Rockland, Rockport, Owl’s Head, Thomaston, Waldoboro [Maine] food resources

Home Kitchen Café (Rockland) is my hands-down favorite for breakfast and lunch, both of which are served all day. Closed Tuesdays, no dinner, closes at 3:00. Virtually everything is cooked from scratch in-house. Their Rubin [sic] has spoiled me for all others, their fish tacos are amazing, the haddock chowder is as good as it gets, the huevos rancheros are incredible – you get the point. Even a pedestrian tuna fish sandwich is elevated by their freshly-baked bread. And the service could not be nicer – I am in there a handful of times every summer but am recognized and greeted warmly each time.

Café Miranda (Rockland) is open year round and has an enormous menu (“because we can”), serving local produce, meat and fish as much as possible. Because the menu is so huge and eclectic absolutely anyone can find something they want to eat – it is narrowing down the choices that is tough. I recently had their “Wee Meat Pies” for the first time and loved them – little hand-made empanadas filled with pulled pork and black beans, with a lovely spicy salsa, avocado and sour cream. The lamb burger is also awesome as it their Et Tu Brutus salad (“kills a Caesar”). Two of us had pasta the other night and it was very good. The third in our party had a haddock special – she had been ordering haddock every time she saw it and we had taken to calling her the haddock addict – and said it was the very best yet. Huge portions always so sharing is a good practice although we didn’t and had leftovers.

Sammy’s Deluxe (Rockland). Dinner only, closed Sundays and Mondays. Sam was the chef at the late, much-missed Salt Water Farm Café in Rockport. Now he has his own place and is rocking it. A fairly short eclectic menu contains only two items not made in-house: potato chips and ice cream sandwiches. Everything else is made right there in the tiny kitchen. I recently had a baby romaine wedge salad with buttermilk anchovy dressing and slivers of all kinds of tiny vegetables, topped with lovely crunchy breadcrumbs and chopped herbs. It was like a farmer’s market on a plate, just wonderful. That was followed by a perfectly roasted skate wing done in a riff on the classic French buerre blanc presentation, with an herby green sauce under the fish, buerre blanc on top and lovely deep-fried capers. More crunchy yummy crumbs and more lovely veggies. This is amazing cooking and the prices are extremely reasonable. My very nice waitress recommended a wine so perfectly paired with the meal that I told her they should force anyone who orders the skate to get it. I raved about my meal so much that local friends went the next night and have been back since and love it as much as I do.

18 Central (Rockport) has been open exactly a year in the former Shepherd’s Pie space in Rockland Harbor. They have gorgeous patio seating with stunning views if weather permits. Much of the food is cooked on a huge wood-burning grill and the chef has really mastered that medium. I had been a couple of weeks ago and so enjoyed my harissa salmon that I could not think of ordering anything else when I returned with friends a week later. One of my friends had had it 3 weeks prior and felt the same way. Neither of us could quite believe that it was equally mind-bending the second time. The third DC had halibut which was equally perfect. The fingerling and finnan haddie salad with sturdy lettuces that I started with was also fantastic – radicchio, frisee and escarole dressed with a finnan haddie version of tonnato sauce, with deep-fried disks of fingerling potatoes and deep-fried capers, delicious and original. Desserts were consumed and were said to be equally wonderful. There is an extensive raw bar of which we did not partake but two guys barely paused all evening in shucking oysters. They were open all winter, not sure if they will be again this year.

Owl’s Head General Store. Closed Sundays and Mondays. I have only ever had the 7 Napkin Burger here and I doubt that will ever change. Please don’t tell them to leave things off it and then complain it wasn’t great. It is the over-abundance of toppings that really makes this burger, even if you think you don’t care for mustard on your burger. Neither do I, except on this one. I do generally add bacon just to really take things over the top. And I have been known to use more than 7 napkins too. I have heard tell there are other winners here but have no current plans to investigate.

Mussel Ridge Market (South Thomaston). This is a convenience store plus café, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. You can also pick up milk, beer, toothpaste and laundry detergent. There are tables both outside and in at which to consume your wonderful food cooked by Malcolm, formerly of the ‘Wich Please food truck, which is parked outside. The pork belly gyro was a delight, as was the Chicken ‘Wich sandwich. This is real food make from scratch and it is wonderful but it is not fast food. Bring your patience or do as the locals do and call ahead.

