Just for the record. Hannah and I are really trying to bust out of the shackles of our “eating out” reluctance. We are homebodies when it comes to the “eating” game. But I hope that this Road Trip will introduce a new Dan and Hannah.
Though Route One passes by the Mid-coast towns of Newcastle and Damariscotta, Hannah and I backtrack on Business One to find a local’s place to refuel for the afternoon drive north towards Bucksport, and on to hiking in Blue Hill. This is not quite as easy as you might think. We are out of comfort zone deciding where to eat out. We have little practice.
You see, Hannah and I are just not restaurant people. Though never poor, we grew as a couple and later with children without a surplus of discretionary money. I was a teacher and she a stay-at-home mom. No need to throw a pity party for us, we just learned to be Frugal with a capital F. For years, the only meal we would go out for was breakfast, inexpensive AND free refills of coffee.
But now we have the money to enjoy ourselves. In my mind, I see us lunching at a pub for a cold brew and mouth-watering sandwich with sweet potato fries, mixing it up with the locals. Our Route One road trip is to push beyond our self-imposed limits.
Spotting the Penalty Box Sports Pub with an outdoor deck, we pass by hoping for something better. A classic rookie mistake that just wastes time. Seeing nothing but more expensive in-town, indoor cafes and upscale restaurants through Newcastle and Damariscotta, we drive two miles back to the Penalty Box hoping for magic.
Entering the pub, I notice it is divided into two sections, booths for couples and friends with lots of light from the windows and a bar with TVs and a more subdued vibe. One is gentle, another a little rough around the edges.
Fully masked, I ask the waitress if we can sit outside. She is not loving the request. Business-like, she says we will have to go into the bar and the woman will set us up. Walking into the bar, those instructions are news to the barmaid. Good-naturedly, but probably not thrilled with her co-worker, she agrees to unlock the door to the deck for us. She adds I’m the only one here, but I can take care of you. I don’t feel the “Cheers” vibe yet or that there’s the slightest interest in anyone knowing my name.
Menus in hand, we settle on a buffalo chicken salad for $11 and a turkey sub for $13 with, as it turns out, amah-zing fries (shout out to Penny of the 2010 TV series – Happy Endings that we are watching on Netflix). Draft or craft beers never have a chance. Frugality triumphs. We opt for water with a lemon slice rather than an $8 pint. Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends.
In our defense we are used to take-out. We get $11 Wegman subs and make four meals out of them; we buy $13 chicken burritos from Loco Coco’s in Kittery and have three meals at home.
Seated outside on the roadside deck, we are alone. The rest of the twenty diners have no problem eating indoors, not a one with a mask. We are not mingling with the natives as I had hoped. I misjudged the interaction we might have during these Covid times.
Our dream lunch doesn’t start out well as our salad and sub take forever. We still have 100+ Route One miles and two hikes in the queue this afternoon. When our meals do arrive, we see that we must have had the temp chef who learned his culinary presentation skills at the local middle school. The salad has six strips of chicken lined up military style on a sea of green, with the bare minimum of red, orange, and yellow veggies. To the rescue, Hannah resurrects this salad with egg salad from our cooler in the car. We share the salad and the heavenly baked French fries that came with the turkey sub.
The turkey sub itself is fine. We’ll split it tonight for dinner as we are not chancing another meal out this evening. Once a day is quite enough.
We’ve (re-)learned three things:
One, old dogs that we are at 73 in people years have a damn hard time learning new tricks.
Two, we are take-out people. Call in, no waiting, eat comfortably where we want with wine or beer that we’ve bought.
Three, order from the appetizers menu. When I went in to pay, a regular had the best looking chicken nachos dripping with cheese on the coast of Maine. For $12, we could have split the nachos and beam in triumph at our frugal ways.
Part 4 takes you further up Route One (known as the Atlantic Highway in these parts) to hike the locals version of the Hundred Acre Wood (A.A. Milne.) in Brooklin on the coast.