George

Shipyard Brewery’s Export Ale is one of my favorite brews, and it was brewed first at Federal Jack’s, in Kennebunk, in 1992. That history drew us to Federal Jack’s Restaurant and Brew Pub for dinner in April, 2013 and Linda and I loved it so much we returned the very next day for lunch.

So it wasn’t a hard sell when I suggested that we host some of our kids and grandkids here during our August visit to Ram’s Head Farm in nearby York. Joining us for lunch at Jack’s were son Josh, daughter-in-law Kelly and new granddaughter Ada, along with daughter Rebekah and grandsons Addison and Vishal.

Josh brews his own tasty beer down in Bridgewater, Mass., and once wrote a popular beer blog. So I felt like we were bringing along a real beer expert!

They say that, for a business, location is critical, and you couldn’t get a better location for a restaurant. Federal Jack’s, on the second story above the brewery, sits along the Kennebunk River looking across to Kennebunkport. You can walk back and forth between the towns over the nearby bridge, with lots of shops on both sides of the river. Linda would want me to tell you that she purchased two items of clothing in one shop for just $15!

The view from the outside deck is stunning, which is why there was a 45-minute wait for a table there when we arrived. So we opted to sit inside where a large table was available. And actually, the views of the river from inside Jack’s are just as good as those outside and the air conditioning made our visit more comfortable on this very hot summer day.

Normally you wouldn’t find us on the southern Maine coast in the summer. Parking was tough and the places we visited were packed with “summer people” and tourists. We heard a lot of different languages being spoken. We were happy, of course, that they were all here. And we were even happier when our server, Neil, delivered ice-cold beers. The Goat Island Light was a table favorite.

I went with Old Thumper, another favorite brewed by Shipyard. But in the restaurant, explained Josh, you get a different Thumper than I’ve been drinking at home. After his elaborate explanation, I gathered that this Thumper was brewed and served the “way English brews are supposed to be.” It was actually quite different than my usual Thumper. Josh says that Shipyard’s stouts and bitters — as well as many other Maine microbrews — are English style beers. Made we want to visit England!

Because Linda is wicked busy right now with her 1st grade class, I agreed to write this column myself with a bit of guidance from her about the food. So forgive me if this seems to be all about beer! Here comes the food part.

For our first two meals here, last year, we tried Buffalo-style chicken wings, a Mediterranean sampler, beef and bean chili, a grilled antipasto sandwich (Linda, of course), a fabulous grilled crab and Havarti sandwich (me) and a black and blue burger, my favorite at all Shipyard and Sea Dog pubs. The creative menu surprised us.

For our August lunch, the array of food on the table was impressive. It was summer in Maine, and I still remembered that grilled crab and Havarti sandwich. So I had it again, as did Kelly. Served on sourdough bread, it was chock full of crabmeat and the Havarti added a lot of flavor. The coleslaw was excellent. too.

Rebekah said her Fish Tacos ($11.99) were great. The pan-blackened cod was wrapped in flour tortillas with house salsa, fresh avocado, cherry pepper-lime aioli and shredded lettuce. It was served with a side of black beans and rice. “I don’t like tartar sauce,” she told me, “but I like this.”

Linda enjoyed a Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwich ($12.99) with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, artichokes and greens on a Stirato roll. I got a couple of bites and loved it.

Josh went with the Tavern Steak and Cheese ($11.99) — locally raised beef with American cheese and Thumpin’ onions on a soft sub roll — and said it was very good.

Addison and Vishal selected from an extensive kids’ menu that offered everything from “Ants on a Log” to clam chowder, with lots of sandwiches ($5 to $10) and even butter pasta, which Vishal had with meatballs (“They know kids,” said Linda). Addi had fish and chips, and I noticed that he put ketchup on his fish!

The variety of seating here is nice, as is the entertainment. While the adults enjoyed the river views, Vishal colored and Addi watched the Red Sox game.

Josh, Kelly and Ada live in Massachusetts. We took a ton of photos of Ada, imprinting our 4-month-old granddaughter with the Maine coast. Earlier in the summer, Josh and Kelly took Ada to our North Woods camp, so she got a great dose of Maine this year!

