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Neighborhood Guide: Bar Harbor, Maine

I usually leave the Good. Food. Stories. Neighborhood Guides to my vast network of contributors throughout the world.

They’re the ones on the ground, the good eaters who’ve grown up in, live among, and know these spots inside and out.

But today I’m grabbing the reins, because there’s one very special place I want to take you before the summer ends. 

Bass Harbor Light, Acadia National Park
Photo: Casey Barber

There’s no shortage of bars (ha) in Bar Harbor, Maine, or restaurants either! More and more options pop up on each of the very walkable streets every time we visit.

But Maine is where I let my laid-back hippie personality come out in full force.

Unlike most vacations, where I’m constantly searching for the latest under-the-radar discoveries and trying new places every day, in Bar Harbor, I want to turn my brain off for a while.

Geddy's in Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo: Casey Barber

And every time Dan and I go, we stick to a comforting, familiar pattern.

We’re kicking back at the Bar Harbor Manor with nothing on the agenda but strapping on our hiking boots, looping our way around the trails of Acadia National Park, walking the sandbar to Bar Island if the weather’s in our favor, and drinking lots of local beer.

Here are the Bar Harbor, Maine restaurants and bars where you’ll always be able to find us.

2 Cats

When your all-day plans consist of hikes in and around Acadia, there’s no way a continental breakfast is going to cut it.

I admit I first chose 2 Cats (130 Cottage St.) for the name, but the dependable brunch menu made both of us immediately happy. 

2 Cats coffee and hot sauce in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

Even though Dan could hike for hours on carbs and sugar alone, 2 Cats has lured him over to the savory side of things. When he’s not gorging on French toast, he’s a fan of their big old breakfast burrito.

For me, it’s all about the omelettes—whether with apples, walnuts, and cheddar or mushrooms, boursin, and scallion—and the home fries.

2 Cats biscuit and strawberry butter in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

For heat seekers, a few splashes of the house-made five-pepper hot sauce are more than enough to satisfy the spice quotient on those crispy but tender potatoes.

Most importantly, a fresh biscuit with strawberry butter is the must-have side for every meal. If you’re not eating one of those at least once on your Bar Harbor visit, you’re missing out.

McKay’s Public House

The patio at McKay’s Public House (231 Main St.) is one of the most charming al fresco dinner spots among Bar Harbor, Maine restaurants. Even before outdoor dining was a thing for everyone, you could always find us here.

The restaurant, in a stately and well-restored Victorian home, is nothing to scoff at either, but we’ve always liked it outside at McKay’s.

McKay's Public House patio in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

Maybe it’s because we can get a little sloppy when sinking our teeth into their burgers—what we always order here—and we need space to make our mess.

There’s no wrong choice when it comes to your burger choices, but we love the Bronco burger with smoked Cheddar, bacon, thick onion rings, and Carolina BBQ sauce.

McKay's Public House Bronco burger in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

You could also go fancy with seafood risotto, local oysters or mussels, or braised short rib.

Or just do a side of pretzel bites with more of that smoked Cheddar in the oozy form of beer cheese sauce. Like I said, we keep it simple.

Blaze

As I’ve said many times, I’d move to Maine for the beer alone. But I still need food to go with it, so I’ll be at Blaze (198 Main St.) getting my fill of both.

Blaze’s deal is wood-grilled food and lots of beers, and it’s not hard to find something to match your palate on either menu.

Blaze pizza with arugula in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

If you’re craving it, Blaze is probably cooking it over Maine hardwood, whether it’s steaks, lobsters, and scallops or tacos, wings, and burgers.

Thin-crust pizzas can be had with a slew of nontraditional toppings, like the When Pigs Fly with local duck sausage, house-smoked bacon, goat cheese, red onion slivers, and arugula.

Oh, and duckfat fries. Which are just as good as Duckfat’s fries, in our humble opinion, especially with a side of garlic aioli.

Blaze duckfat fries and beer in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

A host of beers from Blaze’s own tanks down in Biddeford are interspersed with other Maine brews and a few out-of-state options. But let’s be real, I’m not going to have a Florida beer when I’m here.

