When it comes to trying out a new-to-us restaurant, my husband and I tend to have a few "ground rules," of sorts that we have decided upon that encourage a positive, and fun, dining experience almost every time. Those include checking out the menu beforehand for gluten-free possible dishes (if it's not a GF specific place), sitting at the bar (always), and rarely making a reservation.
I enjoy sitting at the bar because I find it provides a more lively/interesting place to sit for the evening and gives me direct access to someone who (hopefully) knows the restaurant well, including the menu so as to inform me of any gluten issues along the way. The bartender is also making the drinks, so we can ask for recommendations or special requests more easily for cocktails during the dinner. And since we tend to avoid making reservations (I rarely can decide that far in advance what type of cuisine I want), the bar is our go-to to be seated pretty quickly (hanger is a beast).
So during our annual 4th of July trip to the southern Maine coast, we finally decided to visit a local favorite, Joshua's, in the hope that it would be as wonderful as reviews have said, and that we'd be able to score bar seats, on one of the busiest holiday weekends of the summer. Result? Success all around!
With a bar that only seats nine, plus two, small high-top tables, our chances for being seated immediately were slim. However, upon arrival, the ultra-friendly host said we could put our name down for bar seats, and would be the next pair in line. A rush of other bar-guests came in right after us, so we felt lucky to be at the top of that list.
Once seated at primo seats at the bar, only twenty minutes later, we were greeted by the delightful bartender whom everyone seemed to know, and gracefully made drink after drink for the whole restaurant, while telling us about the evening's menu.
We settled on a crisp bottle of white wine, and began our night. I mentioned my gluten allergy (I know it's Celiac Disease but seriously, far simpler and faster to just call it allergy at the moment) and was happy to learn about how many menu items I could have as there were so many that were naturally gluten free. The toughest part of the night was deciding which appetizers and entrees to order because everything sounded amazingly delicious. And well, that was an understatement!
For appetizers we shared the Grilled Mushrooms with Parmesan and Shrimp Sauté, both of which were fantastic. Piping hot, full of awesome flavor, and sauces that made me want to lick the bowl ( I almost did!). I don't always love items that solely feature mushrooms, but that dish was fantastic. The grilled mushrooms mixed with sliced Parmesan was such an awesome combo, I could have eaten a double-portion. My husband agreed! And the tomato sauce on the shrimp was so fresh, so local, I wanted more even before it was gone.
But the biggest standout item of the dinner was our entree, one of the specials for the night: halibut! I don't know about you, but halibut has quickly become my favorite fish of the summer. I've loved it for awhile and this meal secured it in my mind for top-billing (I previously used to avoid fish in restaurants. I was so young! So unaware!).
The halibut was fresh caught right in Maine and was served over the most wonderful mushroom risotto, alongside fresh vegetables and chopped beets. There were also crispy shallots sprinkled on top of the whole dish. Incredible! The flavor of every bite was superb and I tried to not eat it too quickly for fear of missing it when it was gone. As I type, I wish I had a bite - or two!
While we were still trying to comprehend the truly fantastic dinner we had inhaled (oops), the great bartender asked if we wanted dessert. Of course! It's vacation. Live a little!
I scoured the dessert offerings for a while and settled on homemade ice cream because I truly cannot resist it, anywhere, ever. I also ordered an espresso martini because when in Rome... or Maine, rather... :)
And again! That was one of the best restaurant desserts I've ever had! The homemade ice cream (flavors: mint chocolate chip and dark chocolate) was so good my husband and I had to "fight" over the bowl that came with fresh whipped cream and housemade chocolate bark. He said the mint tasted exactly like the fresh mint his parents used to grow in their garden; the bartender let us know that this mint is from the restaurant's garden! And for the record, that was the best espresso martini I've ever had. Not too sweet or too bitter. Perfect!
In summary, what else can I say about our night out at Joshua's? It was a wonderful evening with incredible food, easily gluten free options, and a joyful atmosphere filled with happy guests and a great bar. Everything we want in a fun night out, especially on vacation, and especially at a new-to-us restaurant. I highly recommend Joshua's next time you find yourself along the Maine coast - in Wells, specifically. We might just see you there! At the bar, of course. ;-)