Fish & Ships
by Diane Hudson
Super-fresh seafood comes with a million-dollar view.
One of Maine’s magical places is the vista to be savored at the Dolphin Restaurant in Harpswell, looking out toward Potts Harbor. Established by the Saxton family in 1966, the Dolphin Restaurant and Marina is much expanded today, with a new (2011) dining room boasting a sweeping 180-degree view of Casco Bay. Everything here speaks to what we wish for in such a destination: a genuine local connection, a feeling that this is where the natives as well as tourists and yachtsmen eat, and where the mostly seafood menu is locally bought and served by local wait staff.
We begin and could almost end with the classic fish chowder ($12.95 bowl, $7.95 cup), accompanied by the Dolphin’s signature homemade blueberry muffin. There is so much fish in this bowl we are already packing up our to-goes. The bygone splendors of the simple–holy smokes, just some good fresh fish, lots of butter, and surely a bit of salt pork–pulls on our heart strings. This chowder alone is worth the meandering but eye-goggling trip down Route 123 from Brunswick, with its teasing peeks at the water and architectural gems including a perfect 1790 meeting house.
Surrounded by all that sea, fish seems the right choice (although no doubt the char-grilled New York strip, $25.95, would suffice) so we continue with some of the best crab cakes ($12.95) we’ve seen around. Nearly the size of burgers, this is scrumptious fresh crab. For an extra $7, my partner orders his as a complete dinner, including mashed sweet potato and well prepared asparagus, baby greens, and roasted red pepper aioli. Sips of Cline Zinfandel ($24) round out the experience nicely.
A fine finish to our fish fest is the fried haddock ($11.95, basket, $19.95 dinner). The dinner option features a choice of potato and vegetable, and includes a blueberry muffin. Having already indulged in two of these filling delights, we opt for the basket. With not a hint of grease, the freshly caught haddock stars. The basket includes satisfyingly crisp coleslaw and hand-cut fries.
Dessert seems to have been addressed with the muffins; we do, however, muster up an interest in the chocolate orange mousse and, for nostalgic reasons, grapenut pudding ($5). A suitably light finish, but we look forward next time to trying homemade pie or fruit cobbler.
Offering the way to celebrate all the splendor that we know as Maine in the unique and oh-so-short-lived summer months, the Dolphin really is a “must do.”
Dolphin Restaurant & Marina Basin Point, Harpswell. Daily, 11:30-8 p.m. 833-6000