Boothbay Harbor: Chews News & More

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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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that you have missed most of the fine dining in the Boothbay Region. The 4 month tourist season keeps the places edgy, and the staff vibrant and fun. The town is full of energy and the places continue to compete to see who’s cheifs are going the produce some of the best seafood served in the state.
    One of my favorites is the restaurant at the Tug Boat Inn. It has been one of the state’s better resturants for the last 30 years. Incredible views and service accompany the fine food.
    I have several friends that prefer the Boothbay Harbor Inn on the East Side. The food and the views rival anyplace that you might find in the Portland and southern coastal areas.
    For an inexpensive meal of exceptionally fresh seafood and a deckside meal, I like the former lobsterman’s co-op, now The Lobster Warf, just before you get to Brown Brothers.
    It’s true that many of the cheifs move around in some of the affilated resturants, like the Bistro and McSeaguls (which is just great), but we get enough new talent coming each summer, that much to your disallusion, keeps Boothbay Harbor a fine dining destination. (You’ve just got to expand your horizons, in East Boothbay, the dining destination for the past 35 years has been Lobsterman’s Resturant. At it’s Damarisctta River dockside location, it is a very tough place to be on a hot summer weekend.

    Try some of the local favorite’s places and you’ll get a better feel for what a special place Boothbay Harbor is.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve visited all of the above, and I agree, the Boothbays are a lovely region, and there are a few bright spots for food, but I just don’t share your overall enthusiasm.

  3. Of course I went, but that post was from June 2008, so I can’t remember the details at this point. It had been one of my favorite places in BBH, but I didn’t have a good meal, and when I asked around, locals reported similar experiences. I didn’t go this season, but I’ll give in another try next spring or summer.

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