George

Brian O’Neil thought he’d entice you into buying his antiques by drawing you to Hatchet Mountain Publick House, in Hope, for his really good food. And yes, you can buy any of the amazing array of antiques in this gorgeous barn. But you really must visit for the food.

Brian opened his Irish restaurant seven years ago. He cooks, cleans, shovels, helps serve, feeds the fire, visits with every guest,and is justifiably proud of his staff. Our server, Bonny, has worked here three years, and was very knowledgeable about the menu.

While he kept some of the old timbers in the previous barn, this new barn is absolutely stunning with seating in an upper deck, on the main floor, at a cozy bar and outdoors on the deck. The place was packed with local folks. Brian kept sending out things for us to try until we had to say “No mas!”

All of the seafood dishes were superb, including the clam and haddock chowder — packed with fish and very tasty — and the fish and chips that were crispy outside and moist inside with a delicious housemade coleslaw. I was really enjoying the housemade tartar sauce until Linda noticed and asked, “You’re just eating tartar sauce?” Well, yes.

The salmon cake appetizer, topped with dill sauce and served with greens and tomatoes, was my favorite dish of the night. All the fish comes from Jess’s Market in Rockland.

For an entree, I really wanted the Bangers and Mash ($14) but went with Bonny’s recommendation of the hanger steak, which arrived already cut into slices and perfectly cooked. The very crispy green beans — blanched and then sauteed in garlic and butter (“We didn’t do much to them,” said Brian) — were really good and, as Linda noted, “They’re beautiful, too.” The garlic mashed potatoes were hard to beat. Portions are large here, and the leftovers of this entree were sufficient to give me another dinner the next night. The Osso Buco and Duck Confit entrees also sounded really good.

We wished we’d reserved for later in the evening, as The Old Blues Kats, two musicians from central Maine, were setting up. But we had to leave because the entire restaurant was reserved and people were pouring in to enjoy dinner and music. Be sure to call for a reservation. We saw several couples turned away who had not done that. And then there was the couple who called every 10 minutes to let the staff know they were on their way and getting closer!

Linda

Hatchet Mountain Publick House is one of the prettiest venues for a restaurant I have seen. Imagine a large timber-framed barn, nice lighting with wall sconces and transom windows, a blazing fire in the woodstove and a round antique firewood rack laden with split wood ready to feed the fire. It’s as cozy a winter setting as one could imagine.

Brian generously delivered housemade bread, a cup of chowder and that night’s special — a salmon cake. I have never enjoyed salmon, but this dish won me over. The dill sauce on top, and the lemon and greens served with this, are the perfect accompaniment. Brian even grows his own habanero peppers to make his carrot-habanero salsa that comes with the bread. He tells us he also uses this as a seasoning. Their bread was impressive, and its salty parmesan crust made it a standout.

We did not know these appetizers were coming out and George really wanted to find out what Irish Nachos were, so he requested a small portion to try. This unique dish is french fries topped with jalapenos, cheese and bacon. It makes great bar food, for sure. It reminded me of deconstructed baked potatoes with jalepenos.

The menu has a good range of offerings of lighter fare like sandwiches and burgers, and they are well-known for great soups. Of course, they had me at “locally made pasta” from Pasta Annie’s, in Lincolnville. When my fettuccini alfredo with grilled chicken (other protein choices are offered) arrived, the aroma made me realize I definitely had more room left than I thought.

I do believe that George is coming around. He couldn’t stop talking about the perfectly cooked green beans. Vegetables can hold their own on the plate if they are cooked well.

We were sent home with a slice of cheesecake that is made right here (delish). They make all of their breads and sauces, too. The attention to detail is obvious.

Hatchet Mountain is a great venue for a small wedding or a group meeting. There is also deck seating available in the summer. What a pretty view it must have, nestled in the rolling hills of Hope. It is well worth the drive.

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.

A great cause and a real deal

Between April 20 and May 22, you can stay at some fabulous inns for half price. To qualify, all you must do is contribute $35 to Habitat for Humanity. This annual fundraiser is sponsored by the Maine Innkeepers Association. Go to www.maineinns.com and click on the Hospitality for Habitat logo for a list of participating inns (including three at the top of our favorites list: Freeport’s Harraseeket Inn, Deer Isle’s Pilgrim’s Inn and Cape Elizabeth’s Inn by the Sea) and direct links to each inn for specific room rates and availability. Fun!


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