If you are Christmas shopping in Freeport, save time for lunch at the Harraseeket Inn’s Broad Arrow Tavern — and treat yourself to the exceptional buffet. You deserve it!

Linda

Whether you are on a shopping excursion, passing through Freeport or staying at the Harraseeket Inn, don’t miss the Broad Arrow Tavern for a great lunch.

The restaurant is bustling with activity. The large dining space and bar were just about full on our recent visit the day after Thanksgiving. Apparently we are not the only ones who eat out the day after the Thanksgiving feast! We have eaten here a number of times and the food is consistently excellent. The buffet lunch is well known — especially to George — and that’s what we both enjoyed on our recent visit. You can order from the menu, with both lunch and dinner choices available. But it’s hard to walk in past the buffet and not order it.

Starting with the salad and soup of the day, you’ll be tempted by the many choices offered. The presentation and variety of food is sure to please. My cup of carrot-ginger soup was great. And being a salad enthusiast, I took most of my lunch from this section. My strategy is always small tastes, and the Caesar salad and vegetable crudities with dips were a great start. Beautiful spears of chilled fresh asparagus were a highlight for sure. I discovered an unusual root vegetable salad that included jicama, adding a sweet taste and crunch. It was one of the two dishes that drew me back for seconds.

Nestled in among the salads was a bowl of large shrimp with cocktail sauce. This is a staple of the buffet and a very popular item. Staff keeps a watchful eye on that bowl as it needs to be refilled often.

Popular main dishes this day were the fried haddock, a pork rib roast with apples and a pasta dish. Chefs churned out their wood-fired oven pizzas as well. I loved the pork and limited myself to just that and a small taste of pizza. Perfect. More salad and shrimp rounded out my plate.

Coffee and a taste of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake had me full and ready to walk, not drive, to our short shopping excursion down the street at L.L. Bean.

The Broad Arrow Tavern has great selections from their menu, too. I happen to love the Reuben and the fries are so good. You can order pizza, pick from many styles of burgers or choose one of the many entree dishes for lunch or dinner. Framing the long menu on both sides is a list of all the local suppliers the Harraseeket Inn uses. They take pride in offering the best quality products they can find.

Prices for sandwiches are about $11 and entrees range from $16 – $27. The lunch buffet is $17.95, a bargain, and I don’t see how you would ever leave hungry.

George

When we began this series called “Let’s Do Lunch,” I told Linda we’d have to write a column about my all-time, long-time favorite lunch: the extraordinary buffet at the Broad Arrow Tavern. I always try to schedule my trips south so that I’d be in Freeport at noon.

We began this visit with owner/manager Chip Gray and he regaled us with stories, including the previous day’s Thanksgiving Day dinner at which the inn had to cut off reservations at 1,000. That’s right, they served 1,000 guests a Thanksgiving feast that included 1,400 pounds of turkey, 750 pounds of beef and 800 pounds of lobster.

While the inn’s commitment to local produce is well-known, dinners in the main dining room are exceptional and we’ve previously awarded our “Best Sunday Brunch” designation to the inn, the buffet lunch is probably your best bet to try the exceptional cuisine here. Plan plenty of time to sample the entire buffet.

I usually focus on seafood, and started this trip with a plate full of mussels, shrimp and fried fish. At Linda’s insistence, I added a bit of salad. The array of salads, fruit, cheese and appetizers is astonishing. The bread basket on our table looked really good, but we didn’t even try it.

While Linda “replenishes” her plate, I select a clean plate every time I step up for more — and the staff quickly removes my old plate so I don’t look too greedy. My second plate included a delicious pasta, tender and tasty beef with gravy, potatoes three ways and roasted vegetables. I might have added a bit more of that fried fish, too. For color, I grabbed two neat little cream puffs.

By this time, Linda had a huge pork rib on her plate so I helped her out with that, too. The key to this fine dining experience is small portions. The chefs keep every selection fresh and hot, and are very helpful in answering questions about the selections and ingredients. I kept my eye on the chefs so I could hit the hot new dishes as soon as they were placed. Chip was apparently well-acquainted with my strategy, because he had us seated right next to the buffet!

Of course, we were right under the stuffed moose, deer and fisher. The decor here is old Maine, with beautiful works of art, mounts of all our favorite wild animals, an old musket, decoys, ancient fly rods, paddles and even an antique canoe hung from the rafters. We sat near the fireplace, a nice touch on this very cold December day.

My final plate was filled with favorites, just a bite of each so that I would be able to sample all the delicious desserts. Alas, Linda restricted me to a single choice, so I went with the Black Bottomed Banana Cream Pie. Ohhh, it was sooo good. The combination of banana and chocolate was divine.

I scooted back for a small dish of their vanilla ice milk. I could eat a gallon of it. It went so very well with our hot coffee. When I returned to the table with it, Linda said with a disapproving glance, “I thought you’d gone to the bathroom.” Surprise!

Just before we left, a fellow at the table behind us ordered a plain hamburger. Now that’s a sin!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.