Bar Bites Beyond: Southern Maine
From the time before I was even able to walk, my family has been going to southern Maine in the summertime. To say I have some memories of these decades in vacation-land would be an understatement. I love this place. And I love that I’ve grown up with a deep-rooted passion for somewhere that’s different from my hometown and has grown and changed right along with me!
Besides the gorgeous coast, the sea-salt air, and the general feeling of joy as soon as we drive past the state line, Maine has awesome food! And ever since going gluten free in 2013, I’ve been on a mission to keep enjoying my favorite vacation spot even if my dining choices have shifted slightly.
This guide is my current list of places to eat in southern Maine, specifically Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport. I have eaten at each spot multiple times and have had great experiences.
While I know there is so much more to explore in Maine, these are the places I always get excited to visit come summer. My guide, organized alphabetically, includes candy shops and ice cream as well because summer wouldn’t be the same without them!
Note: I will update this guide every time I find a great new restaurant. Of course, there are countless cute towns in Maine and an abundance of awesome food which means that this set will only include restaurants and shops I’ve personally been to and deem safe for myself.
Each restaurant title is clickable and will bring you directly to that website.
As with all of my restaurant recommendations, please alert your server of any dietary restrictions prior to placing your order. Trust your gut; celiac disease affects everyone differently.
Amore Breakfast: Start your day at this charming and bustling breakfast-only spot that features every morning necessity and a vast array of gluten free options (including toast, muffins, and bagels). The feel is that of a 1950s diner, but with a 2019 edge; the menu is huge! My personal favorites include the omelets, gluten free bacon waffle (omg), eggs benedicts (there are many), and the homemade corned beef hash. Everything is delicious!
Angelina’s Ristorante: If you’re in the mood for Italian after a day at the beach, head to this fun location for Italian classics in a relaxed atmosphere. Often busy on weekends throughout the season, I’d recommend reservations or opting to arrive later in the evening. Joyfully, there is a big menu with plenty of choices, I personally often opt for a salad and risotto - try the Florentine or Fruti de Mare! This just in: gluten free pasta is available and the pasta options are endless!
Barnacle Billy’s and Barnacle Billy’s Etc.: Institutions of Perkins Cove, these two restaurants sit side-by-side as you enter the Cove. Barnacle Billy’s Etc is a large restaurant with indoor seating as well as a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the Cove. The menu includes all of your seafood standbys; however, do note that the fried items are not GF. My favorite is the baked scallops which can be made gluten free; I also enjoy the mussels, shrimp cocktail, and of course, a whole lobster!
If you’re in the mood for a truly relaxed afternoon, head over to Barnacle Billy’s (next door) and grab seats on the long, outdoor deck which gets brilliant sunshine all day long. Sit outside with one of their famous Bloody Marys (or a rum punch) and take in the view. While you’re at it, order lunch: I tend to prefer a bunless, grilled hot dog (or two) or a lobster roll (minus the roll).
BeachFire Bar and Grill: Not feeling like seafood quite yet? Grab seats at this fun spot and take in a Sox game while enjoying delicious bar classics like nachos and BBQ ribs. Not only is the setting very relaxing, it’s also a happy place to hang out - almost the entire menu can be made gluten free, including fried items! Clearly not the healthiest options abound, but it’s comfort food all the way and well, you’re on vacation! Enjoy those fried pickles.
Cornerstone: Bustling from opening till close, this pizza-focused pub in the center of Ogunquit is one of the places we almost always visit within 24 hours of arriving. An expansive outdoor-seating area fills quickly so make sure you arrive early or possibly plan on a wait. My cocktail of choice is the Painkiller and we’re big fans of the Buffalo Chicken pizza and Lobster-topped pizza. Yes, gluten free crusts are available for all pizza orders. Please know that non-GF crusts are served as well so please trust your gut. There are lots of other menu items which are gluten free that are also delicious; I recommend the stuffed cherry peppers. ;)
Federal Jack’s: One of our favorite day trips is to go to Kennebunkport and a great place for lunch with a view is Federal Jack’s. I’d recommend outdoor seats, cocktails, and a few shareable appetizers. There is an extensive gluten free menu!
Harbor Candy Shop: A focal point of Ogunquit’s village, this candy shop is a must-visit. Everything is handmade and the entire place smells of rich, dark chocolate. I cannot recall how much candy I’ve consumed from Harbor over the last thirty years, but it’s a lot. And the majority of it has been the dark chocolate almond bark. It’s heavenly!
The truffles, caramellos, cashew turtles, sea salt caramels, almond butter crunch, and more are all fabulous, too. Make sure you stop in for a few treats! They also ship nationwide. :)
Hobb’s Harborside: A casual eatery in Wells Harbor with a wonderful view, this restaurant boasts a large bar and also a big dining room which is great for groups. The menu features all of the classic Maine favorites, plenty of lobster, and a variety of gluten free options. Since the fried food is not GF, I tend to go for a broiled or grilled fish, chowder, lobster stew, or of course, a whole lobster! Can’t go wrong with the local favorite!
