I still find it remarkable that so many Mainers love to stick around to explore their own state when the weather warms. Summer really is when we year-round residents rekindle our romance with Vacationland by heading up the coast or out to a mountain-side camp. I do it myself. Give me a week off work, and I won’t head to Florida, California or the Pacific Northwest. I’m happy here.
Yet for me, an occupational hazard is that when I’m tramping around Maine, I often stop to make notes and snap photos of restaurants I want to return to someday. Second only to restaurants is my other favorite category of food business: coffee shops. Perhaps I’m drawn to coffee shops because I can visit three or four of them in a day and still have room (and a hyper-charge of caffeinated energy) to try out a restaurant or two.
My list of enjoyable Maine coffee spots is a long one. Some aren’t too far out of my normal Portland-area orbit, but some I have to put on my itinerary intentionally. Here are eight of my current favorites, places I consider destinations on their own, but which are also worth a quick visit if your next in-state excursion takes you within detouring distance.
Coastal Café and Bakery, 23 E. Main St., Searsport. (207) 548-4156 searsportcafe.com
A line on Coastal Café’s website refers to their slow-cooked corned beef hash as “near famous,” but let’s change that. Order breakfast (until 2 p.m.) – you won’t be sorry. Sauteed with red onions and plated with a side of smashed red potato hash browns (and a couple of local eggs), this hash is as good as the excellent coffee in this homey café. My preferred drink here is an expertly brewed cappuccino made with organic beans from nearby Farm House Coffee Roasters in Winterport. Bonus points for the café’s adorable clockwork puffin mascot that appears everywhere from signs to stickers to tote bags.
Sullivan House Bakery Café, 102 Main St., Gorham. (207) 222-0399 sullivanhousegorham.com
Named for a Beacon Hill mansion that played host to early-19th century Boston’s wooziest, booziest shindigs, this Gorham newcomer serves a mean cup of its signature Red Door Blend (a Coffee by Design exclusive), as well as blueberry biscuits that somehow seem to contain more fruit than dough, exceptional egg salad sandwiches on fresh brioche, and a rotating selection of savory hand pies. The business also takes its inclusive, community-oriented ethos seriously, making a bread donation to a needy recipient for each loaf purchased.
Snickerdoodles, 166 Ossipee Trail, Limington. (207) 637-2500 facebook.com/snickerdoodlesme
So tiny, I drove past it several times before stopping, this café not only bakes a soft, warm-spiced version of its namesake cookie, but also offers top-notch breakfast sandwiches and wraps, scones and gooey brownies. As if that’s not enough, the shop sells an impressive selection of gluten-free goodies, everything from cake pops to golden loaves of white bread, to berry-filled cupcakes decorated look like blue-and-pink hydrangeas.
Nectar Café at Bell Farm, 244 US-1, York. nectarcafeatbellfarm.com
Parked on two acres of farmland, next to a red barn where you can purchase beer and a birdbath, sits Nectar Café’s mobile kitchen. A permanent fixture at the Bell Farm Shops since 2020, Nectar pulls terrific espresso shots made with beans from Atomic Roasters in Salem, Massachusetts. But for a Scandi-phile like me, the sandwich menu is most appealing, especially grilled sourdough slathered with lingonberry jam and topped with melty layers of nutty, sweet Norwegian gjetost cheese. Try it with a flat white or ginger chai latte.
Rock City Café, 316 Main St., Rockland. (207) 594-5688 rockcitycoffee.com
I’ve made stopping in Rockland on my way Downeast or out to the Fox Islands a mandatory part of my journey. I build in an extra hour (sometimes more) and spend a good chunk of that time sipping a café au lait brewed from the shop’s own Rock City Coffee Roasters down the street. As if that’s not enough, Rock City also bakes its own pies, a practice that accelerates as seasonal fruit explodes from local trees. My recommendation: Buy a whole pie and take it wherever you’re headed. Everyone loves pie.
Seafolk Coffee, 22 Central St., Rockport. Instagram: @seafolkcoffee
The view of Rockport Harbor is worth the trip alone, but don’t let that fool you. Seafolk serves light-roasted Blind Tiger Coffee from Old Town alongside flakey croissants, doughnuts and gorgeous open-faced sandwiches layered onto slabs of Stones Throw Baking sourdough bread. If timing allows, try to visit on a Thursday, when the café sells frosted cakes and pastries from local bakery Double Grazie. Or if you miss the morning/afternoon rush, check the café’s Instagram account – they serve wine on the balcony a few nights a week.
FlipSide Coffee, 189 Main St., Thomaston. (207) 354-5221 flipside-coffee.business.site
When you order your Killer Bee Latte – a cayenne-and-honey-infused beverage that’s warming and just a teensy bit risky – at FlipSide Coffee, you’ll do so inside a repurposed bank. Kids will love seeing the groaning vault door and the well-stocked selection of cookies next to the counter. Adults might prefer a breakfast sandwich (anything with an egg is great here) and another cup of joe made with beans from Linconville’s Green Tree Coffee Roasters.
44 North Café, 7 Main St., Deer Isle. 348-5208 & 70 Main St., Stonington. (207) 348-3043 (open late May through mid-October). 44northcoffee.com
At both 44 North Café locations, the password is “roast.” No, that’s not to get you access to the wifi – it’s the key to ensuring that you take advantage of the phenomenal beans that this woman-owned business toasts by the ton. The malty Bolivian medium-roast is my favorite, especially in a brewed drink. Buy a single beverage, but don’t think of leaving without a bag of beans, and (if you time it right), a loaf of bread from Brooksville’s Tinder Hearth to take home or give as a gift.
Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of five recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.
Contact him at: [email protected]