Restaurant Review: Maine Diner, Route One, Wells, Maine – posted 9/1/2013
I have no business writing about food. I certainly have no special knowledge. My wife, Debra, is the real food person. I am usually the person changing the channel away from the Food Network to sports or MSNBC. Still, I like good food as much as the next guy so…
I did want to say the Maine Diner, I like a lot. Located on Route 1 in Wells, Maine, the Maine Diner is a place my wife and I have gone to for years. The sign outside says “Breakfast Anytime”. It is open long hours – 7am-9pm.
The food is consistently great. I think it is a couple notches above usual diner fare. For the volume they do, I find it amazing that it does not falter. They have a big menu, not surprisingly leaning toward seafood but they have many of the dishes you would expect in a diner.
In the truly outstanding department is their seafood chowder. The chowder has lobster, local Maine shrimp, scallops and clams in a delicious clammy broth. It is very rich. The seafood chowder has been voted the best chowder in the Ogunquit Chowderfest for seven years.
Also up there in the food pantheon is their lobster pie. It has been celebrated on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. The lobster pie includes big and small pieces of lobster meat in a casserole topped in a delicious and buttery crumb mixture. It is kind of like baked stuffed lobster without the shell. They had a Dickie’s Diner Special this last Friday that featured a cup of seafood chowder, lobster pie with choice of vegetable and potato, a non-alcoholic drink, and choice of dessert for $30.95. Considering what it usually costs to get lobster in a restaurant (I never get it), I think that is a pretty good bargain if you are up for a splurge.
All the desserts are homemade. I rarely get dessert when I go out but I did get the blueberry pie. It was difficult to decide between the homemade Indian pudding, the apple crisp and the pies. The blueberry pie was chock full of wild Maine blueberries with a thin flaky crust. It was absolutely delicious.
There are a host of seafood items that are done right. You cannot go wrong with the fried clams, the lobster roll or the crab cake sandwich. Debra also mentions the she-crab soup, a creamy soup with Atlantic rock crabmeat and a bit of sherry. They do lobster in about ten different ways including lobster quiche, lobster club, lobster melt, lobster macaroni and cheese, and lobster benedict. I have never been to a place that served lobster in so many ways.
Being a Jewish guy from Philadelphia, I must acknowledge that Debra, a hardcore New Englander, has greatly furthered my lobster education. I was a lobster illiterate. When I was younger I had heard of Bookbinder’s Restaurant in Philadelphia and I had heard they served lobster but that was about the closest to lobster I got. My idea of seafood was flounder, blue fish, or maybe crab. There was a place near where I grew up close to 54th and City Line in Philly that was run by an an older man named Sam Fishman. (Place is long gone) He had great crab imperial at his restaurant but lobster was way pricey and we never had it. I only mention this because it does reflect my youthful distance from lobster.
I did want to mention the breakfast food too which is also yummy. Debra had the eggs florentine and the poached eggs were perfectly done. I liked the eggs benedict. The hollandaise sauce was rich and the eggs were accompanied by properly done hash brown potatoes.
They do have vegetarian options if you do not do seafood. The salad had fresh baby salad greens and flavorful cherry tomatoes. The cole slaw and baked beans are homemade.
It is a very busy place and you will probably have to wait in the summertime. There is not a huge amount of seating inside. The line goes pretty fast though and it is worth the wait if there is one. The place has a very hospitable, positive vibe. The waitstaff are friendly and chatty. The waiters were hustling but there was no bad attitude I saw. I think it is very customer-friendly and my guess is they are careful about hiring people who are personable. Also, there is none of the pretension that you can find at some fancy, overpriced restaurants. The atmosphere is comfortable and I think their prices are fair.
We sat at the counter and the guy who sat next to us was a talker. He raved about the lobster, mac and cheese. I guess he was a regular. The waitresses all seemed to know him and joked with him. It was the second time he had been there that day!
If you are in southern Maine, it is well worth a trip. I never thought I would write a restaurant review but I guess there is a first time for everything.