Linda

It has been three years since our last visit to the Coplin Dinner House in Stratton. Tony Rossi and Heidi Donovan are hardworking people well-suited for the restaurant business. Tony is the chef and Heidi manages the bar area and does the drinks.

They have transformed this wonderful old house into a charming dining spot. White table cloths, fresh flowers, comfortable chairs, which were found in an old bar in New Hampshire, and stunning photographs by John Orcutt, all add to the ambiance.

We were happy to have Steve White as our server again. We caught up and he entertained us with stories throughout our meal. The service is always friendly and attentive.

The only tough part of coming to the Coplin Dinner House is narrowing down what to order. There were many appetizers that sounded great, but the soups and salads are terrific, too. I ordered broccoli and asparagus soup ($11). It was a delicious, warm, creamy concoction laced with herbs and topped with thyme croutons.

When Heidi stopped by, she told us that they had recently had this soup at their own house for dinner. Her 4-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Daddy, you’re a good souper!” Yes indeed, Tony — you are a “super souper.”

They serve great of warm, crusty bread and I had to restrain myself from eating more than one serving. When I looked through the menu I noticed several Asian-style dishes. I was torn between the red curry, a spicy vegetarian option, and chicken Vindaloo. I opted for the Vindaloo ($25) because Steve told me that the curry was spicier.

My plate of food was large, including a chicken leg and attached thigh meat. It had been marinated in Vindaloo spice and yogurt and slow-cooked so tender that there was no need of a knife. The tomato-based sauce was packed with flavor but not too spicy for me. The toppings of cilantro and cashews made it very Indian. With a serving of jasmine rice and a side of herbed zucchini, one couldn’t possibly be hungry after this dish. In fact, it looked like I had hardly started when I was done.

Though the desserts sounded good, I just couldn’t eat anything more. Heidi told us they had just entered the slower season, when Sugarloaf is wrapping up and before summer guests arrive. But the restaurant had many full tables and customers eating in the bar area as well.

George

Let me start with the bad news: The Coplin Dinner House will close the day after Mother’s Day and reopen at the end of June. That’s the slow season in Stratton, and Tony and Heidi will spend that time expanding their farm with more land and adding more animals. They are very busy people, with lives that include farming and two small kids.

I recommend jumping in your car this week and driving to Stratton (it really isn’t that far — just 10 minutes north of Sugarloaf) to enjoy this place that is both in our travel book and at the top of our favorites list. Or definitely put it on your summer to-do list.

With Steve’s guidance, I had the blazin’ chili shrimp ($15) served Buffalo-style with a spicy chili sauce — and yes, it was blazin’, indeed. The shrimp were small, the kind I like and haven’t seen in a while, and they were nice and crispy. It was the most creative shrimp dish I’ve ever had, and I loved it. I also really loved Linda’s soup.

My choice for an entrée was more difficult. I was intrigued by the slow-braised goat osso bucco (with goat raised by an employee on her nearby farm). Alas, someone at a nearby table got the last of it. But Tony managed to send out a sample, and I’ve got to say, I would definitely order it next time. The goat meat was tender.

Thankfully, my culinary guide, Steve, stepped up again to suggest the roast half duckling ($33). I especially loved their homemade Coplin rhubarb and raspberry sauce. The dish included ancient grains rice pilaf. I asked Steve if the ancient grains meant they were really old, and he said yes, they’d been swept up off the floor. We all enjoyed a laugh over that.

One good choice, for your first visit here, would be the three-course menu ($49). They also offer Two-Fer Nights on Wednesdays with a new menu each week. Thursday is pub night in their Tigerlily Pub, with different specials each week — like half-off appetizers or $5 burgers.

There’s a great story about Tony on their website. He started his restaurant career hanging out at the A1 Diner in Gardiner, where he delivered their daily newspaper at age 12. And he has cooked at some well-known restaurants including Back Bay Grill in Portland. Tony met Heidi at Sugarloaf, where she ran the bar and he ran the kitchens at Gepetto’s and The Shipyard Brewhaus.

I noticed the server offering several samples of wine to a couple at the next table until they found the one they wanted. That’s the kind of service you get here. You can enjoy dinner in the gorgeous dining rooms, or more informally in the bar. Go now!

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