Bar Harbor Picks

By Rebecca Richardson

Bar Harbor is like no other town or city in Maine. A summer retreat for the wealthy and renown for over a century, it has evolved into a popular vacation destination for the not so wealthy with the creation of Acadia National Park, a magnificent nature retreat covering one-third of Mount Desert Island. Over 3 million visitors arrive here each year, ready to sample the fare from a variety of dining establishments—a lot of people to feed in this town! Many restaurants have endured over the years, while others have come and gone like the tides. Most take advantage of Maine’s outstanding seafood, and visitors wouldn’t have it any other way. As a local resident I find that I lean towards other specialties on the menu, since (gasp!) I get my quota of seafood each year with family seafood feasts and drop-offs from my lobsterman buddy. Visitors may be torn between sampling as much seafood as possible and enjoying other menu selections.

The Chart Room
Located directly on the ocean, in business for 20+ years, they are the experts at traditional seafood preparation. They also serve a wonderful prime rib and other certified Angus beef dishes. Dine on the patio, and feel the ocean breeze on your face. Open for lunch (try the prime rib steak sandwich) and dinner in the summer when you’ll need a reservation, as they get busy. Open early May to late October. 585 Eden Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.9740

The Reading Room
Located in the historical Bar Harbor Inn, this gorgeous dining room is great for a special occasion. The view of the harbor from the expansive dining window is memorable. Traditional entrées are prepared elegantly and served on white table linens. Pricey, but a lovely dining experience. Open early May to late October. 7 Newport Drive, Bar Harbor 207.288.3351

Jack Russell’s Steakhouse
Located in an old historic home, this steakhouse is a must-dine for steak lovers. Having dined at New York’s Peter Luger and Smith & Wollensky restaurants, I can appreciate a good steak. Filet mignon, prime rib (call ahead), N.Y. strip—all are very well prepared here. The standard garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus are good, but it’s the steak you’ll go back for. Seafood dishes are served, too—how else can you have “surf & turf?” Open year round. 102 Eden Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.5214.

Little A’s Sports Bar & Pizzeria
Great comfort food, including a blackened chicken Alfredo pizza, Philly cheese steak sandwich, pasta dishes, burgers, and a grilled chicken Caesar salad I enjoy regularly. Family friendly with pool tables, arcade games, seven TV screens, and the Buzztime trivia network. It’s one of the only places in town that delivers. Open daily year round, serving lunch on weekends. 131 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.4700

Michelle’s, at the Ivy Manor Inn
Elegant and intimate, another terrific place for a special occasion. French cuisine that includes a wonderful onion soup. They also have an excellent and very reasonably priced breakfast menu. Save room after dinner for the Bag of Chocolate dessert—a chocolate lover’s dream! Open Memorial Day to end of October. 194 Main Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.2138

Burning Tree
When you ask locals what their favorite three restaurants are on Mount Desert Island, Burning Tree is on everybody’s list. In the tiny village of Otter Creek (where generations of my family have lived), its unassuming appearance belies the presence of one of the best restaurants in our area (and also one of the priciest). The petit gourmet menu focuses on our wonderful local seafood, including scallops, crab cakes, and fish, all superbly and uniquely prepared. Four miles south of downtown Bar Harbor, it’s worth the drive. Open June to October. 69 Otter Creek Drive, Otter Creek 207.288.9331

Café This Way
Just off Mount Desert Street, Café This Way is the spot for breakfast. Come here when you’ve got a morning paper and can spend some time, since lines are long and service is not rushed. They use the freshest ingredients and brew a great cup of coffee. Try the breakfast burrito—best in town! Bloody Marys and Mimosas also served for those festive brunches! Open early May to late October. 14½ Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.4483

McKay’s Public House
A great atmosphere combined with good cuisine makes for a nice dining experience. Dining outside under the twinkling lights is great way to spend a summer evening with friends. Inside is warm, softly lit, intimate. You might be swept off to a back room of just four tables in this converted house. And proprietor Brian Smith could not be a more pleasant host. Dubbed “elevated pub fare,” the menu is really unassuming gourmet dining featuring seafood, steak, and organic chicken dishes—delicious! Open year round (locals are grateful). 231 Main Street, Bar Harbor 207.288.2002

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
The better restaurants in town serve this ice cream and/or sorbet, as it was originally made for wholesale business only. Thank goodness we can now get it anytime! Two locations, but Firefly Lane (by the Village Green) has a larger selection of flavors. The super-premium ice cream is made on the premises by owner Linda Parker. Flavors you’ve never dreamed of include Mid-Life Crisis, The Dude (white russian ice cream), Girl Scouts Gone Wild. On hot days, try raspberry or lemon-lime sorbets. Connoisseurs will be highly impressed, ice cream lovers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. Open April to November. 325 Main St. & 7 Firefly Lane, Bar Harbor. (207) 288-0999.

Since this article was publshed a few places have dropped off (businesses close), but I can add a few other places that either weren't open when the article was originally written or have moved up in quality and popularity:

Poor Boy's Restaurant
Great variety of food, from seafood, beef, chicken, reasonably priced, great service.

Side Street Cafe
Indoor and outdoor dining, great comfort food with the best macaroni and cheese combinations in town. Great bar too, with a variety of drink specials and concoctions!

Mama DiMateo's
A 25 year staple of Bar Harbor. A varied menu of Italian specialties, pasta, as well as tenderloin, seafood and delicious deserts.

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