Lea Wait: Favorite Maine restaurant? Hard choice! But I’m going to go with the Damariscotta River Grill. Bob and I love it not only because the food is consistently excellent and varied — seafood, meat and the only place in Maine I know that serves latkes! – but it’s open ’year round, the wait staff is friendly, and the ambience is great. Located between the town parking lot (yes, convenient parking, too) and Main Street in Damariscotta, right across the Street from Maine Coast Books, it boasts first floor dining with views of the street, and second floor dining with a wonderful fireplace where fires burns cozily in the winter, and a welcoming bar in the corner; the front of the restaurant overlooks the town, the back overlooks the river. Bored with windows? The Grill’s walls are always covered with an exhibit of one or two local artists’ work. The mussels are always great. The duck? To die for. And when I’ve longed for a taste of New York, those latkes have been just the thing.
Susan Vaughan: A visitor to the Midcoast area shouldn’t miss one of my favorite restaurants—In Good Company, 415 Main Street, Rockland. Unforgettable appetizers and entrees make it hard to save room for the mouth-watering desserts. Owner-chef Melody Wolfertz prepares the food herself in an unbelievably tiny kitchen, so the menu is limited but offers something for every taste. The hubby and I recently shared the roasted garlic and French bread appetizer. Well, yeah, sharing garlic is a must! Then he had the beef medallions entrée and I chose the applewood-smoked-bacon-wrapped hake on vichyssoise. To die for. We had no room for dessert but I can attest there was chocolate involved. http://ingoodcompanymaine.com
Kate Flora: Because my research life often means I need to meet people in Portland, and because I love breakfast, I’m going to have to go with The Miss Portland Diner, missportlanddinercom, 140 Marginal Way in Portland. It’s an easy hop on and off the highway, great for people-watching (I think I saw a drug deal on the street while I was looking out the window last year), everyone goes there, so it is a truly diverse community, and it has the world’s best hash and blueberry pancakes the size of dinner plates. The waitstaff is kindly and efficient–your coffee cup is never empty–and you can sit there long enough to interview a source at length without anyone minding.
Jayne Hitchcock: Mine is The Lobster Cove on York Beach (http://www.lobstercoverestaurant.com/). We go there once a week for dinner and drinks. They have the best food there – from seafood to American far and their prime rib is out of this world. This year they have a twin lobster dinner special for just $22 (includes corn on the cob and rice or potato). You can’t beat that!
John Clark: I know most folks are going to highlight their favorite restaurant or bistro, but I’m going in a different direction. I’ve lived in Maine since 1949 save for the four years I attended college at Arizona State. There were times when money was tight and there were times when I was lacking in girlfriends (or friends in general). During those periods in my life I discovered one of Maine’s great culinary secrets–the public supper.
These come in all types and sizes with certain organizations almost legendary for their specialties. Here in Central Maine native gourmets keep an eye out for one of the Wild Game Suppers put on annually. Last year one was held in Skowhegan and another at UnityCollege. Those lucky enough to go can sample things like marinated BBQ venison steak, bear, wild turkey, buffalo, partridge and moose maple sausage wrapped in phyllo with Maine maple syrup. For gourmets with a tamer taste, the community events section of any weekly or weekend paper will have a listing that has more opportunities than anyone could ever hit. Prices are awesome, ranging from $6-10.00 (higher for the wild game suppers). Try getting anything at an upscale restaurant for that.
Beth and I hit the turkey pie supper at the Palmyra Episcopal church on Rt. 2 as often as we can. This happens about once a month for $7.00 and the pies are made from scratch, there’s plenty of gravy, potatoes, cole slaw and home made desserts, all served by cheerful folks we’ve come to know by name. Here in Hartland and in nearby St. Albans, the Lions Club and the school boosters host casserole and baked bean suppers several times a year. Not only do you help a good cause, but local cooks love to strut their stuff. I guarantee that whenever you eat at a public supper in Maine, you’ll find something that tastes so good you’ll want to hug the cook. Another nice aspect of public suppers is that antisocial people don’t go. Everyone in attendance has a smile and a friendly greeting. Another of our local favorites are the dessert theater events at the St. Albans town hall. In addition to killer sweets, the Stewart Players do wonderful interactive mystery theater productions.
Themed suppers are great fun and opportunities to sample foods you might never taste otherwise. This Saturday there’s Midsummer Swedish supper at the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine. In the midcoast area on Monday the 24th? check this out: Join us for this monthly community picnic from May thru September (Last Monday of the month). Welcome mid-coasters, Lincolnville Center and Beach residents, friends and family, as well as visitors from away staying at B&Bs and motels/cottages. Just bring a covered dish, salad or dessert and we’ll provide the meat, beans, beverages and table service (plates, napkins, plastic silverware). Location: Bay Leaf Cottages & Bistro, 2372 Atlantic Hwy, Lincolnville, ME.
Finally, there are benefit suppers put on by caring friends and neighbors to help out community members who have lost their homes or are battling serious illnesses. These offer great food and the knowledge that you helped out a fellow human being. Best of all, none of these public suppers require a tip, nor will you have to do any dishes.