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KITTERY

In the span of a few years, as the Foreside neighborhood has come into its own, Kittery has evolved from a bastion of traditional lobster pounds and fried seafood joints into one of New England’s most diverse and happening food towns. There’s terrific Indian food at Tulsi (20 Walker St., tel. 207/451-9511) and outstanding sandwiches, breads, and pastries at the Beach Pea Baking Co. (53 State Rd., tel. 207/439-3555)—eat at one of the tables outside or on the front porch, if you can find an open one. If you want to go the traditional Down Easter route, Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier (16 Chauncey Creek Rd., tel. 207/439-1030] is the real deal, with lobsters fresh off the boat, brightly painted picnic tables, and a raw bar for clams and oysters. BYOB.

Tap Into the Coast

In 2011, a rewrite of Maine state law allowed the brewers of Maine’s nascent craft beer scene to operate tasting rooms very much like bars, with unlimited pours of up to a pint. It’s led to a craft-beer explosion in the Pine Tree State, and no region outside of Portland has benefited from the proliferation of tap rooms as much as the southern coast. A few of the standouts include Kittery’s Tributary Brewing Co. (tel. 207/351-8162), founded by venerable master brewer Tod Mott. The former post office full of picnic tables takes on a party vibe on the weekends—try the Mott the Lesser Russian Imperial Stout, a legendary brew among beer geeks, based on a recipe Mott cooked up in a previous gig. The tap room at York’s SoMe Brewing Company (tel. 207/703-0093) has a sports bar feel, with a flat-screen usually tuned in to some New England team. The best pours at Hidden Cove Brewing Company (tel. 207/646-0228) in Wells are the crisp, super quaffable, lower-alcohol brews like Castoff Session IPA and the Summer Ale with lemon peel and honey. Aging barrels line a no-frills tap room that feels like a basement rec room you hung out in as a teenager.

THE YORKS

York Village harbors Fazio’s, 38 Woodbridge Rd. (turn just before the town library; tel. 207/363-7019), a good Italian family restaurant with atmosphere. Directly on Long Sands in York Beach, Sun & Surf (tel. 207/363-2961) has a takeout window proffering fried seafood and ice cream—but also a dining room with standout ocean views and an increasingly sophisticated menu that now incorporates steaks, salads, pastas, tuna, and lamb. For a quick bite, I like the Long Sands General Store (tel. 206/363-5383), near the northern end of Long Sands beach, with pizzas, sandwiches, and other essential picnicking supplies.

Jam Sessions in York

Need a souvenir but too weak with hunger to shop another minute? At Stonewall Kitchen’s flagship store, on Stonewall Lane (tel. 207/351-2712)—just behind the huge tourist information complex at the corner of Route 1 and the access road leading to and from I-95 and the Maine Turnpike—you can sample from among the company’s delicious jams and spreads before tucking into a soup-and-sandwich special from the on-site deli. Then, hunger and birthday lists both satisfied in one fell swoop, keep browsing through a good selection of handy kitchen accessories: knives, lobster bibs, graters, and the like. Staff is friendly and helpful. It’s open daily until 8pm; the cafe, though, closes at 3pm.

Spotlight on Maine diners
One thing you’ll notice as you traverse the Maine coast is a preponderance of diners.
What gives? Ironically, the greasy spoons and dining cars that sprang up roadside during Maine’s post-war auto tourism boom tend these days to be the haunts of fervent locals, who congregate daily in their kaffeeklatsches on the diner stools. Expect a steady stream of hunting caps, thick accents, doughnuts, eggs, and Red Sox or Patriots talk (depending on the season). You’d do well to sample one or two of them while on the road.

Heading north from York to Ogunquit along Route 1, you could easily blow right by the reddish-hut icon that is Flo’s Steamed Hot Dogs (no phone) in Cape Neddick—a couple of miles north of York, in the middle of nowhere, at a bend in the road—without noticing. But if you crave a winner of a wiener, screech to a halt in the dirt parking lot and give it a whirl. You’ll wait in the line, which resembles an assembly line: The steamed dogs here with the secret-recipe house relish are cheap ($2.50) and good, but they can only do them 50 at a time. If your dog’s number 51, bring a paperback. There are only six seats, so you’ll probably have to eat in the car, too. Come anyway. The hut is closed Wednesdays, and they don’t take credit cards—what did you expect?

A little farther north, also on Route 1 but in Wells, the Maine Diner (tel. 207/646-4441) is a classic, though perhaps getting a little too famous for its own good. (They’ll page you when a table is ready.) But worry not, there’s a reason why they’ve just passed the “four million served” mark. The lobster pie and hot lobster roll are famous and delicious, as is a plate of baked scallops. Red flannel hash? Pot roast? They’ve got it—as well as the “Clam-o-rama,” a sampler of clam items. They serve wine and beer here, too—very unusual.

In the working-class former milltown of Biddeford, Palace Diner (tel. 207/284-0015) requires you to veer a few blocks off Route 1 as you pass through town. The detour is rewarded by a throwback dining car with just 15 stools. On any given weekend morning, it’s a safe bet that half are occupied by diners who’ve traveled from Portland or farther, brunch pilgrims who come for dishes like light and sweet challah French toast and the gut-buster deluxe breakfast sandwich—with egg, bacon, jalapenos, cheddar, and mayo on a perfectly griddled English muffin. The simple lunch menu of burgers, tuna sandwich, and fried chicken is similarly retro delish.
 

 

 
 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.