Back when me and Chris worked in fine dining, we made a good number of friends along the way. One friend, Alistar Black (cool name right?), suggested a restaurant to us, that needed to be on our list, Bitter End. Now, don't get this confused with the Bitter End in Manhattan or the one in Florida–this Bitter End is in Wells, ME and run by Kate & Pete Morency. This couple is held in the highest regard in the restaurant business by both customers & employees alike. Our friend Alistair, even sought out this restaurant in particular to work at. He had been working at a restaurant that was previously owned by Pete & Kate, and all the staff would talk about was how great the previous owners were. Eventually he just had to check it out for himself and went down to the Bitter End looking for a job. And we're so glad he did, this is definitely one unforgettable restaurant!
The Bitter End is not what I had expected at all. Truthfully I don't know what I was expecting, but what we found was truly delightful. It is beyond cool, I could spend everyday of the week at the Bitter End. It has this unmistakable charm that‘s hard to describe, which makes it unlike any restaurant I’ve been to. It's funky, but polished, classy, yet casual. It makes you feel like your at a garden party in a fairytale in one moment, and then you’re in a sports pub back in Boston the next. Seriously hard to describe.
When you walk up to the Bitter End you are immediately greeted by the sight of their charming little front porch. A couple tables for two line the wall, with a standing counter facing out to the parking lot. Around the corner the patio opens up, and the fairy tale vibes start. Dimmed string lights stretch across overhead. Large flat stones cover the lush green garden, like your dining on the back of a giraffe. Several tables of four & picnic tables fill the patio providing ample seating. There’s even a stone firepit with several brightly colored Adirondack chairs to relax in with your drinks. And let’s not forget about the generously sized bar inside a shed. There’s even a raised wooden stage where they have live music on the weekends. If I lived here, this would definitely be my spot to go. But since it was everyone else’s go to spot, we went inside to the main dining room.
That first step inside was something I won’t forget. I was frozen in my tracks, completely mesmerized by it all. Glass crystal chandeliers, crazy colored lights, giant wooden vanity behind the bar, and more Boston sports memorabilia than you‘d think you’d find out in Maine. There were signed jerseys hanging overhead, autographed pictures of players, trophies, and ballpark signage. It seems like it could feel overwhelming or clustered, but the space was arranged perfectly. Eight tables fit in the dining room with ease, the layout of the tables coupled with the high ceilings, gives the right amount of space. The room felt warm, inviting, casual & sophisticated. I was staring around for so long, I completely forgot why I was here, but Alistar made sure we got some food.
The first item we ordered, may have been a bit of an impulse order. I just saw ‘mussels’ & ‘chorizo’ on the same line and I knew I needed it. What we ordered was the Portuguese styled Mussels, one of three ways they offer. Man oh man we sucked that bowl up dry. The mussels were so tender & moist (and I'm picky about my mussels), the chorizo wasn't dry at all, and the sauce was a zesty perfection that danced throughout my mouth. It was a tomato-based sauce with onions & garlic and paired with a piece of ciabatta bread that had an unbelievable red pepper (we think?) aioli. Everything in this dish was purposefully & masterfully done, it's very apparent. The chef, Richard Ellis, is a culinary king. He trained under Pete Morency for 10 years at one of his other restaurants, before taking the helm here at the Bitter End. If you get the mussels, & don’t slurp up the broth like me and Chris did...you’re doing it wrong & kinda insulting Richard.
Next, we had the Lobster Roll, Fried Clams & Syrian Fatoush Salad. The Lobster Roll was overflowing, succulent & simply beyond expectation. Huge chunks of lobster meat spilled out of the plate, and by the bartender‘s suggestion we got a side of the most heavenly coleslaw in Maine. The fried clams had big bellies (just how I like them) with a nice light yet crispy batter. But I have to say, The Syrian Fatoush salad was the perfect way to finish a meal (I always eat my salads last). The perfect summer salad with crisp fresh ingredients: kalamata olives, cucumbers, pickled red onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, toasted pita and the most delicious lemon cumin vinaigrette. Full disclosure, I would take shots of that dressing, if given the opportunity, it's seriously that good!
Bitter End has a great variety of local beers including Lone Pine Brewery, Maine Beer Co, & Geary Beer Co. They even had quite an impressive wine selection, something you wouldn't expect from a place with such a quirky vibe. We even appreciated the little quote at the bottom of the drink list, "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria." - David Averbach. Not that we needed another reason to get a second round, but it never hurts.
Bitter End is a place all it’s own, and everyone from the servers, bartenders, chef (Richard Ellis) to everyone in the back of house definitely know what they're doing. The staff definitely appreciates the owners Pete & Kate, and it’s so refreshing to hear. You won't believe how many owners (or bosses in general) can be cruel to their staff, and it's just not right. If you respect your staff, they will work harder for you in return—it's just that simple. It’s overwhelmingly apparent that the staff at Bitter End love working there, and coming from someone that knows their way around a serving tray, I saw the most unbelievable service. Bartenders helping servers, hosts helping servers, bartenders helping hosts—it was truly a team effort. The funky vibe at Bitter End will draw you in unlike any other restaurant, you might even have your mouth wide open in awe like I did. You may come for the vibe, but you'll stay until (do I dare say it?) the bitter end for the food & service. It's unlike any other restaurant I've ever been to. And I'm sure the staff will see Good Bites & Glass Pints for a second (or thirteenth) visit.
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