It was a hot August day in Belfast and the bay looked spectacular. By all rights, I should have wanted to eat outside, but after I ducked inside the Harborwalk Restaurant to ask for a table and saw how cool and comfortable the woody interior looked, I decided to skip the patio.
The hostess seated me at a high-backed booth with room for six. As I studied the menu and contemplated the crab roll ($12.99), which seemed appropriately summery, I realized I was craving seafood chowder of some sort. The chowder changes daily; that day it was haddock, and I ordered a bowl ($9.99) from the cheery waitress. Just for good measure, I added on a crab cake appetizer ($6.99) and settled in with my book.
I had been out on an interview, and was lunching late, so I was starving. That’s part of the reason I chose this place; I’d parked right in front, and though I had contemplated making yet another attempt at Chase’s Daily (I’ve tried to eat at Belfast’s famed vegetarian restaurant four times in the past and never landed a table), I was too lazy to move the car.
Having never been to this Front Street joint before, or even heard of it, I had no idea what to expect. I was gratified when both dishes arrived within 10 minutes, looking completely appetizing.
The chowder came in a big, shallow bowl, dusted with what I take to be parsley and had an almost pinkish tone, as if it were made with a good lobster stock. It was creamy and thick, and the haddock was broken up into small pieces, rather than the classic brothy Maine chowder with big hunks of fish. This was refined chowder and both decadent and delicious.
The crab cake was pan-seared and drizzled with a chipotle ranch sauce. Flat and almost pancake like, it had a great texture, slightly crisp on the outside and moist and sweet inside. The sauce was just right — not overwhelming the crab but just spicy enough to be interesting. The chowder was plenty, and I could have skipped it, but I was glad I hadn’t.
I imagined fall and even winter days when I might be passing through Belfast and stop again at the Harborwalk, where I could enjoy feeling cozy and comforted by its warm chowder and welcoming atmosphere. Summer in Maine is such an imperative to live large and outdoors and in constant motion, seeing everyone you know and storing sunshine of all kinds for the long winter ahead. But there is such peace in sitting in a comfortable place with a good book, eating well and skipping the heat of the day. After all, you know that the easy friendship of summer is just outside the door. You know you can leap into it at any moment, that you will drive home along country roads alive with green trees, past fields growing golder by the day from August’s hot sun, eating summer with your eyes the whole way. I can skip dinner; between that and the rich food at Harborwalk Restaurant, I’m full up.
WHERE: 37 Front St., Belfast 338-0488 www.frontstreetpub.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight. Mon. – Thur., 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fri., Sat. and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.
WAIT: None for a table (at 1:45 p.m. on a weekday) and about 10 minutes for food
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes