Let Aspen and Vail have the designer boutiques and chic restaurants full of celebrities; those who ski and ride in Maine are quite happy, thank you, with a burger, pint of local beer and kicking back with friends after a day on the hill.
Hearty pub grub is standard fare at popular ski mountain eateries like The Bag and Kettle at Sugarloaf and Foggy Goggle at Sunday River. But that’s far from the extent of the dining selections. You’ll find first-rate Korean food at Sunday River, famous fried clams at Sugarloaf, a farm-to-table bistro near Saddleback and a quirky gastropub just down the road from Shawnee Peak.
With snow season in full swing, we compiled a guide to some of the best food and drink at five Maine ski areas, both on and off the mountains.
The Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel
Breakfast and dinner daily
No pizza or nachos on the menu at this fine dining, yet still ski-mountain casual restaurant, which opened last winter, adding new spark to the location that had previously housed Double Diamond Steakhouse. The creative American menu includes inventive takes on classic dishes with many ingredients locally sourced. Last February, the Press Herald’s Nancy Heiser gave 45 North 3 1/2 stars. “This is the up-to-date culinary spot on the mountain that many visitors and locals willing to spend a little money have been waiting for.” Read the full review HERE.
Open 11 a.m. to closing, daily
For more than 40 years, “The Bag” has packed ‘em in for lunch and apres ski. The English-style pub serves its own beers on tap, including the popular Potato Ale. On the food side of the menu, regulars rave about the signature “Bag Burger,” named Skiing magazine’s Best Burger in 2008. Those in the know say that if you don’t get there by 11:30 for lunch, be prepared to wait for a table.
Sugarloaf Base Lodge
Open for lunch and dinner daily
Fans of the famed Kittery clam shack can get their fix on the slopes at this seasonal outpost, which opened last winter. In addition to fried clams, the menu includes lobster stew, lobster rolls and fried haddock. The location is easily accessible from “The Beach,” where skiers soak up the sun after a few runs. Unbuckle your boots, close your eyes, take a bite of hot fried clams and pretend for just a moment that it’s summer.
At the top of Bucksaw Chair, you can ski in for lunch inside or out, surrounded by mountain views. On Saturday evenings only, take the snow cat up the mountain to dine by candlelight on a six-course menu, which could include foie gras, rack of elk and lamb shank for $99 per person. Reservations are required for dinner.
The folks who make wild and crazy donuts in flavors like s’mores and “007″ (candied bacon, maple glaze and bourbon buttercream) have moved their truck from Portland to “The Beach” at Sugarloaf for ski season.
The Sugarloaf Inn
Breakfast: 7-10 a.m.; Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Dinner 4- 10 p.m.
This casual restaurant serves the expected line-up of burgers, steaks, chicken, pizza and pasta. And, of course, Shipyard beers on draft. Its location just below the village means its often less crowded for apres ski than other places on the mountain.
5016 Access Rd., Carrabassett
Monday-Friday 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday 3 p.m. – 1 a.m. (food served ’til 10:30 p.m.)
Barbecued ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken top the menu at this lively roadhouse a mile off the mountain. Owned by snowboarder Seth Wescott, The Rack has live entertainment most nights. In 2012, the Press Herald’s Nancy Heiser awarded it 3 stars, saying “The Rack has a friendly, fun and big energy appeal that spans the demographics of this ski mountain community.” Read the full review HERE.
3001 Town Line Rd., Carrabassett
Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 4-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 4-9:30 p.m.
Since 1985, this tiny restaurant has been awarded “hidden gem” status by Sugarloaf regulars, who rave about the pesto bread, family-style salad and pink Alfredo sauce. Huge portions of pasta will fuel you up for the next day’s downhill runs.
South Ridge Lodge
11 a.m. – closing daily
The place everyone on the mountain seems to go for apres ski (in other words, it’s gonna be crowded), the Goggle has indoor and outdoor seating with mountain views. The menu includes “Foggy’s Famous Nachos”, beer-cheese dip, lobster rolls and burgers — all of which will fill you up, but it’s more about the drinks and atmosphere here than the food.
Barker Mountain Lodge
11 a.m. – closing daily
Less packed than the Goggle, the Barker Bar is another prime spot for apres-ski, especially for locals, who really don’t want anyone else to know about it.
Lobster rolls from traditional to unusual at Sunday River’s North Peak patio.
Gideon Hastings House, 22 Broad St., Bethel
Bar opens at 4 p.m., dining room opens at 5 p.m.
The pretty dining room, with its red walls, New York City memorabilia and fireplace, is a cozy setting for classic Italian-American food. At the martini bar, order a classic made with Maine’s Twenty 2 vodka or one of the 19 other variations.
141 Main St., Bethel
Wednesday – Sunday 5-9 p.m.
Pok Sun and her son, Scott, the restaurant’s chef, have offer authentic Korean and Japanese food in an unlikely place — a Western Maine ski town. If you’re craving sushi or bibimbap and hot sake after a long day of skiing, head here. There is also a Cho Sun noodle and sushi outpost at the South Ridge Lodge on the mountain.
The Sudbury Inn; 151 Main St., Bethel
11:30 ’til late 7 days; food served from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays and to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
In the basement of this pet-friendly inn, the pub is relaxed, friendly and inexpensive, a favorite of locals and Sunday River regulars.
1 Sunday River Rd., Bethel
Open 11:30 ’til late daily.
Until recently, the house-brewed beers were the primary reason to visit this sprawling, modern pub, which has plenty of room for large groups. This season, people say the food has improved; the burgers get high marks, as do the garlic fries.
212 Mayville Rd., Bethel
Thursday – Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Stop by the beat-up orange trailer named “Graceland” for smoked meats that are as close to authentic Southern roadside ‘cue as you’ll get in Maine.
Described on its website as “Western Maine’s funnest bar,” the Boot offers classic pub food, burgers and pizza, with an $8 breakfast buffet on Sundays.
Mt. Abram is just a few miles from Bethel; for off-mountain options, see Sunday River.
11 a.m. – close daily
Look out over the mountain and the lake for lunch, dinner and apres ski. The pub-ish menu includes traditional poutine, chicken pot pie and a steak and cheese sandwich. There’s a specialty martini list, too.
2511 Main Street, Rangeley
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
For more than 40 years, The Red Onion has kept locals happy with a large menu of pizza, burgers and homestyle favorites such as meatloaf and steak tips. Nothing fancy, just good cooking and a warm welcome.
2485 Main St., Rangeley
Thursday – Monday 4-9 p.m.
A contemporary, farm-to-table restaurant that fans describe with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for top-rated Portland eateries. Reservations are recommended.
Beer, chili, nachos — in other words all the basics for lunch or apres ski.
223 Main St., Bridgton
Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – midnight; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – midnight
Contemporary American food, a huge selection of craft beers, wine and cocktails served at painted picnic tables in a sleekly renovated former gas station.