The Slipway (Thomaston). Last year they served a very limited menu as they were busy getting a sister restaurant (The Rhumb Line) up and running in Camden. I am happy to report a return to the full menu and my beloved Monk Nuggets (deep-friend monkfish nuggets) this year. Fish and chips are excellent with house cut fries and excellent coleslaw. They have wonderful salads which can be topped with a variety of things: crab, lobster, haddock cakes, fish. I am informed by reliable sources that the desserts are fabulous. Seating both inside and out on the long pier with wonderful views wherever you sit. I have a serious soft spot in my heart for this spot, there is nothing new or adventurous going on with the food here but it is fresh and local and treated with respect. Closed Tuesdays.

McLoon’s Lobster Shack (South Thomaston). Local friends all say this is the best lobster shack around. A tragic shellfish allergy renders me unable to verify this but it sure is cute and everyone raves about it.

Morse’s Sauerkraut and Deli (Waldoboro). Deep in the woods where you would least expect it is a wonderful shop selling house-made sauerkraut and pickles and all manner of sausages, charcuterie, cheeses and gourmet items, with an emphasis on German stuff but representation from everywhere. The place has been selling sauerkraut since the early 1900’s. There is also a small (5 booths) restaurant that does takeout too. We shared an order of kraut balls (ground pork and sauerkraut rolled in panko and deep-fried with a side of spicy Thousand Island) that bordered on life-changing. We also had sausage sandwiches (you choose your sausage from a list of about 8 or 10) which featured well-griddled apparently house-made rolls and tons of sauerkraut, with coleslaw and pretzels for sides. Very yummy.

Beth’s Farm Market (Warren). Near Morse’s so makes a nice combo excursion. They grow all the produce they sell and it’s really great although they stick to more mainstream items than you’d see at a farmer’s market – no kohlrabi here. They also sell their own jams and pickles, huge planter baskets and other garden plants and some frozen meats from local farms. In season they sell homemade strawberry shortcake that I hear is amazing. I have never been in the area in corn season but local friends tell me their corn is the best and they have a chalkboard talking about their corn maze and boasting that it has 600,000 corn plants.

Rockland Farmer’s Market. Thursday mornings, 9 to noon. Very nice farmer’s market with amazing views right on the water. Fine Line Farm sells the most amazing lettuces, pricy but oh so wonderful. Ravenswood Flower Farm sells gorgeous flowers, vase and all. Plus the usual assortment of produce, cheeses, baked goods, meat, chicken, eggs, honey and so on. Uproot Pie sells pizzas and bialys and there is another tent selling food where last week I got a heavenly Turkish Breakfast Sandwich consisting of hard-boiled egg, feta, cucumber, tomato, arugula, and (I think) dill aioli on a fabulous baguette and some terrific coffee.

Rock City Coffee Roasters (Rockland). Located on the road just above the farmer’s market this tiny shop sells hot and iced coffee as well as coffee beans and coffee paraphernalia. Really good coffee.

Jess’s Market (Rockland). Lobster and other seafood. Locals tell me this is the place to buy lobster to make at home. I have bought fish here and the quality is excellent.

Bleecker and Greer: Maine Street Meats (Rockport, tucked into a back corner of the State of Maine Cheese building on Route 1). This store would not be out of place in a big city and having it here on the mid-coast is remarkable. They are butchers and charcutiers and bakers who also source all kinds of goodies both local and international. Their rilletes, pates and sausages are all exemplary. They make a wonderful smoked duck breast. The lamb chops I bought there last week were the best I have had outside Britain. Their breads are terrific. They have Bahn Mi Mondays which I have never made it to. Open in the winter and amazing luxury goodies at Christmas.

Good Tern Co-op (Rockland). Much smaller than the co-ops in Belfast or Damariscotta but a nice resource for the area. Bulk spices so you can just grab what you need, a small high-quality variety of all the needful.

Curtis Custom Meats (Warren, on Route 90). I have not made it here this summer but last year I went and had to restrain myself from over-buying. The steaks I got were amazing. My reading tells me the steaks are from their own cattle. They also will dress your game in hunting season.

Common Wealth Farm (Unity). Chicken, Cornish hens, eggs – sold at the Camden Farmer’s Market (Wed and Sat), the Good Tern Co-op, Bleecker and Greer. This is chicken like it used to taste, so good it just needs salt and pepper before grilling. It spoils me for all other chicken.

I hope to keep this thread going with updates and would love to hear about other food resources in the rea that I have overlooked.

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Breakwater Winery in Owl’s Head is worth a visit. A great destination after taking in the awesome vistas at Owl’s Head Lighthouse. The mansion and tasting room overlooks the harbor in the distance. Very picturesque. Wine tastings go on daily during the summer. 4 wine samples, $3. Just pull up and walk in. Friendly ambiance and discussion. And they offer a complimentary crudité table. We had a good time on our first visit last May. Though we did not care for all of the vintages, we did leave with an exceptional Pinot Noir…

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Gretchen, Let me know when you’re going to explode, so I can make sure I’m in another state. Only kidding. I’m full just reading your great report. Love Maine and the seafood there.
Enjoy,
CocoDan

great job - we are heading up to Rockport for Labor day weekend and this gives up some good ideas where to go ! any feedback about Primo in Rockland ?

