Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eating in Wiscasset, Maine

Yesterday I wrote about some of the good antiques shopping which can be found in Wiscasset, Maine. I wouldn’t be doing antiques shoppers justice if I didn’t mention some of the great places to eat in this beautiful town. You know how antiques shopping can create serious hunger pangs!

In this area, one of the best-known eateries in Wiscasset is Red’s Eats. Red’s has been showcased on television more than a dozen times, and has had countless mentions in many national magazines. For location, there isn’t much ambiance, since it’s right next to the railroad tracks and right on the busy Route 1, but it’s a huge tourist attraction. During the busy July and August high season, the line is long, it's so popular.

Red’s is just a tiny carry-out kitchen, where they take your order through a window and call your number when your food is ready. It has a half-dozen tables outside on the deck beside it. There is no place to sit indoors and no place to park - everyone just uses the public street parking. Red’s is right on Route One in downtown Wiscasset, across from the Sheepscot River, and the view is pretty nice. The tables fill up fast on warm days, so sometimes it’s better to move to the town deck across the street, which has a better view.

Red’s is known for it’s lobster rolls. For $14.95, you get all the meat picked from a complete lobster in each roll. Many local restaurants offer lobster rolls for less, but you are only getting about a ½ lobster. If you’re hungry, it’s worth the $14.95, but if you are just looking for a snack, there are plenty of eateries which offer a lobster roll for around $9.

Red’s has more than lobster rolls; you can get other seafood, plus hamburgers, sandwiches, fries and other foods which can be cooked on their grill or in their fryers. For a first-timer to Wiscasset, Red’s is worth a visit for the quirky Maine flavor, and just because it’s been a fun tourist attraction for several decades.

There are many other places to enjoy a meal. Try Sarah’s, which is across the street from Red’s, also on Route 1. Here’s a place to sit down inside, take a leisurely break from shopping, and enjoy a meal while sitting next to the windows overlooking the lobster boats and sail boats moored on the Sheepscot River. Sarah's has great salads, wonderful baked goods, good desserts and lots of variety in meals. Quite busy in the mid-summer, Sarah's might require a wait for a table. The earlier in the week one goes, the easier it is to get a table easily.

Locals go to several other restaurants in Wiscasset, mostly to avoid the tourist crowds and to enjoy a good, quiet meal. For breakfast, they go to Ship’s Chow Hall, found about a mile south of downtown Wiscasset on Route 1. Ship’s has some of the friendliest waitresses in Maine, and the breakfasts are tasty and filling, cost about $5-6. The are only open until the early afternoon, and don’t serve supper.

One of my favorite restaurants is The Sea Basket, on Route 1 a couple miles south of Wiscasset. It’s a super restaurant for fresh, local seafood, and their lobster stew is spectacular - rich, lots of lobster chunks, definitely not diet food but so comforting on a cold, rainy day that your tummy will thank you for this fabulous treat. Also good are the clam basket, the lobster rolls, and - for dessert - their Whoopie pies. If you haven’t had a Maine Whoopie pie, you need to try one. At The Sea Basket, they come in a variety of flavors, and consist of a chocolate cake-like shell with a rich, creamy filling inside.

The Sea Basket is not a fancy place - expect to be served food in plastic baskets with plastic cutlery, But even with long summertime lines, they serve you quickly with a big friendly smile, and the restaurant is spotlessly clean.

For upscale dining, try Le Garage, which is in downtown Wiscasset on Water Street just a couple blocks off Route 1. It looks like a simple, wooden garage-style building, but inside it’s quite nice, has lovely atmosphere for a fine quality meal, and is located on the Sheepscot River too. The food is top-quality and the very freshest, from a chef who isn’t afraid to try some unusual combinations with whatever local seafood and produce is available that day. Imagination is key here, and although it’s a bit pricier ($18-30 per meal), the menu offers some very fine eating. Lobster dinners are good here.

These are just few places to try while in Wiscasset, Maine, but there are others too. Often you can stop in a local convenience store and get a pretty good lobster roll for carry-out, and there are public gardens (try the Sunken Garden next to Blythe House Antiques for a private lunch hidden away from the road and the crowds) and public docks (the one at the end of Water Street just past LeGarage has picnic tables and a fantastic view of the River) that are perfect for a Maine picnic. Wiscasset is a great place to enjoy fine antiquing and excellent food!

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