There are many things to love about the Maine Beaches region. From rocky shorelines and sandy beaches, to hiking trails and nature preserves, to historic lighthouses and quaint accommodations, each visit offers many chances to explore and relax.
No matter which adventures you choose to enjoy, a visit is not complete without slowing down to explore the region’s delectable, local cuisine. From fried oyster appetizers to blueberry pie desserts-plus everything in between-one thing is certain: you want to bring your appetite!
We have the perfect way to savor it all – slow food.
What is slow food?
According to Slow Food USA, slow food is “…a means of bringing humans together, conserving biodiversity, and transitioning our lifestyles from fast and furious to slow and steady.” Maine provides the perfect setting to embrace the slow food movement, which began with a big bowl of pasta in Italy in 1986. When a fast-food franchise attempted to open a location in an iconic area in Rome, a group of activists, led by Carlo Petrini, campaigned to preserve local food and traditional cooking. The slow food movement has rippled throughout the world, promoting local businesses and sustainable foods while focusing on quality over quantity.
Incorporating in the farm to table concept, the slow food movement runs even deeper, focusing on choosing food that is healthy for you and good for the environment. With an emphasis on using products that are grown in the community (thus limiting transportation and reducing environmental impact) the slow food movement improves local economies and provides jobs for friends and neighbors in your favorite towns. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are at the heart of slow food, as is connection-both to the food itself and to the people with whom you gather to enjoy it. Learning about the history and culture of the food and the people who prepare it is also key. Ultimately, embracing slow food is about savoring all of this as an experience to be appreciated, not just another meal to be rushed through.
The best part? You don’t have to travel Italy to experience it. You can enjoy all of this and more right here in the Maine Beaches region. With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, the most difficult part will be deciding which you will visit on this trip and which you will come back for next time. One thing is certain, you will not leave hungry!
Sink into the joy of a slow food journey in the Maine Beaches region
The possibilities are endless for crafting your slow food journey in the Maine Beaches region. Below are key elements of a slow food experience with just a sampling of the area’s many dining establishments that are ready to welcome you.
Start your day off slowly – Start your day off slowly at one of the region’s many bakeries, cafes, and coffee shops. Enjoy a fresh pastry (plus a new book) from Elements in Biddeford or a sweet treat from Bread & Roses Bakery in Wells. You might even grab a coffee at Elevate Café in Old Orchard Beach then head back later for yoga.
Choose fresh and healthy – Eating fresh, healthy foods slowly is part of the slow food journey. Chew deliberately, pause between bites, have a conversation between courses, and allow your food to digest as you linger over your meal. Loveshack Juicery in Ogunquit or Live Café in Kennebunk offer smoothie bowls filled with superfoods to get your day started with this in mind, or grab a signature bowl made from locally sourced ingredients for lunch from Engrain in South Berwick.
Take in the spectacular view – The setting is everything when enjoying a slow food meal. What’s better than taking in sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean while dining? The Cliff House’s Tiller Restaurant in Cape Neddick provides an unforgettable view and cuisine. Or, for a different view, visit include Clay Hill Farm in Ogunquit, the first restaurant in the country to be certified as a wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary.
Head for the beach, trail, or nature preserve – Picnics aren’t just for summer! Embrace the joy of each season with a picnic on a trail or at a nature preserve. Step back in time in the quaint village of Cape Porpoise and get all the fixings from Bradbury Brothers Market, which dates back to 1934.
Celebrate the origins of the slow food movement – Offer a nod to where the slow food movement began with an Italian spread from Traditions Italian Ristorante in Saco or enjoy wood oven pizza from Odd Fellows Tavern in South Berwick.
Bring on the romance – Savor the ambiance at the rustically elegant White Barn Inn in Kennebunk where ingredients are sourced from coastal Maine farmers, fisherman, and foragers. Feel the love at Chez Rosa in Kennebunkport, the only restaurant in Maine that is certified Ocean Friendly, or at Bandaloop in Arundel, which incorporates global flavors, local produce and a steadfast commitment to green practices into their operations. In the warmer seasons, enjoy your romantic slow meal under the stars at these inviting establishments.
Learn how your meal is connected to the community – Be open to learning about where your food was grown and its connection to the community. Did your vegetables come from an onsite garden or a farm nearby like Joshua’s in Wells, where meals are prepared using ingredients from their certified organic farm “Easter Orchard.” Other great options include Jonathan’s in Ogunquit where they’ve been bringing farm to table for over four decades from Jonathan’s farm, and Walker’s in York where farm to table includes food truck prepared take-out.
Dive into the history and culture of your cuisine – Slow food is prepared with care and intention so focus on learning the origins of your dish. Connect with those who created the recipes and lovingly prepared your entrée. Have secret family recipes been passed down for generations? What is the history of the restaurant and the story behind its signature dish? Try Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery where they have been serving lobster, seafood, and other specialties since 1940.
Bring in the element of fire – Whether the slow is falling or the sun is shining, there’s nothing like the atmosphere of enjoying a meal by the fire at Beachfire Bar & Grille in Ogunquit or on the patio at Bitter End in Wells where the vibe is “funky and super casual but somehow elegant and all in all totally amusing.”
Prepare your own meal…slowly – While dining out is enjoyable, learning to prepare your own food can be just as fun. A cooking class from Stonewall Kitchen in York will teach you how to prepare your own slow food meal. There are plenty of local options to gather your ingredients. Pick up organic vegetables year-round from Frinklepod Farm in Arundel. Compliment that with hand-made bread, fresh lobster and dessert from other local favorites. Remember to enjoy the process of preparing your meal just as much as you enjoy the meal itself!
Make it hyggelig – Bring in the Danish concept of hygge by creating a cozy night in. If preparing a meal on your own isn’t appealing, pick up a dinner from one of the many restaurants in the area offering take-out and delivery.
Wrap it up with a nightcap – Complete your slow food meal with good conversation and a nightcap with oak barrel fermented beer from Barreled Souls in Saco, gin from Round Turn Distilling in Biddeford or one of your favorite local wines or cocktails.
With all these ideas, you are sure to experience an unforgettable slow food journey in the Maine Beaches. We look forward to welcoming you!
Bio: Lisa Luken, ACC, of Simple Joy Living, LLC, is a storyteller, researcher, and strategist. She believes in choosing experiences over things and loves helping others slow down and savor the simple joys in life. She enjoys exploring simple places the world but always loves coming home to Maine. Visit Lisa on Instagram at @SimpleJoyLiving.