Fours years ago friends took me to dinner there in the downstairs and we had one of the most transcendent meals any of us remember. I went back on my own and sat at the bar upstairs and had another outstanding experience. The following summer the same friends took me again and we had what was simply a very nice meal which was ridiculous at the price. They tried it twice more on their own and had the same experience so this summer when they asked where I’d like to go I said 18 Central and they said, oh good, we are kind of done with Primo, and I feel the same way. However, I am available to be persuaded otherwise if people have had different experiences because I will truly never forget how much I loved it that first time.

The funny thing is, I can’t eat anywhere near what I wish I could surrounded by all this bounty, you are hearing about weeks and weeks of eating. There are a lot of salads too.

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We did the Tavern Menu at Primo in May. It was crowded so there was a wait. But the meal itself was wonderful. Reservations are a must for the formal restaurant.

A great review-thanks for posting.
I would recommend In Good Company in Rockland for dinner/drinks. We had an outstanding
meal there last October.

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Great roundup. Please add to it. I plan on being up in the Mid-Coast in a few weeks.

This is a long ramble through my brain…

I lived in Owls Head right on water at the head of Penobscot Bay, just off the road about 2/3 of the way from Primo’s to Breakwater Winery for several years around 2006-2008. The winery had just started planting their vines just before I moved away. I was a food/beverage business consultant and food writer and worked with dozens of small food businesses, farms, wineries, and distilleries in the Mid-Coast and Down East. I was the force behind starting the Maine Winery Guild. I was writing an article about wineries in Maine for a magazine and while folks thought there were around a half dozen wineries in the state, there were actually 18, and more in construction. I put together an email list and sent the info around to all of them, and in less than a month we started the first meetings to form the guild. I also put together a Maine Wine Trail guide for the Maine Tourism Board and thousands of the brochures were at all the tourist centers on the highways. The guide actually had three wine trails. Southern Maine, Mid-Coastal Maine, and Down East Maine. I also taught a few seminars on the food/beverage industry at the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland. Then I partnered up with Winterport Winery and moved to Winterport for a few years and helped them open Penobscot Bay Brewery as well, before moving to NY to open a farm distillery.

It was great hearing about some of my old haunts, and about new places. I have to check out all these new places, I haven’t been up to that area for 2-3 years.

Last time I was in Rockland I went to a bar called 3 Crow that had a very large whiskey selection and cocktails that were pretty good for Maine, but the food was mediocre. But I heard it closed.

My two favorite places in Rockland were In Good Company and Suzuki Sushi.

In Good Company is a small wine bar and restaurant. The owner/chef, Melody, is fabulous. She trained at the CIA and was in the same graduating class at the owner of Primo’s. Melody won the prestigious Frances Roth Leadership Award at the CIA.

Suzuki Sushi is top quality traditional sushi, using local fish and seafood. Keiko Suzuki buys off the local fishing boats, and harvests seaweed and forages for greens locally.

I ended up becoming good friends with both their owner/chefs. I originally was up in the Mid-Coast area because I was going to buy the fabulous Kohn’s Smoke House in Thomaston when the Kohn’s retired, but decided to go in a different direction. I remember going there for the first time the summer before my senior year of high school, when we were on summer vacation at our camp in Union, when the Kohn’s first opened their smoke house making German style smoked meats, poultry, and seafood. I was then offered a job as a chef to work with Melody of In Good Company, but the kitchen was just too small for me. I’m 6’2" and 225 lbs. and that kitchen is the smallest restaurant kitchen I have ever seen. I also led several sake and shochu trainings for the staff at Suzuki Sushi back then.

Francine’s Bistro in Camden was another favorite of mine. Their steak frites was excellent. Just a great cut of meat, prepared perfectly, and delicious frites. Also the soups, especially the seafood based ones, were out of this world. The type of dish where you kind of hunch over concentrating on it and unconsciously making little purring/growling noises as you eat.