Joshua’s: Reserve a special night of your trip for a visit to this exceptional restaurant in Wells. Reservations highly recommended, but we have had luck getting seats at the small, cozy bar on short notice.
From the first bite to the last, every single dish is exemplary and beyond incredible. Every dish is made to order and the menu, while fairly small, offers a terrific variety of seafood and non-seafood options. The staff is incredible and take care (with ease) with any dietary needs.
The restaurant is located inside a historic home which has been renovated and expanded; the garden in the back supplies much of the fresh produce included on the menu. While I could not pick a single favorite dish, everything is fantastic, we do always look forward to the fresh mint ice cream, served in the summer, made with mint from the garden. It’s simply perfect!
Lobster Shack: Another institution of Perkins Cove, the New England charm just oozes out of every corner of this lobster-focused, no-frills Shack. A popular spot which often has a line out the door, once you place your order at the front counter, you’re informed about which picnic table to grab while you wait for your food. The lobster is the freshest available and the lobster roll is sold by the quarter pound - meaning you could order a lobster roll with a full pound of meat on it! Amazing.
If you’re not feeling it, then I’d recommend the fish tacos which are seriously scrumptious as well as the chowder or lobster bisque. Plenty of GF options here! I’m known to add a bun-less, grilled hot dog to my order each time. I just can’t help it.
Mabel’s Lobster Claw: A very famous eatery in Kennebunkport that boasts all of the classics, Mabel’s serves up lobster rolls, big salads, and more in a quaint setting that has perfect outdoor seating for people-watching.
Their recent menu re-design notes the gluten free “help” prominently so I was able to enjoy hot, buttery lobster on a gluten free roll. Yum! Just be aware that everyone wants to eat here so it’s quite busy and there is often a wait for the coveted outdoor seats.
Rococo Ice Cream: A relative newcomer to the ice cream scene in Kennebunkport and Ogunquit, this fun shop offers “globally-inspired” flavors that go way beyond your standard chocolate chip.
The scoop shops are artfully designed and feel a little fancy compared to your regular ice cream stand, but keep going. The flavors are extraordinary! Plenty of gluten free flavors are available; just make sure to ask them to scoop from a separate tub! My order almost-always includes Salty Sweet Cream.
Roost Cafe and Bistro: If you’re walking to Perkins Cove in the morning or at night, you may want to visit this sweet spot along the way that has extensive gluten free options in a charming, welcoming setting. A relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff await; my favorite time to visit is the morning because the breakfasts are incredible!
Including homemade gluten free biscuits, I tend to order the Green House omelet with biscuits because they’re just so yummy. And if you’re in the mood, then order the GF pancakes too - they are so good!
Scoop Deck Ice Cream: Whether you’re heading further north or coming back down Route 1, make sure to pop in to Scoop Deck in Wells for a delicious bowl of ice cream. The menu is extensive and covers all of your classic cold treat flavors.
A plethora of gluten free flavors, but my default tends to be chocolate chip! Make sure to inform your scooper that you have a dietary restriction. They’ll scoop from a fresh tub. Be aware that the crowds emerge and this spot is jam-packed on summer nights. Trust me; it’s worth it!
So Zap Urban Thai Kitchen: When it’s time for a lobster break, then I say it’s time for Thai! We recently started visiting this excellent Thai restaurant located in Ogunquit and we just can’t stop. The food is scrumptious, fresh, and worth the hype. There is often a wait for seats, especially at the outdoor deck, but the food is so good I hope you won’t mind waiting!
The menu is thoroughly labeled with gluten free options and you can often request certain dishes to be made gluten free as needed. We always enjoy the Pad Thai and Panang Curry.
Surf Point and 360: Before a walk along the ocean-front Marginal Way (take this scenic path all the way to Perkins Cove), stop by for snacks and drinks at this ocean-view cocktail lounge boasting incredible views of Ogunquit beach. The restaurant has 360-degree views and there are a select number of tables that face the ocean directly. Since gluten free wraps and rolls are available, the menu has plenty of options (Spicy Shrimp Wrap is delicious)!
And while we don’t always have a full meal, I do recommend having cocktails and soaking in the sun while you gaze out at the ocean. I feel even more relaxed as I type! Note that this bar is for adults 21+ , but the restaurant (Surf Point) downstairs is available for all ages.
The Tiller at Cliff House Maine: Just a short drive south from the center of Ogunquit brings you to the picture-perfect Cliff House which has some of the most incredible, and unobstructed, ocean views I’ve ever seen. Once you’re done taking photos of the ocean, walking on the rocks, and becoming mesmerized by the sea, head inside to the resort’s restaurant, The Tiller, and be thrilled once again.
We popped in for lunch and are already excited to go back for dinner, brunch, and breakfast. With an accommodating menu and friendly service, I was overjoyed to learn the majority of the menu could be done gluten free (or was naturally GF). I devoured a double lobster roll (on lettuce, no roll) and an order of truffle fries. Yes, their french fries are safely gluten free without worry of cross-contamination. And I thought the view was the best part. ;)
The Trap: This is the new sister-restaurant to Lobster Shack, just across the street, which offers a wonderful menu and sweeping views of the ocean if you can snag one of the few outdoor tables.
