New England has no shortage of food destinations such as Portland and Boston but it’s the town of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel (known as “The Kennebunks”) that’s driving us toward fresh, coastal cuisine and bold flavours. A new wave of restaurants and innovative businesses like Spanish-themed Toroso, Wine Wise’s Wine Walks, and Progressive Dinners (its restaurants showcased in this list) illustrates the diversity of The Kennebunks’ bounty. Female-owned businesses showcase a progressive small town united by the camaraderie of these entrepreneurs, where the quality of restaurants is on par with its more well-known neighbours, yet a short drive away.
- Toroso Spanish pinxtos and tapas is not typically associated with Kennebunkport, Maine so this restaurant was a revelation. Inspired by Chef Shannon Bard’s travels to Seville and the Basque Country, the menu shows the true flavours of Spain and the best part is you can eat as little or as much as you want (guess which path we chose?) Our meal was a progression of tapas from Jamon Iberico and Manchego cheese on the charcuterie board to the oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers. Don’t miss out on the standout dish of savoury bacalao con espinaca y garbanzos ( Atlantic pan-seared cod with chickpeas and manila clams). Can’t make dinner? Downstairs, pop into brand new Salud, where you can munch on quiche, fried chicken, fresh salads, and jelly-filled doughnuts.
- Rococo The hand-crafted ice cream here is as decadent as its name suggests. Located in the heart of Dock Square, you’ll see the crowds of people indulging in unique flavours such as salty sweet cream and early grey, sour cherry jam, and pistachio.
- Wine Wise Events Sommelier Erica Archer takes her wine classes on the road across Maine, including the Kennebunks. Her wine walks are especially popular, where you pair various wines with the dishes at four different restaurants. On a dessert stop at the Kennebunk Inn, Archer paired the honey flavours of the La Fleur Renaissance Sauternes with a sampler of cotton candy, pumpkin-spiced iced cream, and ginger cookie, while discussing our taste discoveries.Different walks are catered to different regions and types of wines such as Italian Reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Wines of Spain; a step beyond the typical tastings. If you’re in the Kennebunks for a short jaunt or want to meet new people while you’re traveling, this is the perfect way to get a taste of the area. Don’t miss out on the sunset sails with champagne and oysters or try the bourbon and whiskey walks as well.
- The Ramp More than a hole in the wall, this is a traveler’s dream bar: a bright bundle lobster buoys of scattered lobster on the side of the bar lead you through the arch to the patio, overlooking the fishing boats of Cape Porpoise. Have a seat outside on one of the sunshine coloured adirondack chairs sinking in the view or be mesmerized inside by the memorabilia plastered over every inch of the bar. From the posters of past Presidential and sports figures on the ceilings to the football helmets and boxing gloves hanging from the rafters, there’s no shortage of conversation points with your fellow drinking neighbour. Sidle up to the bar with a dark n’ stormy or have (another) lobster roll table-side, gazing out into the lake. It’s worth the drive to Cape Porpoise, proving that you can enjoy both the journey and the destination. Win, win.
- Striper’s Waterside Restaurant You can’t leave Maine without feasting on lobster but the question is where’s the best place to get it? We tried many options (rolls at David’s KPT and Salt & Honey not to mention the raves about Mabel’s Lobster Claw) but our favourite was at Striper’s at the historic Breakwater Inn. The lobster here is pure and simple: with a minimal amount of butter on its rolls and an innovative lobster lovers menu for $35 from Mondays to Thursdays. From the stew and tacos to the carbonara, we literally could have rolled ourselves out onto the sprawling lawn. In the summer, you can participate in lobster boils while the lobster boats breeze by and in the fall, you can cozy up on an Adirondack chair with a glass of hot cider in hand. It’s no surprise that many engagements and weddings happen here.
- Ocean Ocean is one of those rare treats where the alchemy of service, food, and good company culminate into a special dining experience. Montreal-based chef, Pierre Gignac, adds a French twist to a hearty menu with items like Foie Gras and chevre mousse to its beetroot salad. Ocean gets top marks for its views of Walker’s Point– the compound of President George H. Bush and his family on the Atlantic Ocean– while you linger over duck magret, the beef duo (of mignon and short ribs bourguignon), or of course, lobster.We can’t be remiss to mention, Laura, our server, who with her descriptive visualization of the dishes sold us the duck, a decision we certainly don’t regret! Make sure to linger during cocktail hour in the cozy lobby by the fireplace or the front porch, soaking in the ocean breeze.
- Spat Oyster Cellar It’s hard not to have lobster on the brain when in Maine (see what we did there?) but Rebecca Charles’ –of famed Pearl Oyster Bar in NYC– is making us break on through to the other side at her new subterranean seafood oasis. You won’t get any fresher than the oysters at market price (those from Tottenham, Maine and Muscove, New Hampshire were on the menu that night) but it’s the fried oysters that made this meal memorable. SPAT is perfect for a first date or a first pit-stop on a night out with friends.
This trip was generously sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Go Kennbunks