Bar Harbor, Maine, USA, was one of the ports of our New England cruise. Completely by chance, my sister and I found the restaurant, Stewman’s Downtown. Underneath the Stewman’s sign, the words “President Obama Was Here” had been written on a few wooden planks. When a staff member confirmed that US President, Barack Obama had indeed dined at Stewman’s Downtown, we immediately asked for a table, even though we were risking not making it back onto the cruise ship in time. I was crazy excited about eating at a restaurant where Barack Obama once dined. It’s too bad that our actual dining experience wasn’t great. Here is our mixed review of the restaurant, Stewman’s Lobster Pound, the downtown location. Note that I’ve also thrown in a review of a raw bar in Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, RI.
On a side note, random food-related discoveries are among my favourite things in the world. Also on that list are maki/sushi/sashimi, massages, comfy duvets, and whole weekends spent in bed watching tv series and movies.
Stewman’s Downtown Restaurant Review
Here is a link to the Stewman’s Lobster Pound website. They have 2 locations in Bar Harbor, ME, USA.
Atmosphere: This is a very large establishment with two levels of indoor and outdoor dining areas. Their oceanfront patio is on the water and has a fantastic view. Even though we ate inside, we were seated by a pair of open doors, so the view coupled with the fresh, cool breeze made for the perfect dining conditions. I have never felt more content in a restaurant. The atmosphere is very casual and fun. It is so relaxed, that customers wear a large plastic bib that has a cartoon lobster and the words, “Time to get cracking” on it.
Food: To start, we ordered 6 of the raw “coastal Maine oysters” (photo below). When I asked the waitress what the exact species of their local oyster was, she didn’t know and went to find out. The person she asked didn’t know either. Not impressive. Also, I didn’t enjoy them because they weren’t nearly as flavourful as other types of oysters that I’ve had. Furthermore, I was annoyed that one of the six oysters that they served us was tiny (see if you can spot it in the photo below).
On a side note, the local oysters that we had at a raw bar in Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, RI, were fresher and much tastier (photo below). Also, the raw bar in Bowen’s Wharf gave us an extra oyster to make up for one of their tiny oysters without being prompted to do so. Did I mention that the person shucking those oysters knew exactly what species of oysters he had and where they were from? There were at least 5 different types. We ordered two rounds of oysters there and I now regret not ordering more. I’m sure Krystal agrees with me on that one 😉 Only one round of those oysters is pictured in the photo below. Can you tell that we really liked the raw bar in Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, RI? 😉 If I could remember the name of it, I would give it a glowing review in a separate post.
Back to the review of Stewman’s Downtown Lobster Pound. We also ordered their “Down East Lobster Experience”. It was very reasonably priced at $25 and one order was enough for Krystal and I to share. It came with a bowl of new england clam chowder, 1 1/4 pound lobster, mussels, corn, potatoes, and a slice of Maine blueberry pie. The clam chowder came with Westminster oyster crackers and was, in my opinion, worse than canned clam chowder. See a more detailed review on my New England Clam Chowder Review post. The lobster (photo below) was cooked beautifully [by boiling] and was deliciously messy to eat. It may have been the best lobster I’ve ever eaten, but I credit that to the fresh, East Coast lobster and not to the restaurant. Keep reading and you’ll understand why. The potatoes were fine and the corn was sweet and perfectly cooked. But the mussels were awful. Several of them were bad as they didn’t open, and the ones that were okay to eat were terribly overcooked and tough. But what led me to complain (and I almost never complain in restaurants), was how incredibly gritty the mussels were. I got a mouthful of sand from each bite. I can understand if 1 or 2 mussels has sand in it, but all 4 of the mussels that I ate were this sandy. It was clear that they had not been washed at all. It was as if they hadn’t even been rinsed!
On a positive note, their blueberry pie was the best blueberry pie that Krystal and I have ever tasted (photo below). The crust was buttery and flaky and the fresh, wild Maine blueberries weren’t sour at all. But the best part was that the filling wasn’t overly sweetened, so the pie tasted very organic.
Service: We were there late afternoon, early in the work week, so the restaurant was not very busy. But we still had to wait about 10 minutes before we even received our clam chowder appetizer. This was after we had already informed the waitress that we were in a hurry to get back on our cruise ship. Although our waitress was friendly, she was mostly absent. When we asked another server for an extra spoon, he seemed annoyed by our simple and polite request. Also, when we told our waitress about the gritty mussels (and I almost Never complain at restaurants), we only received a verbal apology.
Overall Recommendation: I love that this is an oceanfront restaurant and I can’t think of a nicer place to sit and have a few drinks. But I felt frustrated with the poor service and I was disgusted by the lazy food preparation. I am certain that no attempt had been made to wash the mussels that were served to us. Having said that, I would still recommend the lobster and blueberry pie. I wonder if the quality control at their other location is better, since the downtown location primarily serves tourists… But even if it is, President Barack Obama didn’t eat at that location. 😉