Worldly flavors without world travel. In Maine. In Hancock and Franklin, Maine. Really!
This section of Maine might seem sleepy, but when it comes to food and flavor, Wow! Who’da thunk that the oh-so-quiet and rather seasonal towns of Hancock and Franklin would harbor, never mind support, so many ethnic finds. There’s more diversity here than in more populated areas of the state.
Begin with Le Domaine. Even without Nicole Purslow, it remains a bastion of classic French cuisine. Classic, but not haughty, with reasonable–given the quality and service–prices and a spectacular wine list. It’s perfect for a special occasion, or not. Some folks dress to the nines, most don’t. Something about that French country decor and ambiance means everyone’s comfy. And the food!
Then there’s The Mexican Restaurant, housed in a huge log cabin alongside a motorcycle shop on Route 1. It’s bright, cheerful, a family oriented place, where the daughters hang out in a booth reading or chatting when not waiting on customers. And the food? Big portions, big flavors, low prices. In a state where most restaurants glop on cheese, add salsa and call it Mexican, this spot stands out.
Noodle inland a bit to Franklin to find Tandoor Downeast, where Gunjan Gilbert, with assistance from her husband, Christian, prepares authentic Indian fare for takeout. They sell from their house as well as at area farmers’ markets. I discovered it last year at the Winter Harbor market, when I went searching for something for dinner (lazy me, I didn’t want to cook that night). It was so good, I went searching the next day for the actual business, finding it (along with Shalom Orchard winery–another tucked away surprise) on the Eastbrook Road. Prices are reasonable.
From India, step into Italy at Buzzy Gioia’s Maple Knoll Pizza, in a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cabin on the eastern end of “downtown” Franklin. He draws on his heritages parents came from the Old Country–to craft authentic pizzas, subs and calzones, some with a Downeast twist, like the white pizza topped with scallops and bacon. I don’t know how long this place has been around–I’ve passed along Route 182 many times over the years, and this is the first time I spotted it. Like I said. Don’t blink.