A visit to Mt Desert Island is obviously all about Acadia National Park, the ocean, lakes, hiking trails, etc. But I thought it would be fun, as we near the conclusion of a long stay, to comment on some of the consumer options available here.
Terrible crap in Bar Harbor. Needless to say, you have to avert your eyes from some of the tourist-trap tschotshkes and whatnots clogging the store windows in Bar Harbor. A lobster-fudge-hooded sweatshirt, could such a thing exist, would be the ideal souvenir to take home, or at least would be the mean average of what’s for sale. That said, there’s some good stuff in Bar Harbor too. We’re very partial to
Reel Pizza. This is one of those places where you watch your movie while drinking beer and, in this case, eating quite good pizza. (The beer is good too). It’s an alternative to
The Criterion Theater, a gorgeous Art Deco theater built in 1932 when Bar Harbor was a swanky destination, is a somewhat melancholy institution. It seats 877 and always used to guarantee that it never would never sell out a show. I have many fond childhood memories of drives to civilization in Bar Harbor to see a movie (Return of the Jedi for example). As time passed, though, it started to go to seed and get a bit dank and smelly. Sometime 7 or 8 years or so ago we went and many chairs were covered by plastic, apparently victims of ceiling leaks, and it just smelled too bad; around then we switched our allegiances to Reel Pizza. In 2007 new owners bought it and converted it into a nonprofit Theater and Arts Center; they now show some classic old movies and host musical performances. Definitely the right way to go, but I am sorry to report that it’s still kind of smelly with uncomfortable seats, and the sound seemed a bit off when we saw Public Enemies a week or two ago. I’m rooting for the Criterion, but I worry that it’s just too huge a white elephant to maintain.
Mt Desert Ice Cream. Two locations in town. I am too cheap to take my kids here because a small dish is $3.75 and there are no kids’ cones. Great ice cream, though. We split an enormous large bowl of Blackstrap Molasses Banana and some Salted Caramel. The nice girl at the counter held onto it for us and I ran out to get it during the intermission at Reel Pizza. A very creative place with all kinds of interesting things for sale (sorbet popsicles!).
I almost forgot this one: Morning Glory bakery in BH. We got a bit too addicted to this place. Great bread & pastries and other more lunch-y stuff like quiche. I had a particularly memorable rhubarb pastry.
Burning Tree restaurant. In Otter Creek near Bar Harbor. Wonderful restaurant that uses very local ingredients, a lot of seafood and local vegetables, & very little (if any?) red meat. We had a delicious clam pasta appetizer, I had an opulent bowl of bouillabaisse, and Sarah had grey sole with mushrooms. A nice beet salad came on the side of any order. Lots of edible flowers on the food; Sarah characterizes the place as a very “feminine” restaurant. Dessert was the same amazing honey cheese cake we remembered from last year and a lemon mousse with figs.
Pectic seafood. “When Things Get Hectic, Head to Pectic.” There were two retail tragedies this year. The first was the closing of the original Pectic Seafood store on the road to Southwest Harbor. They opened a bigger one of the way out to Ellsworth, and then I think the original place, which they operated out of their house, ran into some kind of zoning problem. So we had a lot less seafood this year. The second, in the greater scheme of thing more tragic, event was the closing of the
Port in the Storm Bookstore in Somesville. For the past 15 years (?) or so, this has been a wonderful place to visit on the bay in Somesville, with water right below outside the window and a view of the mountains. It was a community institution that hosted good authors’ readings too. They’d recently expanded with a second small place in Bernard, and maybe it was a bad time to do that, but in any case, they’re both gone now. I feel guilty, as I used to like to visit but did not buy much. The independent bookstore problem.
Thurston’s lobster pound in Bernard. Kind of pricey but a lovely place with every detail well done. A beautiful location over the water, with an airy, mosquito-netting covered dining room, and everything down to the cole slaw and the hotdog bun on the lobster roll (deliciously buttery) is excellent. I’m sure some locals laugh at this place as the ultimate yuppie lobster pound, but for my money it’s hard to beat the experience of a late lunch here in July (dinner can get pretty crowded).
I’ll conclude with an intriguing new place we stumbled upon the other day: The Naturalist’s Notebook. This is in Seal Harbor very near to Martha Stewart’s home, and I imagine she must stop by (if she’s not somehow behind it or connected to it). An eccentric little store. They sell interesting notebooks, pens and pencils, and ink; knitted items; travel-related stuff; maps and globes; books; and I don’t know what else. We bought some fancy honey. They had a blanket woven with the Red Sox logo, if I recall correctly. Upstairs were desks with drawers you could pull out filled with collections of shells and feathers and the like. Some really nice art for sale including small ink drawings of barnacles, mussels, and the like. You definitely sense a very particular guiding aesthetic behind the place.
I could go on — haven’t even gotten to Jordan Pond House — but apparently the one thing you cannot buy for love or money on this island is a working DSL connection, so I’ll end here.