1950’s motel styling, is the Midtown Motel. Grab breakfast at the Ebb Tide, if you stay there.