The Lucerne Inn was established in 1800, 10 years after our Mount Vernon home. We’re suckers for old places.

We’ve driven by this magnificent inn hundreds of times on our way Down East, but never stopped. We won’t make that mistake again.Fifteen minutes east of Bangor, this is a good place to stay if you’ve got business or an event in the twin cities, but it’s an even better destination for a special getaway or celebration.

Some of the inn’s first guests, in the early 1800s, named the inn because its astonishing view of Phillips Lake and Bald Mountain reminded them of Lucerne, Switzerland. We’ve visited Lucerne, Switzerland, and they were right!

We’ve come to associate certain amenities with our favorite inns: comfortable bathrobes, a two-room bathroom, a good selection of pillows, large bed with a firm mattress, Jacuzzi, fireplace, fridge, a top-quality coffee maker, beautiful art, chocolates, a desk for writing, comfortable chairs and a nice view from our room. I’m also partial to spacious rooms, probably because our home has large rooms and I’ve gotten used to the space.

The Lucerne Inn has it all, and more. Best of all, the owners, Steve and Rhonda Jones, are friendly and very hospitable — as you would expect from folks who grew up in Franklin County, and owned a convenience store in Wilton for many years. They purchased the Lucerne Inn in 2005, and have only enhanced its reputation for fine lodging and dining.

This place is hopping, with multiple dining rooms on two floors of the inn, and a separate banquet and conference center built in 1999 — 60 to 80 couples are married in this beautiful setting and facility every year.

After the conference center was constructed, every room in the main inn was completely renovated and filled with a combination of antiques and Victorian-style furnishings. An outside terrace and pool were also added.

Our dinner was a very special experience. Steve visited with us for a while and guided us through the menu of traditional items (filet and other steaks, salmon, baked stuffed haddock), pointing out the selections that are unique to, or uniquely prepared by, the inn.

Steve’s the one who selects special wines for their “reserve” list, and he’s done a superb job. We were pleased to find one of our favorites, Dona Paula Malbec.

For entrees, Lin selected veal and I went with the duck. Our shared appetizer of mushrooms with crabmeat stuffing, covered with lobster sauce, was scrumptious (we got the sauce on the side and I dipped my bread into it once the mushrooms were gone). Our apricot salad — something special created for a wine dinner event a few months ago — was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

Lemon sorbet followed the salad, to “cleanse our palettes” and I loved it, although Lin noted, “You like anything served in a silly spoon.”

A bit later, I got my revenge when she said, “I lost my napkin,” and began looking for it on the floor. It was in her lap! “Well, it’s the same color as my pants,” she coolly replied.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two duck breasts, medium rare, accompanied by a really delicious and unusual preparation of rice, served with crunchy carrots and broccoli. This was not the duck I used to shoot on Hopkins Stream!

But I had to admit, at the end of the meal, that Lin’s veal was the star attraction of this dining experience. She had to ask our server, Jason, to box up her leftovers before I ate it all. Very, very tasty.

Our dessert — a chocolate bread pudding prepared at the request of a group that conferenced that day at the inn — was excellent, but my regret was being unable to try any of the other desserts, especially the Bananas Foster. Lin forbid more dessert, noting, “When you start gasping for air, you’ve hit the wall!” She was right, of course.

This is stylish dining and Jason gave us a special experience, unobtrusively replacing silverware, patiently explaining the menu choices and answering all of our questions (and we ask a lot of questions!).

I bet a picture of this enormous white inn has already popped into your head. Everybody who has traveled U.S. Route 1A from Bangor to Ellsworth has noticed this gorgeous building. I’m so glad we finally took the opportunity to visit, because it truly is a special place.

Most inns we’ve visited are small, and though this one is not, they’ve still managed to make it feel intimate. Our suite in the main building had the country inn feel you’d find in Europe. This was a beautifully decorated space, enhanced by Victorian furniture and elegant draperies and bedding.
Our corner room “C” on the second floor of the ell was huge with a spectacular view and a sitting area with a comfortable couch and two side chairs. The bathroom included a Jacuzzi tub and heated towel racks, just in case you weren’t feeling pampered. The vanity area included a side table holding coffees and teas for the Keurig Coffee machine. Sitting in front of the window in a comfy chair with a cup of ultra fresh coffee is a great way to start one’s day!

The Lucerne Inn sits high on a hill and overlooks Phillips Lake (I always assumed it was called Lake Lucerne) and Bald Mountain. From the inn you see no other buildings, which gives you a feeling of privacy and remoteness. We took a walk the afternoon we arrived and found a side road that housed many nice year-round camps beside the lake, but you can see none of this from the inn.

The elegant main dining room, featuring white tablecloths and a fire blazing (real wood!) in the fireplace, is advertised as “casual fine dining,” but you’ll want to dress up. We sat in front of, and were warmed by, the fire.

I was most surprised by the size of the restaurant. As we meandered through we found many small rooms, all set with white tablecloth elegance. The restaurant seats 120, but feels more intimate due to the multiple-room layout. The ambiance here is lovely. With a knowledgeable, friendly staff ready to pamper you and a wood fire, it is just the sort of place where you’ll want to linger over a great dinner.
I loved the crabmeat stuffed mushroom appetizer. It’s such a treat to get fresh crabmeat, (which we never have at home), and with five mushrooms, this was plenty big enough to share.

I ordered Veal Scaloppini, which was served with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in an amazing demi-glace sauce. It included a side of veggies cooked al dente, just the way I love them. All entrees were priced in the $20- $29 range, and include a garden salad.

The restaurant is open for dinner daily, and we hear their Sunday brunch is spectacular. If you are looking for high-quality food, elegantly served, at reasonable prices, this is a restaurant you need to put on your list.

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