Plenty of gluten free options, including chowder, calamari, and crab cakes, which make this spot just delightful after a long day of walking around town. Oysters, mussels, and more seafood is available, too. Pro tip: order the fried oyster lettuce cups. You’re welcome. ;)
And if you travel north…
We’re big fans of many more towns in Maine as well! The city of Portland, of course, will always be terrific, but a few summers ago we traveled to Camden and could not get enough of it. Here are a few of our favorites from Camden and the surrounding towns that have a big appetite for excellent food.
40 Paper: Don’t let the humble exterior fool you; this restaurant boasts one heck of a delicious menu, high-quality cocktails, and an all-around awesome atmosphere. And while it calls itself an Italian spot, the menu does not solely feature Italy. The menu is covered in gluten free options and they are all fantastic.
From our many visits to this sweet spot, I remember enjoying fantastic drinks, the lamb meatballs, grilled octopus, mushroom and herb risotto, and more. This restaurant is worth an extra visit!
Home Kitchen Cafe: The most home-y breakfast restaurant you’ll ever see, this Rockland-based spot serves all of the comfort food, made from scratch, all day. An extensive menu offering every kind of morning mood, my go-to items include eggs, omelets, and gluten free pancakes (!!).
Of note, their menu skews slightly Southwest so be sure to order the huevos rancheros - a famous dish that made it into The Boston Globe!
Natalie’s: Staying the night in Camden? Book your stay at the luxurious Camden Harbour Inn and make a reservation at the Inn’s restaurant, Natalie’s. Or if you’re wary of a reservation, then head to the bar (early) and have an incredibly memorable meal there as well. Not only was the food and drink just fabulous, but the service and staff was impeccable.
We don’t seek out the extra-fancy too often (although I kind of love it) so our dinner here felt even more special than usual. Conveniently, if you’re a guest at the Inn, then your walk “home” after dinner is only steps away! Natalie’s offers breakfast so be sure to plan that for the next morning; our menus were printed with our names on them.
Sarah’s Cafe: While driving up to Camden, you may want to stop along the way in the cute, very tiny, town of Wiscasset which has two restaurants on opposite sides of the road before driving over a very long bridge to the next town, Edgecomb (when you’re there, go to Edgecomb Potters). Red’s Eats is the famous spot for lobster, but a friend recommended we check out Sarah’s Cafe (also famous) instead. Thank goodness!
I can’t say how Red’s would be, but I can say that the low-key, casual atmosphere of Sarah’s, plus the incredibly yummy food, were just what we wanted and needed amidst a long drive.
Seth had a gigantic lobster roll and I had a gluten free lobster pizza which was absurdly delicious. I’m not sure if we will ever try Red’s across the street since the line is always long and winding; I think we will head back to Sarah’s instead. :)
Besides eating, there is a lot to do in Maine! Here are some of my suggestions for ways to spend a day…
Walk around the town of Ogunquit and stop in the shops. There are plenty of stores offering great gift ideas, toys, and many locally-made products.
Walk to Perkins Cove in Ogunquit via the Marginal Way. This paved, two-mile walking path offers constant unobstructed views of the Atlantic and plenty of spots to rest on a bench and take in the sea-salt air. The views are unparalleled and by the time you reach the Cove for lunch (or dinner) you’ll be extra-relaxed as you scroll through all of the photos you took along the way.
Take a drive to Kennebunkport, Freeport, or Portland. There is so much to see and do throughout Maine, but these are a few more of our favorite spots. Kennebunkport has lots of cute shops, galleries, and beautiful scenery. Freeport has a plethora of outlet shopping and is the home to LL Bean’s flagship store - it never closes! Portland is a fantastic city that just keeps getting better. The dining scene alone is worth its own guide, but I’ll need to do more investigating before I bring that to you. Regardless, take a drive and start exploring!
Go for a boat ride! Lobster boats, fishing trips, a whale watch, or a leisurely afternoon of sailing, there are so many options for those looking to get out on the water, but might not want to dive straight in. The ocean waters off the Maine coast are quite brisk!
Spend the day at the beach. Ogunquit’s Main Beach and Footbridge Beach offer beautiful, sandy beaches that stretch for miles with picture-perfect ocean views. The Main one gets more crowded, but it is closer to the center of town and has a few food options nearby. It’s also on the town’s trolley route. Footbridge is slightly more secluded and has a slightly long footbridge that goes from the parking lot right to the sand. Either way, both spots offer a premier Maine beach experience.
Explore as you go! One of my favorite aspects of visiting Ogunquit and other small towns in Maine is that they are so walkable. In a single day you can go out to breakfast, visit the beach, walk along the ocean, enjoy a lobster with a view, meander around some shops, and then find another seafood spot for dinner - all without getting in the car. What a treat!
The town of Ogunquit and southern Maine is extremely special to me. An area filled with countless memories, and meals, I hope this guide will help next time you visit. Whether it’s a quick day trip or an extended stay, I hope you love it and have a wonderful time!