For my last night in Maine I made a last minute decision to stay in Old Orchard Beach (OOB). I wanted to be closer to Manchester to catch my early AM flight while still having the ability to explore something new. Glad about that.
OOB is a huge summer destination for Canadians. That is, until after Labour Day, then everything starts to close up and it seems the locals start their weekend getaways here. OOB, post Labour Day, reminded me of a smaller, quirky and somewhat creepy version of Coney Island during its heyday. The empty streets, quiet beaches and packed-up amusement park looked like a set for a future installment of Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street.
After arriving I noticed a huge cluster of people at beach-side kiosk and I decided to investigate. It was Pier French Fries, which proudly advertises the best french fries anywhere. That’s confidence in a city that has many french fry stands. Naturally I investigated. They are the best french fries I’ve had to date. Double fried and served ‘naked’ (without salt) so you can dress them up with any number of seasonings; I went old school – salt and ketchup. I resisted the urge to go back and get another pint.
Snack: 11 Oct 2013
Pier French Fries | 12 Old Orchard St | OOB ME 04064
Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor are part of Mount Desert Island but there is much more to see in this region. Luckily I had a long conversation with a Bar Harbor resident while on a trek about the coast and he recommended other areas such as Seal Bay and Southwest Harbor. I enjoyed both completely and will spend more time exploring them and the surrounding areas on the next trip to Mount Desert Island.
Pointless government shenanigans caused park closures around the country however it did not have any impact on enjoying Acadia National Park. People uniformly ignored the closure signs, park rangers still on duty kindly informed people that the park was closed then went about their business. It’s way too expensive to enforce a closure when there are so many points of access, particularly when people aren’t being paid.
Good thing too, Acadia is a definite stop for naturists and trekkers visiting Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor. There is a low-impact, 6-mile circuit about Eagle Lake and its only 1 mile from Bar Harbor proper.
I liked Bar Harbor, it had exceptional coastal scenery, a compact, quaint ‘downtown’ with a density of local crafts and eateries and its an ideal base from which you can explore other areas on Mount Desert Island. The only negative was the regular cruise ships calling Bar Harbor a port of call. The ships’ water-hogging size destroy the coastal view and the regular herd of cruise tourists make the traffic and noise in an otherwise sedate town seem anachronistic.
Curiosity about Lobster Mac & Cheese got the better of me in Bar Harbor and any number of places proudly serve their versions. Side Street Cafe serves both full and half portions. I opted for the half with a side salad. I could only finish half of the half portion and was left wondering how any mere mortal could consume a whole portion in one sitting. The ultimate in richness, making Alfredo seems like dainty carrot sticks with no dipping sauce, it was macaroni tossed in a 4-cheese sauce, topped with butter-poached lobster. Of course it was good!
Dinner: 10 Oct 2013
Side Street Cafe | 49 Rodick | Bar Harbor ME 04609
I regretted not spending another day in Camden to walk other parts of the city but such are the liabilities of a sample tour. Onward to Mount Desert Island with a stop in Ellsworth for lunch. Ellsworth is another small, quaint village with spectacular scenery, architecture and food. I only spent a few hours here but I will make Ellsworth an overnight stop on my next Maine tour – impressive.
In preparation for Ireland trip, I took another seafood break to have Shepard’s Pie at Finn’s Irish Public House. While most people associate Shepard’s Pie with England, I’m certain the Irish will object.
Thick, garlicy mash atop mildly seasoned ground beef and fresh root vegetables; a good dose of savory brown gravy to boot – delicious. It’s one of my favourite winter meals and since the overnight temps in Camden were in the 30’s, I felt justified in my selection.
I had heard Maine does not like spicy food, so I came prepared with mini bottles of Tabasco. They were not necessary since Finn’s stocks hot sauces on every table. Ironically I was seated next to a 4-top of tourists from Georgia who were dosing their Shepard’s Pies with hot sauce. Turns out the tourists lived 50 miles from Parents and were familiar with their house, having walked past it to visit their friends who live several blocks away.
Disturbingly small world.
Lunch: 9 Oct 2013
Finn’s | 156 Main | Ellsworth ME 04843
Camden has incredible architecture and scenery. If you’re looking for a walkable city with 200 year old homes better preserved than most, then Camden is a destination. A native walking his dog gave me a mini tour of his historic neighbourhood, explaining that the small oval plaques on the front of the homes weren’t street numbers, they were the years the homes were built. I’m glad he cleared that up, it thought it odd so many homes had the same address and they weren’t numbered sequentially.
After a day hiatus from seafood, I was ready to dive in again; this time I was curious about fish chowder. The restaurant I had bookmarked had a 45 minute wait thanks to a cruise ship dumping its human contents all over the marina, so I walked further down the marina to Fresh. Glad about that.
The fish chowder was excellent; slightly creamy and savory with chunky potatoes and almost whole fillets of Haddock. I was also curious about the localvore salad of roasted butternut squash, blue cheese, micro kale and balsamic drizzle. Flavors were good but the warmth from the squash melted the blue cheese and made it gloppy which was definitely not a good texture play.
Dinner: 8 Oct 2013
Fresh | 1 Bay View Landing | Camden ME 04843
En route from Portland to Camden I stopped at Owl’s Head State Park for what I thought would be a quick visit but it turned into most of the day. The park itself is beautiful with miles and miles of coastal trails darting in and out of scruffy, jagged coastline but the real attraction is the lighthouse, which is one of few that can be directly accessed.