What are you looking for when you go to Maine? Views of the rocky coastline, lighthouses, and Cadillac Mountain? Lots of lobster and blueberry pie? Hiking and biking in Acadia National Park?
I go to Maine because I also want to “get away.”
To me this means spending time in stores and cafes with a much slower pace than what I experience in New York City, where I live. I find that a discussion about a new garden hose at the hardware store in Southwest Harbor can be more restorative than any massage or spa treatment.
That’s one reason the Quietside Café in Southwest Harbor is a favorite. No doubt about it, we go there because their lobster rolls are fantastic. Packed with the freshest lobster meat from the lobster pound right down the street on Clark Point Road, they’re served with delicious homemade coleslaw and chips. Fred also loves their New England clam chowder, which is thick and creamy.
But I love the fact that this is a family business. Frances and Ralph have operated it for 16 years now, with their two daughters growing up working in the business and pitching in to serve customers. Today, as we sat outside on newly painted picnic benches, the couple continued to show pride in the new 15-year-old waitress who’s a whiz at reciting their 20-plus ice cream flavors. That’s just the kind of place it is.
The Quietside Café is located on Main Street in Southwest Harbor on the eponymous western half of Mount Desert Island where the pace is far less bustling than in Bar Harbor where the cruise ships dock. Parking on Main Street in Southwest Harbor is pretty easy. There’s also a parking lot in front of the post office right around the corner on Clark Point Road. The Quietside is diagonally across from the hardware store.
The café itself is nondescript. You can sit outside on picnic tables in a small village garden, which attracts battalions of butterflies to its bushes in late August. Likely there will be a pie cooling in the window.
Inside the tiny, tidy luncheonette decorated with family photographs are a few tables, an ice cream bar, and a lunch counter that’s also jam-packed with what Frances has baked that day – blueberry pie, macaroons, and oatmeal cookies.
Sit there on a stool at risk to your waist line because what TripAdvisor reviewers say is true:
“Blueberry pie in a class of its own, piled a mile high with the sweetest wild berries”
“Ethereal blueberry pie”
“Amazing pie well over an inch thick”
“Best pie around”
“Best key lime pie ever – I suspect it was that chocolate crust”
“The best was the apple pie – pecan streusel topping and loads of apples”
“Pie tastes like the berries were just picked…”
Speaking of TripAdvisor, I also liked the reviewer who said: “We camped 10 nights and visited the café 5.” Repeat visitors and regulars are common at the Quietside.
9 of the 10 times I go, I have the lobster roll, but the crab rolls and BLTs are also my personal favorites. Others are fans of the turkey melts and the “to-die-for” sweet potato fries – in addition to the pizza!
The ice cream also gets rave reviews, for both the quality and flavor variety. Take Moose Track, for example. It’s a rich vanilla studded with chocolate and peanut butter chunks.
It’s surely from another world. And that takes me back to my first point: I go to Maine to get away from it all. Going to the Quietside is like visiting America in another time. It’s a chance to engage with simple things: value for the money and nice people. The way life was meant to be, as the Maine slogan states.
It’s telling it like it is when the locals on MDI refer to us off-islanders as people “from away”.