We love to visit to Bar Harbor in the fall, when most of the tourists have left. The weather is cooler and more comfortable, and our favorite places are less crowded.


These are a few of my favorite Bar Harbor places:

* Sherman’s Books and Stationary on Main Street. This bookstore is jam-packed with a great collection of Maine books — the best I’ve found in the state. It’s the only bookstore where Linda allows me to spend more than an hour shopping. Once I’ve made my selection from Maine authors I move to history, biography, sports and the bargain shelf. The store has lots of kids books, games, stationary and more.

Suffice it to say that we are members of the store’s “Frequent Buyer’s Club” giving us 25 percent off an entire purchase after we’ve spent $100 in the store — or its stores in Boothbay Harbor, Camden and Freeport. On our last visit to the Bar Harbor Sherman’s, Linda spent more money than I did — a first.

* Abbe Museum. This place was a real find. Thanks to the museum’s development director, Hannah Whalen, who has been inviting me to special events there for the last year, we finally got there. And now, we’ll be regular visitors.

The museum promotes the understanding and appreciation of Maine’s Native American culture, history and archaeology. The collection is stunning. And the museum offers many demonstrations and hands-on events. David Moses Bridges had just finished one of his amazing canoes when we visited. It sat near the entrance. I wanted to jump in and start paddling!

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., the Abbe Museum includes a “Traveling Room” with ever-changing collections from both museums.

We had only planned a two-hour visit, and left with great regret. I could have spent that amount of time in just the section on Wabanaki guides who were preferred by hunters and anglers beginning in the mid-1800s. The exhibit demonstrates how guiding has evolved since that time, in photos, art and very impressive displays. Wabanaki Guides is this year’s main exhibit and runs through December. You really should get over there to see this.

* Bar Harbor Brewery. After a few hours in the museum, you might be ready to try some great Maine beer. Fortunately, the Bar Harbor Brewery tasting room is right next door to the museum!

* Guinness and Porcelli’s. While Michael Boland’s Havana restaurant is more famous — both because of its great food and the fact that the Obamas ate there — we added his Italian restaurant just up the street to our favorites list on our last trip. It was packed the summer night that we visited, with a seating area on the porch, a big interior room and a small bar.

We really enjoyed talking with manager and bartender Nastassja Francis, a Penobscot Indian who grew up on Old Town’s Indian Island. She’s a very impressive young lady. Our server, Agnes, from Lithuania, was equally fascinating. We love the diversity of people we meet in coastal communities.

The restaurant offers our all-time favorite wine, Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. My bruschetta appetizer took me right back to Italy. The bread was very good, toasted but soft, and it was topped with lots of tomatoes and basil.

I liked the fact they offer half-portions of many dishes, allowing you to try the full range of the menu’s offerings, or dine simply and cheaply with a single small entree and glass of wine. The half portions are very generous.

I’ve got to admit that my favorite dish of the night was Lin’s ravioli. I reached across the table a lot of times for that. When I saw pistachio gelato on the dessert menu (I’m a pistachio nut) I was able to finish the meal with a fine flourish.

There are many restaurants in downtown Bar Harbor, and it’s easy to walk the streets in the evening, check out menus and make your dinner choice. Guinness and Porcelli is a great choice!


Bar Harbor has many restaurants, so it can be a little confusing when you are deciding which one to try. After dining at Havanah two summers ago, we have wanted to try another of Michael Boland’s restaurants — Guinness and Porcelli’s — that features Italian cuisine.

The menu offers simple dishes to full meals. Pizza choices are between $12-15. Appetizers include antipasto, brushetta, crab cakes and garlic knots. (Why don’t more restaurants have these on the menu? They are great!)

The main dining room is open and can easily accommodate larger parties if needed. A downpour moments before we arrived made it necessary to pull the window coverings down on the porch. It was a nice feature — otherwise, those folks would have been soaked. From my table I could see what everybody on the porch ordered, and everything looked delicious.

I started with Porcelli’s Salad, which was a combination of mixed greens, gorgonzola cheese, dried apricots and candied almonds. The house dressing was a hazelnut-balsamic vinaigrette. It was a good combination of fresh flavors and was big enough to split.

Having returned from a trip to Italy, I had not served pasta at home for a while. I was pretty excited to go to an Italian restaurant again. When I see homemade ravioli on a menu I often can’t resist.

Guinness and Porcelli’s offers a ravioli dish of the day, so I figured they must really make a lot of ravioli. On that evening’s menu was a Mushroom Ravioli with Pancetta (a thick Italian bacon) in a truffle cream sauce. How could I resist that? Tender pasta enclosed a great mushroom filling and the cream sauce made this rich and delicious. The pancetta chunks added another texture and saltiness to the dish. It was superb.

The pasta dishes come in half- or full-portion sizes. I was happy that I ordered a full portion, what with George dipping into my plate and the leftovers I enjoyed at home. But their half portion would be fine for an average appetite, especially if ordered with an appetizer or salad.

They feature a sorbet and an ice cream each day. My raspberry sorbet was light, refreshing and full of raspberry flavor. It was the quintessential taste of summer. But it would be great in the fall too!

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.

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