Nibbles and bites along the south coast

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Beyond the extremes of the White Barn Inn and the Loco Poco’s, I grazed my way through a couple of other Kennebunk/K’port restaurants (both siblings of the White Barn) and a fish and lobster joint in Wells.

Given that White Barn Inn chef Jonathan Cartwright oversees the empire, I expected both Grissini and Stripers to be excellent, and I wasn’t disappointed. Note: In both cases, they knew I was coming, so take that into consideration.

IMG_1045First stop, Stripers at the Breakwater Inn. Although only a few years old, the dining room and lounge area were renovated for this season. The bar, previously on the street side, was moved to the river side. A wall of windows separates it from a deck, with more seating. On the other side, the back wall is actually a 500-gallon acquarium, which helps set the mood. Fittingly, we watched anglers casting lines in the river as we sipped wine and nibbled on a few choices.

IMG_1051This was only the first or second night of serving a new bar menu, and the place was empty. Service, as would be expected given the lack of crowds, was excellent. We split orders of crabcakes (moist and delicious) and—are you ready—lobster poutine. Yup, you read that right. French fries smothered in lobster sauce and sprinkled with cheese curd from Smiling Hill Farm. And yes, it was as decadent, rich, gooey, and delicious as it sounds. It could have achieved perfection if the fries had been just a bit crispier.

IMG_1032_2Next, we waddled over to Grissini, but instead of dining upstairs (a gold-toned room anchored by a walk-in stone fireplace and an open kitchen with woodburning overn), we headed down to Grotta, the fireplaced lounge in the basement level. Unlike Stripers, both the restaurant and lounge here were hopping. The lounge was noisy—not the place for a quiet dinner, but then it’s not meant to be.

Grissini specializes in Tuscan cuisine. We split an appetizer order of capesante: pan-seared scallops paired with celeriac puree, cucumber, red onion salad, honey vinaigrette, and mint oil. Wow! That just danced off the tastebuds; fabulous. We also split a small mushroom pizza, which has to be one of the best deals in the K’bunks. This $8 pizza was a meal in itself, a thin, thin, crispy crust topped with sauce, a heavenly fontina, and abundant mushrooms. We ended up taking half of it to go for lunch the next day.

Two days later, we feasted at Fisherman’s Catch, on the Harbor Road, in Wells. I love this place, which gets everything right. A friendly, service oriented staff of high school and college age waitresses obviously enjoy what they do. And so do the customers. We were seated at one of the picnic tables by the windows overlooking the Rachel Carson preserve, an estuary teeming with wildlife. A pair of binoculars was available to use, nice touch. Over head, a roll of paper towels was within easy reach. Much appreciated by the folks chowing on lobster at the neighboring table.

The big hits here are lobster, chowders, lobster rolls, and fried fish. We touched on two: one order of clam chowder and one order of fish and chips. The chowder was rich, thick, creamy, and delicious. The fish and chips were crispy on the outside, moist and tender inside. Doesn’t get much better than that. Well maybe it does. I’ve heard it’s worth coming for dessert alone. Hmmm, maybe next time.