The Maine coast takes dining al fresco to the next level, as some of the best and most sought-after tables in Maine are within a few yards of the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve always been an outdoor seating kind of guy, and something about the mingling of sun and salt air seems to encourage extra lingering at the dinner table. Even if you’d rather get the ocean view from behind the picture windows of a cozy dining room, there’s something to be said for knowing that your seafood was hauled in within an oyster-throwing distance of your table. And while you’re rarely hard up for a lobster pound or a chowder shack in Maine, you can also dine on a working waterfront at some of the state’s glitzier restaurants. The gulls will be just as covetous of your osso bucco with locally raised lamb as they would be of a fisherman’s platter.
Maine’s pastoral midcoast exists at a glorious three-way intersection of local horticulture, local aquaculture, and world-class ocean fishery. If there were ever a place to try the 100-mile diet, this would be it, and Camden’s laid-back Fresh, right on the harbor, would be your go-to date night: think foraged mushroom wantons and lobster ravioli.
MC Perkins Cove
There are only a couple hundred feet of land on either side of MC Perkins Cove, an approachable bistro and raw bar run by James Beard Award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. Go all in on a “shellfish tower” of clams, shrimp, mussels, and Maine lobster. Wash it down with a pomegranate and basil martini.
Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room
You have your choice of authentic, hearty seafood joints along the Portland wharf, but none are as fun or as food-forward as the landmark, two-story Boone’s. New England classics like seafood Newburg and white clam pizza share menu space with fun stuff like lobster poutine and oysters topped with pork confit. Stop by for happy hour.
Dangling at the bottom of the Pemaquid peninsula (actually, on the car-accessible Rutherford Island), Coveside is a welcoming pub with a deck, marina, and a not-small number of diners who arrived by boat. Maine beers dominate the taps, nautical bric-a-brac crowds the walls, and there’s live music and an overall convivial vibe all weekend long. Watch for osprey on the deck.
The fine-dining restaurant of Kennebunkport’s Cape Arundel Inn, Ocean shows off its namesake with immense windows that give every table in the house magnificent views of the water. The tablecloths are starched and white, the seasonal dishes are French-influenced and artfully plated, and there’s a breezy patio for pre- or post-dinner cocktails.