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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: January 10, 2016

Maine ski season dining guide: Where to eat on and near the mountains

Written by: Susan Axelrod

Apres-ski at Sunday River. Photo courtesy of Sunday River.

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.

SUGARLOAF

ON THE MOUNTAIN:

45 North at Sugarloaf. Photo courtesy of Sugarloaf

45 North

The Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, 207-237-4220, sugarloaf.com
Open daily for breakfast 6:30 – 10 a.m. (10:30 am on weekends); dinner 3 – 9 p.m
No pizza or nachos on the menu at this fine dining, yet still ski-mountain casual restaurant, which has a rustic, “farmhouse chic” look. The creative American menu includes inventive takes on classic dishes with many ingredients locally sourced. “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,” said former Press Herald restaurant critic Nancy Heiser in her 3 1/2-star review in February 2013. There’s also a kids’ menu.

The Bag and Kettle

Village Center, 207-237-2451, bagandkettle.com
Open daily 11 a.m. to closing.
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.

Bullwinkle’s at night. Photo courtesy of Sugarloaf

Bullwinkle’s Bistro

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 $100 per person. Reservations are required for dinner; call 1-800-THE-LOAF.

Donuts from Urban Sugar Mobile Cafe. Maine Today file photo

Urban Sugar Donuts

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 operation from Portland to a shop in the base lodge at Sugarloaf for another ski season. They’ll be there until the end of Reggae Fest (April 17).

The Rack BBQ. Press Herald file photo

The Rack BBQ

5016 Access Rd., Carrabassett, 207-237-2211, therackbbq.com
Open Monday-Sunday 4 p.m. – 1 a.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.

Hug’s Italian Cuisine

3001 Town Line Rd., Carrabassett, 207-237-2392, hugsitalian.com
Open Wednesday – Sunday 4:30-9:30 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.

White Wolf Inn

146 Main St. (Route 27), Stratton, 207-246-2922, thewhitewolfinn.com
Open Monday, Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Wednesday 4 – 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Off the beaten path in the little village of Stratton, White Wolf Inn is a locals-in-the-know kind of place, with hearty food and a funky vibe. “When it comes to portions, kitchen skill and personality, the White Wolf Inn serves it up big,” wrote former Press Herald restaurant critic in her October, 2013 3-star review. “A quirky and welcoming outpost in western Maine, the White Wolf Inn is full of character and characters. It serves very good and filling home-style food and drink, some of it coming in at prices that seem to belong to a few decades past.”

SUNDAY RIVER

ON THE MOUNTAIN:

The Foggy Goggle. Photo courtesy of Sunday River

Foggy Goggle

South Ridge Lodge, 207-824-5056, sundayriver.com
Open 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 Bar

Barker Mountain Lodge, sundayriver.com
Open 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.

OFF THE MOUNTAIN:

22 Broad Street

Gideon Hastings House, 22 Broad St., Bethel, 207-824-3496, 22broadstreet.com
Bar opens at 4 p.m., dining room opens at 5 p.m. daily
In a romantic 1848 house facing the green, the pretty dining room, with its red walls, New York City memorabilia and fireplace, offers 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 10 other variations.

Cho Sun

141 Main St., Bethel, 207-824-7370, chosunrestaurant.com
Open Wednesday – Sunday 5-9 p.m.
Pok Sun and her son, Scott, the restaurant’s chef, serve up 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.

Suds Pub

The Sudbury Inn; 151 Main St., Bethel, 207-824-6558, thesudburyinn.com/thesudspub
Open daily 11:30 a.m. ’til late; 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.

Smokin’ Good BBQ

212 Mayville Rd., Bethel, 207-824-4744, smokingoodbarbecue.com
Open 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.

MOUNT ABRAM

ON THE  MOUNTAIN:

Loose Boots Lounge

Main Lodge, 207-875-5000, mtabram.com
Open daily 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Described on its website as “Western Maine’s most fun bar,” the Boot offers classic pub food, burgers and pizza, with $8.99 pies on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m.

OFF THE MOUNTAIN:

Mt. Abram is just a few miles from Bethel; for off-mountain options, see Sunday River.

SADDLEBACK

ON THE MOUNTAIN:

Swig ‘n Smelt Pub

Main Lodge, saddleback.com
Open daily 11 a.m. – close
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.

OFF THE MOUNTAIN:

The Red Onion

2511 Main Street, Rangeley, 207-864-5022, rangeleyredonion.com
Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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.

Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro

2485 Main St., Rangeley, 207-864-2883,  forksintheair.com
Open 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. The menu focuses on comfort food dishes such as roast chicken, mac and cheese, and onion soup, but prepared with modern, fresh twists. Reservations are recommended.

SHAWNEE PEAK

ON THE MOUNTAIN

Blizzard’s Pub

Base Lodge, shawneepeak.com
Open for lunch and dinner
Beer, chili, nachos, bloody Marys — in other words all the basics for lunch or apres ski.

OFF THE MOUNTAIN

Standard Gastropub. Press Herald file photo

Standard Gastropub

223 Main St., Bridgton, 207-647-4100, facebook.com/standardgastropub
Open daily: Monday – Wednesday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
In this sleekly renovated former gas station, you’ll find contemporary American food, wine and a huge selection of craft beers, served at turquoise-painted picnic tables. According to Heather Steeves of MaineToday.com: “If you’re looking for something fancy-shmancy or expect to take your cardigan-over-shoulders mother here for a sit-down meal — don’t. This place is more about being a relaxed place to grab some grub, meet some ski bums and try interesting beers from around the world.” Read her full review.

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