In New England this week, the weather is gorgeous. Summer’s not over quite yet. There’s still plenty of time to visit some of the best locations in states like Maine, where David Shribman recently traveled for a report in The Wall Street Journal. Shribman hit some of the state’s best landmarks. He writes:
In 1961, well before Billy Tower’s dream of a restaurant opened in the artsy New England town of Ogunquit, Perkins Cove was a working Maine harbor surrounded by a painters’ colony. Tower, a local fisherman who understood the lure of a spectacular view, had a vision: a high-toned seafood restaurant where the Brush and Needle, an art-supply store, stood. He saw a certain sophistication in focusing on the basics: lobsters cooked in the hottest water possible, New England clams served in colorful soft cardboard buckets and views of what would soon be among Maine’s most-visited corners.
Close enough to be a day trip from Boston and sufficiently “Maine” to attract locals, the restaurant swiftly became a destination in itself. People came to watch the lobster boats bobbing in the tear-shaped cove, to unwind in the congenial atmosphere and to quaff the fabled rum punch. Summertime neighbor George H.W. Bush loved to steer his cigarette boat there, sometimes with guests like Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev on board. His visitors would go with the lobster roll, but Bush, Sr., would opt for a hot dog. The more extravagant lobster roll, he balked, cost too much. While the sandwich’s past prices are lost to the erased chalkboards of history, he surely would have chafed at today’s $29 price tag.
Today, locals and visitors alike consider the annual April opening of Billy’s the signal that summer will soon bloom. The operation has grown, with Barnacle Billy’s Etc. next door, a sit-down affair with all the Maine favorites but no mosquitoes. The deck of the original Billy’s overlooking the cove remains the main draw, however.
Though Tower died in 2013, and the 41st president five years later, diners still linger over the photo of Bush and Clinton, onetime 1992 election rivals turned boon companions, convulsed in laughter, posing with Tower and the staff. Even today, the employees include members of the Tower family. A chalkboard menu still displays the old standards, and on chilly summer nights, logs crackle in the fireplace.
We’d understand if eavesdropping here makes you second-guess what country you’re in; Quebecers gravitate to the fare at Billy’s. And Perkins Cove itself? Local artists and the resident lobster catchers still merit reserved parking spots. But the once-quiet promontory has evolved into a bustling entrepôt with small shops selling jewelry and maritime knickknacks. Despite the changes, its name still rings true. Ogunquit, in Abenaki, means “beautiful place by the sea.”
Those in the know understand that Barnacle Billy’s is just one stop on a tour of timeless institutions in Maine. Meet six more iconic establishments along the state’s coastline where your meal comes with a side of history and a generous helping of small-town charm.
Scoop Deck, Wells
A dreamy ice cream depot. Try, in vain, to resist the peppermint-stick flavor. “Baby”-size cones feed two adults.
Congdon’s Doughnuts, Wells
Since 1945, the premier purveyor of all things doughnut. Ponder the yawning list of flavors or just go with the blueberry-filled classic. Arrive early; the last time I visited I was 79th in line for my doughnut.
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E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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