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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: June 19, 2017

One slow lunch won’t spoil the good reputation of the Ship’s Cellar Pub

Written by: Bob Keyes


Haddock sandwich, with cole slaw.

Haddock sandwich, with cole slaw.

The Ship’s Cellar Pub at the York Harbor Inn has been a favorite spot since my wife and I moved to York County four years ago. Sometime early that first year, we wandered over to the coast, probably for a weekend drive during the spring before things got crazy.

We stopped for the view, which is pure ocean gold. On the other side of the road, we spied the York Harbor Inn, an old-school oceanside resort that’s known for its class. Right on York Street and separate from the main entrance to the inn is the Ship’s Cellar Pub, a casual dining room in the inn’s lower level that has been remade to resemble the cabin of a ship. With views that look out across York Street and onto the sea, it’s not much of a stretch to feel transported onto an ornate and well-loved luxury sailing yacht. The tavern and lounge display the woodwork and joinery that distinguish the finest-built Maine ships of any era.

It’s a beautiful place, with a comfortable bar and individual tables. On one end, there’s a fireplace and lounge that can accommodate groups of people or couples seeking a quiet corner. Because it’s a basement, it feels cramped, in a low-ceiling sort of way — just as many sailing vessels do — but not uncomfortable.

We’ve taken many friends and visitors here since that first visit, and those seeking seafood have proclaimed the lobster rolls among the finest they’ve ever tasted. I have discriminating tastes when it comes to seafood chowder, and I always recommend the seafood chowder, with its thick, creamy broth.

After several great experiences, we finally had our first bad one. It was bound to happen. We stopped for lunch a few weeks ago, on what appeared to be a quiet Tuesday afternoon. I met my wife for what was supposed to be an hourlong lunch break from her job nearby. We arrived at 1:10 p.m., and were immediately seated, given menus and offered drinks. We had a liberal 50 minutes, because she had some latitude.

Turns out, we needed all of it and more. Despite being seated right away and treated well from the start, it took a long time to place our order and even longer for our food to arrive. We ended up asking for the bill and to-go boxes at the time that our food finally came to our table. At one point, we considered canceling the order, because it seemed impossible that we could get our food and she could get back to work on time — a five-minute drive away.

It’s hard to enjoy a meal under those circumstances, which is too bad, because I really like this place. My haddock sandwich was good, as it always is, lightly grilled and served with a cheddar cheese and a touch of mayo on a bulkie roll ($14.95), with slaw. I love fresh haddock, and I prefer grilled haddock to fried haddock. The York Harbor Inn does it just right, flaky and tasty.

Turkey club with fries. Photos by Bob Keyes

Turkey club with fries.

Vicki got a turkey club, the classic triple-decker ($12.95). I think she finished two of the four wedges and barely touched her fries.

It was not a good meal or a good experience. I rarely get angry in public or do anything to make servers or others feel uncomfortable, but I did express my displeasure when I told the bartender that we had to leave if we didn’t get our food right away. We did get an apology, but not an explanation.

I will absolutely go back and will continue to recommend both the Ship’s Cellar Pub and the York Harbor Inn, but probably not for someone on a lunch break.


WHERE: 480 York St., York.
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 3 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: Sadly, on our recent visit, 40 minutes
PARKING: There is a lot for the inn, and parking is also available on the street.

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