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Three bagels sit on a wooden paddle on a table
Bagels at the Purple House
Ted Axelrod/Eater

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How to Eat and Drink in Maine — Beyond Portland — Like a Restaurant Industry Pro

Ployes, sauerkraut, an old-school salad bar, and more

Here again is Briana Volk — owner of restaurant and cocktail bar Portland Hunt + Alpine Club in Portland, Maine — with some favorite industry haunts to add to your must-eat list. In her previous guide, Volk covered top picks within Portland; this guide covers Maine’s best dining beyond Portland.

In Maine, Portland may get all the national attention and love for its food scene, but if you’re willing to put a few miles on your car, there is a very big state that has a lot to offer. You’ll find some of the best sauerkraut in the world, a brewery where you can eat pizza and snowshoe, and a magical restaurant-meets-ceramics shop that’s open only on Sundays and Mondays.

For me, getting out of town to eat and drink creates some of the most inspirational moments in Maine, in particular when looking for inspiration for new ideas surrounding the bar my husband and I own, the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club. Go north, south, west, and a little bit east, where you’ll find some of my favorite places to go and to send travelers to when they ask what’s good outside the city.

Morse’s Sauerkraut

Route 220, 3856 Washington Rd., Waldoboro, Maine

Overhead view of a Reuben sandwich on marble rye, served on a wooden paddle with sides of purple cabbage slaw and mini pretzels
The Reubenator at Morse’s Sauerkraut
Morse’s Sauerkraut/Official Site

Morse’s is two things, and both are freakin’ perfect. First, it is a European grocer that sells everything from tinned fish to candies, fresh sausages to house-made pickles. Second, it is a five-booth restaurant tucked to one side of the store. Open for lunch, Morse’s serves a classic German menu with Reubens, schnitzel, and warm potato salad. But the superstar in both spaces is the sauerkraut and pickles made in-house. Stack ‘em high on everything you order, then buy a few large jars to bring home. And don’t skip out on getting lunch there; it is worth the wait every time.

The Bag & Kettle

Sugarloaf Mountain, 21 Village West, Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Cheeseburger stacked high with tomato, onion, lettuce, and pepperoni, with a side of curly fries and a beer.
The Gucci, a pepperoni cheeseburger at the Bag & Kettle
The Bag & Kettle/Official Site
View of a large red brick building and several other buildings at the base of a snow mountain, with more mountains visible in the background.
The Bag & Kettle (on the right)
The Bag & Kettle/Official Site

Right behind Sugarloaf’s commanding lodge, you’ll find the epitome of what a ski bar should be. The Bag has a large bar space and enormous dining room that during lunch and dinner in ski season is sure to be packed. The Bag burger, served with the ‘house dressing’ that is a secret recipe from the ’60s, is exactly what you want it to be after a morning of fresh runs. The Bag also has its own beers on tap, free popcorn, and a small arcade so kids can entertain themselves between runs.

Betty Forever

46 Elm St., Camden, Maine

Betty Forever feels like a dream. The brainchild of Molly O’Rourke and Ariela Nomi Kuh, this former garage space is both a gallery and restaurant. Only serving dinner on Sundays and Mondays, Betty Forever has a small and ever-changing menu that is always a list of hits. You’d be wise to just order the whole menu and share with friends. Betty Forever also has a small but well-selected wine and cocktail list. The whole space and experience leave you feeling like you have just been part of something incredibly special.

Meridians Kitchen and Bar

166 Main St., Fairfield, Maine

Restaurant and bar interior full of people dining. The walls are forest green and there are yellow accents.
Meridians Kitchen and Bar
Meridians Kitchen and Bar/Official Site

In the sleepy little hamlet of Fairfield is Meridians Kitchen and Bar, a sweet spot that punches far beyond its class. The menu showcases a variety of flavors and cuisines, but it always comes back to what is fresh and seasonal in Maine. Both the ribeye and half chicken are incredibly satisfying and well-composed. The service is always welcoming, with the staff making sure each person feels like a regular before they drop the check. Stop by the associated store just a few doors down before or after your meal to pick up a bottle of wine and chat with one of the owners.

Oxbow Beer Garden

420 Main St., Oxford, Maine

Attached to wintertime snowshoe and Nordic skiing trails, the Oxbow Beer Garden serves some of the best pizza to be found in Maine. The mushroom pizza with ricotta, mascarpone, and kale is the standout. Pair it with one of Oxbow’s excellent beers, or get a flight to try a few. (The bottle shop adjacent to the restaurant is a wonderland for those who enjoy Oxbow’s farmhouse-style beers.) And don’t skip dessert; the tiramisu is made with Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy, making it both a tasty and fitting Maine dessert.

