Add Lobster

The scene: The Centennial of the National Park Service has generated an influx of people to parks nationally, including Maine’s Acadia, one of the most beloved on the East Coast. However, the rush will soon be over, as Mt. Desert Island, the park’s house, and Bar Harbor, its principal city, are highly seasonal destinations which begin to slowdown after Labor Day. By winter, the region will be mostly empty, with most restaurants shuttered till spring.

Winter in Acadia still has its own charms, with kilometers of carriage roads that are rated beloved by bikers and walkers, which if covered by snow make for great cross country skiing and snowshoeing. And one eatery stays open all year, a rarity here. This produces the Side Street Café a favorite with locals, but it is not merely the accessibility that attracts them –  the food is excellent  and very regional, with a menu. As our waitress is quick to note, “At Side Street the lobster you have for supper was swimming this morning” Obviously the café is a wonderful choice any time, though they take your text and number you so that you may go for a stroll, but in summer there is frequently person to wait for dinner.

It lives up to its name, located on a nondescript alley-like side street just off the primary drag in Bar Harbor, but still within walking distance of all town lodging. It’s a straightforward house-like structure having a front deck great for eating outside under umbrellas, with a busy pub just inside the doors. It’s not much to look at, with a small dining area wedged between the hostess stand and pub, some seating at the bar area, and the rest of the place divided into small dining spaces.

Reason to See: Lobster stew, lobster mac and cheese, lobster cobb salad, lazy man’s lobster, “Date Night Lobster Feast”

The food: Lobster is king at Maine, and with many active fishing ports, Mt. Desert Island is awash from the clawed crustacean, caught locally and served anywhere. But places are as obsessive about it Side Street Café best known was one of the country’s best. It’s made with cubes, maybe not macaroni, along with a white cheddar based sauce (not yellow) that’s rich, creamy and tastes of authentic cheese, but most of all has  plenty of actual North Atlantic lobster, whereas virtually every single time you see this now trendy “gastropub” dish in the rest of the nation it is made with more affordable frozen warm water rock lobster.

The lobster mac and cheese is amazing, and has spawned its own cottage industry. Your basic choices are half or whole orders, or you could mix them, “if you want to go mad,” indicates  the waitress, by dong a half sequence with complete meat. Then there are custom additions: build your own mac and cheese by adding sliced hot dogs, Philly cheesesteak pork, grilled chicken, avocado, shrimp, scallops beef or poultry beef.

That is just the start of freshwater insanity here. The menu reads “So here’s the deal… you can really add lobster to anything on the menu! You want a lobster topped cheeseburger?” Even if you don’t customize in this fashion there aren’t any lack of lobster dishes on the menu, like lobster quesadillas and rolls. The excellent cobb salad is a favorite with romaine lettuce, bacon, hardboiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, bleu cheese, and a generous mound of fresh meat that is chosen. Avocados are a highly urge inclusion. The lobster stew is standout, rich and buttery and filled with big lobster balls, but I’d suggest a cup, not a bowl so it is possible to research different things, along with the butter becomes overpowering. Get a simple entire lobster in the shell and it includes a full ear of corn (not the measly half that lots of areas serve) and  the tail chopped for easy eating. A traditional New England “Shore Dinner” is provided containing a complete lobster with corn, clams, mussels and a cup of New England-style clam chowder, or even a construct your own choice in which you decide on the add-ons. The Date Night dinner is two beach dinners with pie. Generally, all lobster parts are generous and everything is flexible and customizable, and for sandwiches you can swap between house-made kettle chips, fries and sweet potato fries. Another party we all know, all lobstered out after a week in Maine, has  hamburgers, which look  fantastic and earn excellent reviews.

It is really hard to go wrong here, even in the event that you don’t like lobster, but if you do it’s heaven. They have lots of local craft beer on tap, cocktails served in mason jars (the particular of the day is a delightfully refreshing watermelon and ginger), and make sure to leave space for the standard dessert, wild Maine blueberry pie. Maine wild blueberries make desserts that are good are smaller than ordinary ones, and are located on the island in abundance.

What regulars say: “The lobster mac & cheese is amazing and we locals all adore the place,” says   the front desk clerk in my Bar Harbor resort.

Pilgrimage-worthy?

: No, but a must in Bar Harbor.

Rating: Yum-Plus! 

(Scale: Blah, OK, Mmmm, Yum! , OMG!)

Cost: $$ ($ cheap, $$ Average, $$ expensive)

Details: 49 Rodick Street, Bar Harbor, ME; 207-801-2591; sidestreetbarharbor.com