Inventive Dishes Served at Oceanside Tables Provide a Culinary Delight.By Lenore Cullen Barnes
Ogunquit, which means “beautiful place by the sea,” has been welcoming tourists to the shores of southern Maine since the late 19th century. The picturesque community features a vibrant artists’ colony, expansive beaches and a lively cultural scene that includes the Ogunquit Playhouse, one of the oldest summer theaters in the United States. The region is as much an antique hunter’s haven as it is a playground for sea kayaking, biking, deep-sea fishing and golf. Of course, there are also many wonderful dining spots.
Barnacle Billy’s, family run since 1954, is located in Perkins Cove, site of a handful of restaurants where fishing shacks once stood. Founder Billy Tower’s son, Tim, continues the fresh, simple culinary tradition that attracts hordes of tourists, a host of regulars and even former President George H.W. Bush. Step inside, order a boiled lobster and a beverage, then find a seat on the deck overlooking the cove, where you can watch the lobster boats come and go beneath the pedestrian drawbridge. When the fog creeps in and there’s a chill in the air, you can warm up inside alongside two fireplaces.
Across the parking lot is Jackie’s Too, perched on rocks above the crashing waves of the open ocean. The veranda is heated in cooler temperatures, and a recently glassed-in “back room” features oceanside seating. The view is equally dramatic at night when the waves are illuminated by lights off the rocks. Jackie’s award-winning clam chowder merits its many accolades, but the lobster bisque is equally delicious. Steamers are a consistent favorite, while the crispy goat cheese and ricotta cake over baby greens, with toasted nuts and caramelized shallots, pairs perfectly with an order of Maine crab cakes. Marinated grilled steak tips, burgers, a Tuscan chicken wrap, seafood pastas, sandwiches and soups offer something for everyone’s palate.
In the center of downtown is Five-O Shore Road, an upscale restaurant with several tables located on a front patio. The atmosphere is lively and sophisticated, but not stuffy. Executive Chef James Walter draws from Mediterranean influences using fresh local ingredients. Small plates include fried oysters, mushroom ragout and chicken pâté, which are perfect for sharing before delving into sea scallops with braised pancetta, pomegranate and baby arugula, or a seasonally fresh pasta preparation like ginger gnocchi or linguini vongole.
An interesting wine list, with abundant French and Italian choices, offers the perfect complement to any dish. However, a martini is Five-O’s hallmark drink. Among the choices are the Espresso Martini and the Maine Blueberry Martini. If you’re in an adventurous mood, try the bartender’s Martini of the Day.
For a more casual experience, visit Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza and Craft Beer, located in the town center. The outdoor patio is a prime spot for people-watching while enjoying a gourmet pizza and one of the many locally brewed draughts. The vibe is casual and contemporary, with a rustic, industrial décor. Fresh ingredients and hand-thrown dough (gluten-free is available) provide the base for inventive combinations like Sweet Chicken Fig Pizza with rosemary roasted pulled chicken and fig-mascarpone puree with a balsamic glaze. Then again, this is Maine, so why not try the Lobster Pizza?
Visit Ogunquit for its idyllic seaside setting, the beaches and the theater, but also make time to check out the extensive options for dining.