The bill for five adults and two children totaled just $118, parking was free and there was no charge for the amazing view. We love Federal Jack’s! Especially in the fall, winter and spring.

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.

Favorite Brew Pubs

A few summers ago, we spent a couple of enjoyable afternoon hours at the Maine Brewers’ Guild annual event. That year it was “Craft Beer Comes To Boothbay.” The proceeds support the guild and its mission to promote the craft brewing industry in Maine.

Maine brewers have won an international reputation for their craft, and all of the of state’s brewing-industry leaders were there, including Shipyard’s Fred Forsley. Dan Kleban, guild president and co-owner of the Maine Beer Company, predicted, “It’s going to be tough to find a better place to be on a July afternoon in Maine.” Dan got that right!

Maine now boasts 50 breweries that produce more than 200 different brands, many of them exceptional. We’ve enjoyed stops along the Maine Beer Trail (www.mainebrewersguild.org). Free tastings are featured, and many sell their brews in take-home growlers which can be returned and refilled.

But what has really surprised us is that the food at our favorite brew pubs is so good and creative. Here’s a rundown of our favorites. Some produce their own beer, and all of them offer a remarkable list of Maine brews.

Liberal Cup, Hallowell: If someone wants to meet with me in the Augusta area, I insist on lunch at the Cup. I rarely divert from their Cubano sandwich, but everything here is really delicious. And of course, the brews are good, too — my favorite being Alewife Ale. A couple of years ago, the Cup’s owner, Geoff Houghton, opened the Run of the Mill Pub on Saco Island with the same great brews and food.

King Eider’s, Damariscotta: “Give me oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year and I’ll feel fine.” — Jimmy Buffett.

From the small oyster bar upstairs to the larger and lively tavern downstairs, King Eider’s many-awards-winning pub in Damariscotta is a splendid place to spend an evening — or even an afternoon. The menu is huge, the selection of beer and other beverages not much smaller, and the friendly hi-neighbor, how-ya-doin’ atmosphere makes regulars out of all first-time patrons — including us!

Sea Dog, Topsham: We’ve probably written more about this tavern than any restaurant in Maine — partly because we eat here a lot, even when we’re not writing travel columns! Favorite brews here are Old East India Pale Ale for me and Owls Head Light Ale for Linda. The Sea Dog’s menu is unusually long and creative for a tavern. They include suggested pairings of beer and list the farms where they got the ingredients. There are lots of seafood dishes, steaks, salads, burgers (of course) and an entire section of Italian choices. And, surprisingly, this Sea Dog offers one of the best Sunday brunches in the state.

Geaghan’s, Bangor: While Portland grabs the headlines for foodies nationwide, Bangor’s our kind of place, with savvy civic leaders, a great waterfront on the Penobscot River, awesome events like the American Folk Festival, a new Convention Center — and the fabulous Geaghan’s Pub. We rarely drive by Geaghan’s, no matter where we are headed in northern and eastern Maine. Their Boneless Buffalo Wings have become famous. They actually aren’t wings at all. They’re chicken tenders served with a choice of sauces (honey BBQ, honey mustard or three levels of buffalo wing sauce). They account for 60 to 70 percent of Geaghan’s takeout orders. And they sold 50,000 pounds of them last year!

Mainely Brews, Waterville: If Luke Duplessis could turn every Post Office location that is closing into a Mainely Brews, people would happily forget about the mail. This is a fun place with a great pub atmosphere, superb microbrews and a surprising (and enticing) menu. One of our favorite dishes here is the Southwestern Chicken Rollups. These are tiny burritos filled with corn, black beans and chicken and then fried. The spicy ranch sauce makes these spectacular. Our daughter Hilary, who works in a high-end Washington, D.C. restaurant, joined us for a visit here and described it this way: “Incredibly delicious food, for surprisingly low prices, with some pretty spectacular locally brewed Maine beer.” She got that right!


Facebook comments

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.