We now continue with the second half of our two-part series, covering our favorite lunchtime options in Rockland, Maine. If you missed the first part of the series, click here to get caught up.
Whole Steamed Lobster at The Lobsterman’s Restuarant
421 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 809-1974; Lobsterman’s Restaurant on Facebook
Y’know what you get to do when you live and work in Rockland, Maine? You get to go eat a steamed lobster for lunch for no good reason whatsoever. Time it right, and you can snag a single steamed lobster from The Lobsterman’s Restaurant (owned by, you guessed it, a lobsterman who brings in part of his own catch each morning) for around 11 bucks, which some of you might recognize as “the price of a sandwich and a bag of chips elsewhere in town.” Eating a lobster by yourself in the middle of the day on a Tuesday makes you feel like a magnificent decadent bastard, and it’s something I recommend everyone do at least occasionally.
“Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich” at Rockland Café
441 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 596-7556; rocklandcafe.com
I certainly don’t go to the Rockland Cafe for the ambiance. I don’t go to see the proud display of some of the least appetizing food photography in America. I don’t go for the prime rib which seems to be perpetually on special, but that I’ve never seen anyone actually order. And I don’t go because nearly every item on the menu, from fried clams to spaghetti with meat sauce, can be ordered in an “all you can eat” -sized portion.
Instead, I go mostly because walking in through the back entrance and up the stairs, seating myself at the counter, reading The Free Press while I sip a cup of coffee, and being called “honey” by every single member of the waitstaff makes me feel wonderfully “in the know.” The open-faced hot turkey sandwich is a veritable atom bomb of fat, salt, and cornstarchy gravy, served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a tablespoon of cranberry sauce for around $6 bucks. It’s something I never seem to tire of.
“Torta Ahogada” Special at Sunfire Mexican Grill
488 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 594-6196; Sunfire Mexican Grill on Facebook
Mexican food in Maine seems to be divided largely into two camps: There’s the bottomless blue margarita, queso-in-the-carpet junk food like you’ll find at the Maine institutions like Margarita’s and On the Border (the latter of which, by the way, we totally eat at, whenever we’re eating emotionally), serving Ameri-Mex chipotle-laced frankenfood. It’s got little to do with real Mexican food, but it’s mostly crowd-pleasing stuff, perfect for sopping up some post-workday tequila.
This isn’t the scene at Sunfire Mexican Grill, a restaurant that began its life as a food truck, slinging Sonoran-influenced Mexican cuisine right here in Midcoast Maine. Case in point? The Torta Ahogada that is sometimes announced as a special menu item on the restaurant’s Facebook page. It’s a sandwich layered with avocado, tomato, lettuce, jalapenos, refried beans, and your choice of pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables, drowned in chile de arbol sauce and topped with pickled onions. It’s a hearty, satisfying lunch that’s a welcome departure from the dumbed-down junk you find in a lot of Mexican restaurants in Maine.
“Brown Bag Ham Sandwich” from The Brown Bag
606 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 596-6372; thebrownbagrockland.com
Though The Brown Bag may be referenced more often for its “Gobbler” sandwich, I simply don’t seem to share most people’s enthusiasm for Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches. Instead, I lean more toward the “Brown Bag Ham Sandwich,” a totally oddball combination of grilled ham, melty havarti cheese, capers, artichoke hearts, and some kind of mysterious cream sauce, that is served toasted and hot. Like the first girl you semi-seriously dated in junior high, it’s such a crazy hot mess, that you can’t help but be kind of infatuated with it.
One with Mustard, Onion, and Hot Relish, One “Western Dog,” and a Chocolate Milk from Wasses Hot Dogs
2 North Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 594-7472; Wasses on Facebook
The thing about Wasses Hot Dogs that you’ll never understand from reading a review, is that smell. On warm days, the scent of grilling onions permeates the whole neighborhood, from the ferry terminal to the South, to the Irving Station around the corner to the north. It crawls in through your air conditioning vents, it gets in your hair, and it gets under your skin. And it is heavenly.
The secret of Wasses’ 30-year success? It’s peanut oil. It’s frying every living thing you can think of in peanut oil. They use exceptionally high-quality links, with a satisfying snap to the casing, and nestle them in traditional New England split-top steamed buns. I like one with mustard, sauteed onions, and spicy red relish, with a side of “Western Dog,” served with bacon, ketchup, and a scoop of baked beans. It’s like a bean supper on a bun, and it’s phenomenal. A tiny carton (or two) of Oakhurst Dairy chocolate milk is the only sensible pairing.
Haddock Sandwich from Duo’s Takeout
734 Main Street, Rockland, Maine; (207) 975-2557; Duo’s Takeout on Facebook
Duo’s Takeout seasonal seafood and burger shack was started five years ago, by founders Isaac Brower and Steven Ford, at the ripe old age of seventeen. It’s a Summer job teens and twentysomethings (not to mention many people twice their age) dream of: they make their own hours, slinging burgers and haddock sandwiches to tourists and locals alike. Though the location is a little light on scenery (unless you have a fondness for staring at the backs of vacant commercial buildings and weeds poking through cracked asphalt), the fried haddock sandwich the Duo’s boys are producing may be the best in all of Rockland. The fish, purchased fresh from Jess’s Market, is breaded in Panko breadcrumbs, fried until ultra-light and crispy, and served with a side of truly interesting tartar sauce, made with whole mustard seeds. The proceeds from the truck used to go right back into tuition for the owners; now that they’ve graduated, they keep Duo’s open later in the season, to the relief of their regulars.
“Spicy Italian” from Kaler’s Korner Market
536 Old County Road, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 596-0700
I’m no elitist when it comes to outstanding sandwiches, goodness knows. Good ingredients are enough to keep me coming back again and again regardless of where they’re coming from , and the “Spicy Italian” from this gas station is a perfect example. It’s an outstanding sandwich from an unlikely source, and is plenty of food for two meals, piling tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and pickled jalapenos high on a base layer of ham, salami, and American cheese. The sandwich is finished with sour pickles, both black and green olives, and in a highly unorthodox move, hot sauce. Everything is fresh, and you’ll spend less here than you will down the street letting some subnormal “Sandwich Artist” goof all over your toasted Southwestern Sub.
Do you have a favorite weekday lunch that we missed? Tag your mobile photos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtags: #FromAway #WeekdayLunch.
Lead photo: Flickr/conbon33