Vacationland is home to a lot of restaurants and food purveyors, and among them are hidden gems some Mainers just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our local chefs to share with us their off the beaten path recommendations for Dining Confidential, a semi-regular feature on Eater Maine.
Kittery native Brandon Blethen, now the executive chef at Robert's Maine Grill, started working in the restaurant business at the ripe, old age of 16 at the Weathervane. More than 20 years later, after stops at the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire, Wentworth By the Sea (also in NH) and Beach House in Ogunquit, he's back in his hometown at Robert's (one of Eater's 18 Essential Maine restaurants), cooking up his twists on classic New England dishes, especially seafood, with a farm-to-table focus.
Over the years, he's explored the state and found some under the radar spots for great food and unique experiences. He recently shared a trio of his favorites with Eater Maine:
Bet's Fish Fry in Boothbay: "Bet's is a fantastic shack that serves fried haddock, and then more haddock. A full order of fish and chips can feed three people easily. Get the half sandwich for $8 and it will feed two people. When Bet is out of haddock, she closes. Fish is super fresh and it is an adventure just ordering and seeing the operation."
Conte's 1894 in Rockland: "This place is not for the timid. Before you sit down, you order from this chalkboard with items scribbled on it. Then you're asked before you sit if you want wine. Well of course I do! You sit down and they pour you like a quart of wine and then you hear it — someone grumbling in the kitchen. If you dare to look, you will see old man John Conte slinging pans around complaining about the orders he has. He is a one-man seafood superhero. He is known for his fresh seafood and, sometimes, his restaurant clearing antics. Best way to find this place is to go to Rockland and ask a local. Go there and get ready for the show."
Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb: "On a long, winding road to nowhere (River Road) you will find a shack. This is not a restaurant but just a shack by the road. There is often no one there but that shouldn't stop you because it is all on the honor system. You can get Glidden Point oysters, little necks, lobsters — you take what you want and leave your money. If you're lucky enough, you will meet the owner, Barbara, and she will tell you all about Glidden Point oysters. I believe that these oysters are some of the finest in New England."
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Brandon Blethen. [Photo: Courtesy Robert's Maine Grill]