The Maine Restaurant Association has named Rick Hirsch, chef of the the Damariscotta River Grill, in Damariscotta, and The Anchor Inn, in Round Pond, as its 2010 Chef of the Year. Hirsch owns and operates both water-front or -view restaurants on mid-coast Maine’s Pemaquid peninsula with his wife, Jean Kerrigan. The duo opened the harborfront Anchor Inn in the mid 1980 sand opened the downtown Damariscotta River Grill in 2004.
We became fans of the Anchor Inn back in the early ’90s, while living in what passes as downtown Round Pond, an aptly named Bristol village on the east side of the Pemaquid Peninsula. Round Pond is one of those coastal gems you hope to stumble upon when noodling about Maine’s back roads, a postcard-perfect town with artisan’s studios, two lobster-in-the-rough shacks, and a store selling ice cream, penny candy, doodads, and whatchamacallits.
Smack dab on the waterfront, overlooking the round-shaped, boat-filled harbor protected by Loud’s Island, is the seasonal Anchor Inn. Neither fussy, nor fancy, the inn serves damn good food, especially seafood, with a bit of creative flair and a sense of humor (especially when Bobby Whear is tending bar).
Damariscotta River Grill
When Hirsch and Kerrigan opened the Damariscotta River Grill, locals rejoiced; finally a place to get Rick’s fab food year round. I’ve made many a meal off the appetizers alone (the artichoke fondue is alone worth a visit). The Grill is less rustic in decor than the Anchor. The menu focuses on fresh and local (okay, really, this is Maine, what restaurant doesn’t these days?), and it’s wine list has won an award from Wine Spectator.
Many restaurants achieve longevity with mediocrity, not so for these two coastal Maine restaurant gems. Although The Anchor Inn is closed for the winter, this time of year at the Grill, you’ll find such enticing entrees as duck confit risotto, Thai fish stew, and lobster cakes on the menu. Don’t miss the Pemaquid oysters as a starter. And by the way, the Grill is also open for lunch and Sunday brunch.