A few days visiting Acadia National Park was a primary purpose of our trip to Maine, so we found ourselves in Bar Harbor, which is nestled at the northeast corner of the seaside park. It’s an exceedingly picturesque town that swells with tourists, especially in the summer. There are gift shops and bed and breakfasts, and gift shops and a few more gift shops. There are also many restaurants. And while some are very popular, we were underwhelmed several times. But I’ll just talk about the things we liked.
Side Street Café
49 Rodick St
The lobster roll at this very popular Bar Harbor restaurant and bar was on the Eater list of the best lobster rolls in Maine, so we went to check it out. It includes the meat of two whole lobsters! My god! Along with that borderline obscene quantity of sweet, delectable lobster is mayo and old bay seasoning. While I’m usually in the plain-lobster-with-drawn-butter camp when it comes to lobster rolls, this was pretty amazing. The heat of the seasoning accentuates the sweetness of the lobster, and again, with so much lobster, how could I complain?
Coffee Hound Coffee Bar
27 Main St B
In a part of town overrun by mediocre restaurants and souvenir shops, but also graced with exceptional harbor views, one might be skeptical about Coffee Hound Coffee Bar, and rightfully so. But I was very pleasantly surprised by their very satisfying cappuccinos. The owners are coffee enthusiasts, the baristas take their craft seriously, and the beans are from a local small-batch roaster in Maine. Check, check, and check.
My husband kindly picked me up a cappuccino from here and brought it back to the hotel. (He hates coffee, so yes, he’s very nice to do it.) We went back later in the day and I got another. The owner, Chris, was working both times. He recognized my husband and daughter, and I told him how pleased I had been with the coffee they brought back to me. We talked about the importance of a good coffee to start the day. And he shared a story with me…
A woman and her husband were staying at the West Street Hotel, a high-end hotel right on the waterfront, just a short walk from Coffee Hound. In the morning she sent her husband out to get her a cup of coffee, and explained to him that there was a place around the corner. He missed it and kept walking, until he came to a gas station. He got her a cup from there and walked it back to her. She was livid. Wrapped in her bathrobe, she escorted her husband to Coffee Hound and angrily explained that this was the place. When he came back to the coffee shop again the next morning, he mentioned to Chris that he had been banished to the couch of their $600-a-night room for his transgression. We had a good laugh. Now that’s a woman who understands the importance of a good cup of coffee, and now her husband does, too.
If you love coffee and you’re in town, check them out. They operate out of this location May through October.
West Street Café
76 West Street
After a walk across the Bar Island Land Bridge, up to the top of Bar Island, and back into town, we stopped at the West Street Café for lunch. I got a special that included a cup of clam chowder, a lobster roll, and a slice of blueberry pie; my husband, a salad; and my daughter, a hotdog and fries. The food was fine, though not great. I mention the restaurant here because the place itself was absolutely lovely, filled with light from full-length windows, with views of the picturesque waterside buildings along West Street and peeks of the harbor. A partial second floor at the front of the restaurant affords even better water views. We were there on a glorious day, and the restaurant opened their windows to let a gentle sea breeze sail into the airy dining room. Sitting there, I had one of those moments when I looked at my husband and daughter and felt so lucky, so grateful to the universe that I have them, that we have each other. So, while the chowder was a little bland and the lobster roll was a little lackluster, I still had a truly lovely lunch.
And also, importantly, West Street Café has what must be the very best lighting on the planet. The lighting in the bathroom—something I would not ordinarily mention—was borderline magical. Like, seriously, I doubt I have ever looked as good as I looked in there. Why can’t the entire world be lit like the ladies’ bathroom at West Street Café?!
318 Main Street
Closed for the Winter season
(Sorry about the photos! The restaurant is very dark.) Havana Parilla is the more casual sister of Havana, located just to the side of the more formal restaurant’s entrance. Despite the name, Havana Parrilla is not a Cuban restaurant, but rather a pan-Latin tapas bar with a large outdoor grill area. The menu ranges from elotes and spicy tuna salad, on the lighter side, to mixed grill and steak. We tried the “sausage party,” which is a trio of grilled sausages, and the carnitas tacos, which were nice, if a tad bland. The staff is warm and knowledgeable, and the drink menu is full of local beers and ciders, great cocktails, and an approachable wine list. If we find ourselves back in Bar Harbor, we’ll make reservations at Havana. Their menu looks pretty compelling.