Everything in moderation is an adage I’ve long tried to subscribe to when dining. Since I turned 50 this year, my eating motto got more restrictive: small plates, small portions. But when I stopped at Darby’s Restaurant and Pub in the heart of Belfast on a spring day, I didn’t adhere to either guideline.
The late lunch came after a morning biking from sea level up several sizeable hills to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Between that ride and Darby’s, there were three hours of work and only one banana to get me by. After I arrived at Darby’s, with its cheerful hospitality and old-English-pub vibe, it took more than 10 minutes to peruse the many good choices on the lunch menu. When you’re this hungry, it’s got to be good.
A fiesta chicken taco salad, a plate of hand-cut french fries and two egg rolls later, the verdict across the board was clear: So much yummy pub food.
In truth, it wasn’t my first time at Darby’s. My partner and I stopped here during vacation this winter on the recommendation of a local, whom I know to be an excellent cook. The fish and chips ($14.95) I ordered on that visit did not disappoint.
Two weeks ago, I was tempted to get the North Atlantic haddock dish again, but got to Darby’s between 3 and 5 p.m., when the happy-hour menu offered appetizers for just $2 and $5. Thus, the mini smorgasbord.
The fiesta salad from the main lunch menu ($13.95) came loaded with chicken chili, cashews, melted cheddar, scallions, black olives, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream in a flour tortilla shell. It was the perfect protein-rich meal for this hungry cyclist.
The hand-cut fries ($2) were a nice addition. Certainly, fries are an easy execution for any eatery, but they too often disappoint this lover of spuds.
These two orders normally would have been enough. But part of me was curious whether a third dish would score as high, and part of me was, well, still hungry. So I ordered the happy-hour egg rolls ($5).
These two Chinese-inspired treats full of fresh veggies came with duck sauce and hot mustard and normally cost $7.95, which I happily would pay for this appetizer in the future. The kitchen staff at Darby’s takes pride in meals made from scratch, locally grown foods and fresh fish dishes, and I could see why.
The atmosphere at Darby’s is as satisfying as the food. Built in 1865, it’s been a restaurant or bar ever since. The white-painted tin ceiling and antique bar are original. Throughout the three rooms, there’s plenty of space for quiet conversation, or just privacy, with a mix of tables, high tops, booths and nooks. It feels far away from busy Route 1, just a few miles up the road.
In the past two decades, this harbor town has changed a lot. The rejuvenation has resulted in a number of new and interesting eateries along Main Street, which runs down to the waterfront. But Darby’s on High Street clearly has staying power. The sign there says simply: “A local favorite.” It’s a good motto.
WHERE: 155 High St., Belfast; 207-338-2339, darbysrestaurant.com
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
WAIT: About 10 minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No