Down East there are two smoke houses I can highly recommend. On Rt. 1 in Hancock is Sullivan Harbor Farm, just a short drive East of the turn off for Acadia/Bar Harbor. I think that they make some of, if not the best smoked salmon in the world. I did an article for a magazine on all the coastal smoke houses in Maine, at the time seven were doing seafood, (and a handful doing smoked meats and charcuterie in the interior that were going to be another article, but I never got around to it.) So I spent a month driving hundreds of miles from Portland in the south, to Perry all the way Down East, just north of Lubec. The other is Grindstone Neck of Maine a bit further Down East in Winter Harbor on the next peninsula east of Acadia/Bar Harbor. The owner Carl, and his son, are artists when it comes to smoking. The also own a nice restaurant in Winter Harbor, The Fishermans Inn; and Sunset House BnB in West Gouldsboro. Carl makes great salmon and other fish and smoked items, but the lightly smoked local crab claws packed in butter are mind altering. You just take the vacuum package and throw it into hot water long enough to melt the butter, and serve. Saveur magazine once included them in their 50 best foods. Once I got Carl to make me cold smoked uni. He sourced local diver caught uni, had them sexed into male and female, and lightly smoked them. It firmed them up just a bit, and they were amazing. You could tell the difference between the male and female uni by a slight variance in taste and texture. I like Maine uni because I find them to be smaller and sweeter than Pacific uni. I gave a few packages to Suzuki sushi for them to inlude in their chefs special. The rest I took down to NYC with me and gave to several top restaurants and chefs who tried them and prepared various dishes with it. Chefs Chris Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez snacked on them while preparing a big nose to tail dining event I attended.

I agree with you about almost all your picks. The exception for me is Miranda Cafe. I was friendly with the owner and some of the staff, but I never had a single meal that I enjoyed there. After around a half dozen visits I just gave up. It was just too eclectic for me. The combinations seemed forced, striving to be unusual just to be unusual. And just not well executed, especially the Asian takes on dishes. I know many folks love it, but others like myself don’t. I think it is a very polarizing place.

Primo’s, from day one, has been inconsistent. When the kitchen is on their game, they are top notch and can be transcendent. When they are off, they are anywhere from mediocre to abysmal. It’s weird because sometimes they are great all season, some times off and on, and sometimes bad all season. Staff and service very inconsistent as well. The times that they are great kept me going there several times a season for several years, but one bad season permanently put me off. The prices are too high, expecially for the area.

I met Sam of the former Salt Water Farm Cafe a few times. I really liked his food. Very well executed. I’m glad he has his own place.

Other favorites of mine you list are the Owls Head General Store for that sloppy, delicious, mess of a 7 Napkin Burger. Morse’s Sauerkraut for their great selection of European and local items like cheese, and their sauerkraut and pickles, as well as their German, stick to your ribs, home style meals, especially in the depths of winter. It was Morse’s that made me start making my own sauerkraut from scratch, which I now do every fall/winter.Beth’s Farm where I visited several times a week for fresh picked produce. I would get a bushel or two of super ripe Roma type tomatoes each summer and roast them and jar them to use in sauces all the next year. Rockland Farmers market was a favorite. I would hop on my bicycle for the 1/2 mile ride into town and fill up my paniers to over flowing. I had a deal with one woman who sold rabbits to buy all her unsold at the end of the day for half price. usually 3-4 each week. Rock City Roasters made me addicted to coffee while I lived there, but I mostly gave it up when I moved up to Winterport because there were no good roasters in the area or in Bangor up the road. I stopped by Jess’s Fish Market at least once a week when I first moved there, an excellent seafood shop with a great selection of craft beer and deli items. The only store I ever saw selling the great Benton’s bacon from Tennessee as a regular item.

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Wow, what a wonderful mini-memoir, so interesting, I learned a ton from it, thanks so much for posting!

I agree, I have friends who like Café Miranda and friends who don’t.

See I just do not understand it when the owner is clearly so talented, inconsistency at that level is very hard for me to understand.

Stopped into Jess’s yesterday for the first time this summer and she had a wider selection of fresh fish than I remembered plus lobsters 3 ways: live, steamed and chilled, and also picked and ready to eat. She had gorgeous little mackerel that looked super fresh so I got a couple of them and they were wonderful grilled.

Want to add a big thumbs-up for Morse’s Kraut Haus. A friend recommended the place last week and your post confirmed that we should check it out when we were in the area this past weekend. Lunch there pretty much made dinner superfluous. The kraut balls were as good as advertised and I’m glad there were three of us to share them. Their other house-made items (sauerkraut, rotkraut, & pickles) were all great and the sausages were very tasty; wish I remembered who supplied the gyulai. The reubens were an especially big hit with my dining companions.

The market had a constant stream of people buying things for their camps or vacation rentals. I took home some kraut (of course) and half-sours since I was just passing through but can see Morse’s being a great source of specialty provisions in the area.

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one other restaurant we saw mentioned a number of times on different websites is called Nina June - anyone been ???

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold