We’ve been trying to get to 76 Pleasant Street since last July, when we first heard about it from our friends Ben Tucker and Margo Pullen. People who love food often plan for upcoming meals, and while dining together at Wing’s Hill Inn in Belgrade Lakes last summer, we made plans with Ben and Margo to meet again in Norway.

Linda

We’ve been trying to get to 76 Pleasant Street since last July, when we first heard about it from our friends Ben Tucker and Margo Pullen. People who love food often plan for upcoming meals, and while dining together at Wing’s Hill Inn in Belgrade Lakes last summer, we made plans with Ben and Margo to meet again in Norway.

Six months later, we met and enjoyed another spectacular meal. The two restaurants are similar in that they are old houses turned into intimate dining spaces where elegant food is served.

Owners Bret and Amy Baker offer two rooms for seating. Ours was full on a Saturday evening with our table of four, a table of six and a table of two. The copper-topped tables look very elegant with candlelight, joined by a big chandelier in the center of the room and a fire in the fireplace. The wall color, drapes and artwork create an ambiance you simply can’t replicate in a larger restaurant.

There is a great variety in the food offered here. Starters include seafood chowder, three creative salads, flatbread and heartier dishes of Salmon Gravlax, Moroccan lamb and gnocchi. The food will hook you, starting with the incredible baguettes they serve.

I ordered the roasted beet salad and now proclaim it the best I’ve ever had. What makes this one different is the variety of textures and tastes that sit atop the roasted beet chunks. Beautifully topped with mixed greens, it’s the red cabbage ribbons, thinly sliced onions and scallions, fried leek strips and curlicues of raw beet that set it apart. A small round of crusted warm goat cheese and the brandy vinaigrette complete this dish. It’s a “celebration of winter” salad.

For my entrée, I selected the pink-peppered filet of beef. Perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked, the filet was amazingly tender. It was served with whipped cannellini beans and roasted mushrooms and garlic. The beef had fried ribbons of parsnips as a topping that added a wonderful crunch.

I started noticing that the chef included seasonal root vegetables in most of his dishes. They try to get local and seasonal food whenever possible. Margo didn’t think she liked beets until she tasted my roasted beet salad. This chef is creative and will probably make a vegetable lover out of you, if you aren’t one already.

Amy Baker is the face of 76 Pleasant Street. She has such a likable personality, you might feel as if you’ve known her for a while by the end of your meal. She effortlessly floats in and out, serving all of the guests. I noticed that she sweetly presented the young lady at a nearby table with a piece of cake while singing “Happy Birthday!” Amy and Bret have been in the food business for 40 years, yet this is the first restaurant that they have owned. They are naturals.

Though Norway may seem a long way off — it was only an hour from our house, the same time it takes for a trip to Brunswick where we often dine. Venture out this winter. I guarantee it’s worth the drive if you appreciate great food.

George

Built in 1896, this mansion comes with a delightful history that was conveyed to us during dinner by Ben, a native of the area. During a notorious 1938 murder trail, the jury was sequestered here — in the judge’s house.

Bret and Amy turned what had become a neglected duplex into a stunning restaurant and home. They literally live here, and deliver everything you could ask of a dining experience, from tasty and creative food to friendly and attentive service. When all of that comes with very reasonable prices, you’ve got a restaurant that will become a favorite of many — including us.

Ben told us that the Tuckers opened their restaurant two years ago by inviting everyone in their Pleasant Street neighborhood to dinner, and they’ve anchored themselves in the community ever since, drawing many guests who live in the area as well as visitors from away.

We followed Amy’s recommendation with a bottle of Cameron Hughes 2009 Meritage, a California wine priced at $28. It was a very nice dry red that paired well with our food. I also noted that they offer one of my favorite Maine microbrews, Cadillac Mountain Stout.

From the silver tray that the bread was served on to the beautiful drapes, everything about this dining experience is elegant. While they feature Maine produce and products as much as possible, Amy and Bret don’t hesitate to reach out for the very best — and the bread, from California, was wonderfully crunchy and flavorful.

My starter of Salmon Gravlax included a delicious sauce, pumpernickel and caper berries. Wow! This was fantastic — including the berries that I particularly loved. Appetizers are priced from $8 to $12 and the large portions will easily serve two. In fact, we each had a piece of Margo’s wonderful flatbread featuring prosciutto, fig, gorgonzola and a port reduction. Very, very tasty.

Having read Elizabeth Peavey’s wonderful review of 76 Pleasant Street in Down East magazine’s December 2012 edition, and drooled over the photos by Douglas Merriam, I was determined to order the Charcoal Duck Breast. If they posted Merriam’s photo of this dish next to that item on the menu, this is all they’d sell!

It was to die for, the gorgeous photo did not do the dish justice. Asked to order my last meal, this might be it! The perfectly cooked duck — topped with dried fruit, coriander, white pepper and cinnamon, and accompanied by a Madeira demi sauce, was — well, I can’t find the right superlatives for this one. I had no idea what gratinee was, but when it arrived on my plate, I got familiar with it real fast!

Gratinee turns out to be vegetables topped with cheese, although that simple description is totally inadequate to describe the texture and taste of this. I was very grateful for the gratinee.

I also tried Ben’s Porchini Dusted Black Cod, presented rare with a very flavorful sauce, and Linda’s superb steak. While the menu is limited — eight starters and eight entrées, plus one special in each category — it appears that every single item is superb.

Lin and I shared a perfectly prepared Crème Brule for dessert, delivered in a heart-shaped dish. This seemed like the proper end to our dinner, because this restaurant really stole our hearts.

Margo said it best, “This has got to be on everyone’s bucket list.”

Ben added, “Who would have believed it — in Norway, Maine.”

Well, believe it. And visit 76 Pleasant Street soon.

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.