I’m gonna have a Blaze Blinded By the Colors DIPA or a Secret Field saison, and wash it down with a Sea Spray gose.

Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream

Yes, this is the place where President Obama got his scoop of coconut ice cream lo those many years ago, but Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream (7 Firefly Lane) has a reputation beyond being the presidential purveyor of frozen treats.

Mt Desert Ice Cream cone in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

There are more tourist-friendly ice cream shops in the vicinity, and if lobster ice cream is your thing, then by all means, head over there, closer to the wharf.

But if you’re a fan of Bi-Rite, Humphry Slocombe, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, or Jeni’s, then this is where you need to be.

Mt Desert Ice Cream flavor board in Bar Harbor
Photo: Casey Barber

At Mt. Desert Ice Cream, you won’t get an encyclopedic list of options, just a well-edited selection of flavors like coriander lemon curd, sea salt caramel, and The Dude (a White Russian ice cream) made with high quality ingredients.

And even if you don’t want to eat seafood at every meal in Maine, you should eat ice cream every day on vacation anyway.

Geddy’s

We first stumbled on Geddy’s (19 Main St.) via its subterranean gift shop, which is plastered with—and sells—old license plates from across the U.S.

Upstairs, the best plates and old signs are reserved for the restaurant walls, a mishmosh of wayfinding flair that puts the faux-curated memorabilia at the nation’s chain restaurants to shame.

interior of Geddy's in Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo: Casey Barber

The menu’s equally mind-bogglingly filled with choices, but I’ll make it easy for you: pizza or nachos. 

New Haven may be the spiritual birthplace of the clam pizza, but the briny bivalves are equally satisfying when strewn over Geddy’s chewy, cornmeal-crusted crust, made fresh that day and baked in the wood oven.

pizza at Geddy's in Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo: Casey Barber

Geddy’s may be closer to the tourist trap side of things, but it’s a nostalgic spot for us.

And sometimes you just want a plate of chili macho nachos and a pint of beer after a long hike up Cadillac Mountain.

The Thirsty Whale

Also on the nostalgia tip: the first place we ever set foot in Bar Harbor (other than our hotel room) way back in 2008 was The Thirsty Whale (40 Cottage St.).

Now, as the great Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Inside, it’s the quintessential small-town wood-paneled tavern, the place where the locals drink, catch the Sox game, and throw a few bucks in the jukebox.

Thirsty Whale tavern in Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo: Casey Barber

On a high-season summer evening, good luck getting on the wait list, but in the offseason, you can while away the hours unpretentiously.

There’s a full kitchen with serviceable grub: a basket of fries, wings, or fried pickles will soak up any leftover booze before you hit the sack.

And until my sister and I turn our fictional bar, The Bitter Buffalo, into a reality, the Whale will remain the most charmingly named watering hole in the nation.

Bar Harbor Maine restaurants and bars

Other Bar Harbor, Maine Restaurants

Finback Ale House, an old fave with an elegant nautical-themed bar, says it’s coming back under new ownership in 2021.
Bar Harbor Beerworks has a most excellent selection of Maine beers on draft, though the bilevel outdoor space can get crowded and frisky in the summer.
The Dog & Pony Tavern looked promising, but on a rainy and cold May night, outdoor seating was a no-go and we weren’t ready to cram into maskless bar seating quite yet. Stay tuned.

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5 Comments

  1. Just got back from a trip to Maine, including Portland (awesome restaurants!) and Bar Harbor. Loved being there. Wish I’d read your recommendations before I went (fig pizza? Yum…) although I must say I had my share of wonderful lobster rolls :)

  2. I haven’t been to Bar Harbor in a few years. I will tuck these recommendations away for the next time we get up there. I love walking the sand bar! Maine is one of my favorite places on earth!

  3. Great story well told, Casey. Look forward to exploring your recommended places. The Thirsty Whale, Two Cats, Blaze — I’d have to stop in just for the names.

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