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.
Route 220, 3856 Washington Rd., Waldoboro, Maine
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.