Twenty years ago, there were virtually no serious dining options anywhere on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. Things have definitely changed. In addition to the choices listed below, you can find plenty of good restaurants in Southwest Harbor and several in Northeast Harbor. There are even decent options in tiny, one-dock fishing villages such as Manset and Bernard. Or just pack a picnic at either of the excellent local markets in Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor.
Southwest Harbor’s Common Good Soup Kitchen & Café (commongood soupkitchen.org; tel. 207/266-2733) at 19 Clark’s Point Road (next to the post office), is arguably the best spot to get MDI’s signature pastry, the light and buttery popover. From June to Columbus Day, stop by between 7:30 and 11:30am, help yourself to all the coffee, oatmeal, and terrific popovers (with locally made jam) that you care to eat. Grab a seat on the patio, enjoy the live music, then leave whatever sort of donation you’d like on the way out—it all goes to fund a soup kitchen in the winter.
Also in Southwest Harbor, Quietside, 360 Main St. (tel. 207/244-9444), serves inexpensive club sandwiches and ice-cream cones. The Little Notch Bakery and Cafe, 340 Main Street (littlenotch.wixsite.com/my-café; tel. 207/244-3357) makes great pizzas with its own dough, plus gourmet sandwiches in the vein of grilled chicken in focaccia with onions and aioli, prosciutto with Asiago and roasted peppers on an onion roll, and grilled flank steak on a baguette. It gets crowded and convivial on summer weekend evenings. Eat-A-Pita, 326 Main Street ([ww.eatapitasouthwestharbor.com; tel. 207/244-4344), serves pitas, salads, and egg dishes. Sips, 4 Clark Point Road (tel. 207/244-4550; www.sipsmdi.com) is a wine bar that also happens to have great breakfast crepes, sandwiches, and comfort food-y dinners (great meatloaf).
In Northeast Harbor, don’t overlook the informal Docksider Restaurant, hidden a block off the main commercial drag at 14 Sea Street (tel. 207/276-3965). The crab rolls and lobster rolls are outstanding, made simply and perfectly. The small restaurant also features a host of other fare, including lobster dinners, sandwiches, chowder, fried seafood, and grilled salmon.
Pier, Beer & lobster
The best lobster restaurants are those right on the water, where there’s no pretension or frills. The ingredients for a proper feed at a local lobster pound are a pot of boiling water, a tank of lobsters, some well-worn picnic tables, a good view, and a six-pack of Maine beer. Some of the best are concentrated on Mount Desert Island, including the famous Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, one of the oldest pounds in the area. Thurston’s Lobster Pound in tiny Bernard (across the water from Bass Harbor) is atmospheric enough to have been used as a backdrop for the Stephen King miniseries Storm of the Century; it’s a fine place to linger toward dusk, with great water views from the upstairs level. Abel’s Lobster Pound (tel. 207/276-5827) on Route 198, 5 miles north of Northeast Harbor, overlooks the deep blue waters of Somes Sound; eat at picnic tables under the pines or indoors at the restaurant. It’s quite a bit pricier than other lobster restaurants at first glance, but they don’t charge for the extras that many other lobster joints do—and some visitors claim that lobsters here are more succulent. Then there’s Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound (www.trentonbridgelobster.com; tel. 207/667-2977) on Route 3 in Trenton (on the mainland) just before the bridge across to the Island, a personal favorite of mine where the lobsters are boiled in seawater. It’s salty and unpretentious as all get-out. A container of their smoky lobster stew and a slice of homemade blueberry pie make for ideal takeout.
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.