Magnus on Water

12 Water St., Biddeford, Maine

Black and white view of the inside of a cocktail bar, with some smiling patrons visible.
Magnus on Water
Magnus on Water/Official Site

As one of the newest places that is helping ensure Biddeford isn’t known just for the famous (and delicious) Palace Diner, Magnus on Water is a great reason to extend your day trip to this town into the evening. First and foremost, Magnus on Water vibes like a cocktail bar, but don’t overlook the food that is a thoughtful complement to the drinks. Shareable snacks and larger dishes can easily help make a quick cocktail stop turn into spending your whole evening dining here.

Blue Ox Saloon

61 Penobscot Ave., Millinocket, Maine

Upside down rowboat attached to the ceiling of a restaurant. A bit of the restaurant is visible, including bright red walls and a mirrored Pilsner Urquell sign.
Blue Ox Saloon
Blue Ox Saloon/Official Site

Drive north to Millinocket, the gateway to Katahdin, to find the beloved Blue Ox, a true mill-town bar packed with ephemera of past hunting and ski seasons. The menu is straightforward with burgers and hot dogs, as well as taps filled with local beer. It is a great spot to take a load off after exploring outdoors or running the early-December Millinocket Marathon. Saloons like the Blue Ox are some of the best places to see and interact with locals when you are exploring Maine — and doing it with great pub food and drink doesn’t hurt, either.

The Purple House

378 Walnut Hill Rd., North Yarmouth, Maine

A small purple house that looks residential but is actually a bakery appropriately named the Purple House
The Purple House
Tex Axelrod/Eater

About 20 minutes north of Portland is the Purple House, a wood-fired bakery from the brilliant Krista Desjarlais. Everything that comes out of this tiny cottage is otherworldly. You can’t miss the bagels, which are wood-fired Montreal-style and vary in flavors each day. Beyond the bagels, there are pizzas, breads, and desserts, none of which should be missed. There is a reason even Portlanders are weekly regulars here, and once you go you’ll be dreaming about everything you’ve eaten until you make it back.

Long Lake Sporting Club

48 Sinclair Rd., Hwy. 162, Sinclair, Maine

The year-round Long Lake Sporting Club is way up north. It’s a full restaurant and bar that serves large portions of steaks, chicken, and lobster dinners. The restaurant also serves ployes, pancake-like flatbreads made from buckwheat flour; they’re a Northern Maine staple, rarely seen anywhere else in the state. Don’t miss the delicious version here, which are perfect as a side with dinner or a snack with beer. In the summer, you can sit out on the patio and enjoy spectacular views of the lake; n the winter, you can watch the snowmobile traffic come and go all day long.

Vessel & Vine

4 Pleasant St., Brunswick, Maine

Black and white view of a rustic restaurant interior, full of people eating
Vessel & Vine
Jamie Mercurio

One can do a few things at Vessel & Vine: Shop for vintage items, pop in for a wine tasting, take a class, come for a drink, or enjoy dinner. The perfect visit takes the time to do a little of everything. The space is chockablock with surprises, and that sense of surprise is also represented throughout the menu, which uses simple and sometimes unexpected ingredients in each dish. Vessel & Vine seeks every option to create a sense of place and have purpose. The cocktails and wine list are both excellent representations of this philosophy, and everything here adds to the experience.

The Red Parka

3 Station St., Glen, New Hampshire

a shotski with six beers sits in a snowy embankment
Shotski at the Red Parka
The Red Parka/Official Site

One bonus recommendation just outside of Maine. Just over the Maine-New Hampshire line, about 20 minutes past Fryeburg, is the Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub. The restaurant is a comfy and well-loved steakhouse just off the ski slopes (Attitash/Bear Peak is just down the road), and the bar side is equally cozy and welcoming, with every wall covered in donated license plates, old ski posters, and road signs. Definitely get some sort of steak at Red Parka, but don’t skip the fun appetizers like the spud tips or mozzarella sticks. You absolutely must grab a plate for the salad bar, seemingly one of the few left in existence; it adds to the Red Parka’s old-school feel. Finally, save room for the mountain of dessert that is the mud pie, a perfect example of the dessert that will require a few friends to finish.

The Purple House

378 Walnut Hill Road, , ME 04097 (207) 808-3148 Visit Website

Oxbow Beer Garden

420 Main Street, , ME 04270 (207) 539-5178 Visit Website

Meridians Kitchen and Bar

166 Main Street, , ME 04937 (207) 742-0036 Visit Website

Magnus on Water

12 Water Street, , ME 04005 (207) 494-9052 Visit Website