We awoke to a much lighter drizzle than had been predicted. But by the time we were ready to search for a suitable breakfast spot, the deluge had begun. We briefly considered trying Two Cats, but then turned around and sloshed through the stream of water that was Cottage Street to the Black Friar Inn.
I’ve been interested in this place for a few years, having seen their sample menus in the restaurant guides, but for some reason we never tried it. Last year we stopped by one evening to check it out, but for some reason (maybe there was a wait, or we had already eaten—we can’t remember) we didn’t actually have a meal there. Today we were up for adventure, and given the conditions outside we weren’t in much of a hurry to go anywhere. It would be the perfect opportunity to try something new.
The Black Friar: A new breakfast spot
It’s a quick walk from our hotel to the Black Friar, which is set back a half block from Cottage Street on a narrow lane called Summer Street. We opened the door to find a narrow wood-and-brick entry hallway with a small bench and a few brochures for local attractions. There is a small hostess stand in the entryway, but no one was there, and no one appeared. We decided to explore on our own.
The architecture is really interesting, with twisty little passages and alcoves and cozy sitting rooms here and there. Notes on a chalkboard indicated that the pub was to the right of the entryway and the living/dining rooms were to the left. There was also a note about trusting the winding passages to eventually take you wherever you want to go. We investigated the pub area to the right. It featured five tables, three of which were occupied by people eating breakfast. Their eyes followed us as we wandered around in search of someone to acknowledge our presence. I felt like we had crashed a party of Wood-elves or something. It was truly an other-worldly experience!
Through a tiny little window we noticed an Asian man cooking in a kitchen set down just a bit from the level of the dining room. Initially we didn’t want to bother him but then, since there was obviously no hostess present, we got his attention. He emerged immediately and was very apologetic, saying that he was working all of the roles today, even hostess (“see I even have my skirt on too!”, referring to his apron). Simultaneously a couple who we later learned were from Florida took pity on us and made sure that we got menus and some fresh coffee. The Asian chef became a very attentive waiter. We learned through him and the Florida couple that there had been an emergency in one of the upstairs rooms (a water leak due to the sudden heavy rain) that had put everyone into a tizzy, and the chef was the only one working in the restaurant at the moment.
Warm, dry and seated, we began to look around the place and were pleased by what we saw. The place has a hobbit-hole-like charm, understated but with nice woodwork and a stained glass panel, and little friar trinkets placed here and there. The coffee mugs are an eclectic mix, and one was a Hobbit mug! Rich really liked that one.
Everything on the menu looked fantastic, but Rich chose the Ruffus Omelet, and I chose the wild blueberry pancakes. The chef had the meals at our table within a few minutes, piping hot. Both meals came with meat (bacon for Rich and sausage for me) and fruit, which is usually a poor-quality afterthought, but here each piece of fruit was unblemished and perfectly ripe and delicious. The omelet was stuffed full of spinach and goat cheese and the pancakes … they were loaded with blueberries! They must have used an entire pint. The pancakes were served with real maple syrup, too, which is surprisingly hard to get in a restaurant, even in Maine. If it is available anywhere, it comes at an extra charge and with much fanfare. Here, it was just served along with the meal as a matter of course, and it was more than welcome! Also more than welcome were the “friar fries,” thin slices of potato topped with thinly sliced onions and cheese and fried just lightly crispy. I could eat an entire bucket of those things with a beer!
Our fellow diners, who were staying at the Inn, were interesting to talk to. They are from the Florida panhandle but admitted that they haven’t seen much of Florida. We told them how much we like south Florida in the winter, but I guess I see how it wouldn’t be as much of a draw for them since they don’t have much winter to escape. They left just before our food came out, and we were alone in the dining area until we were well into our meals and the owner stopped by. He’s a friendly older man with a long ponytail named Tom. He apologized for the break in service in the morning and brought us menus upon our request so we could check out the dinner offerings … we were that pleased by our breakfasts! We heard him on the phone later trying to make accommodations for the guests who were displaced by the water leak. Hopefully he was able to get it fixed. Throughout the day, once we decided we were going to return for supper, we were joking that we hoped the place would still be standing by evening and that the roof hadn’t caved in!
It was still raining when we reluctantly emerged from our hobbit-hole. We looked for the bagel lady Agnes in her shop on Cadillac Avenue. We were thrilled to have found her last year and were looking forward to more great bagels. But a sign on her door said “Bakery closed”. A man in the framing shop next door confirmed that she had just retired. Bummer! But the sign also gave contact information for wholesale orders, so maybe she is still baking for local restaurants as she had in the past?
Bagel-less, we went back to the room to decide on the day’s activities. The Memorial Walk, possibly followed in a different order, sounded like a good idea for a drizzly day.
A memorial walk: Bar Harbor to Sieur de Monts
We skipped the first two waypoints of the Memorial Walk: the stone horse trough, which we have seen for years without knowing what it was, and the library, with which we’re quite familiar. So we started out on Kebo Street, then took a detour to locate the second Strath Eden stone marker on the golf course, and then continued the walk on the Jesup Path/Great Meadow where we spent time taking photos in the excellent post-rain conditions.
The path goes for a short distance through the woods and then ends at Kebo Street, along which we walked for a short distance, and then picked up the trail again in front of the Holy Redeemer Cemetery. We crossed Harden Farm Road and headed into the woods again. This peaceful section goes a bit further away from the road and passes by an old stone quarry-yet another historical spot that we knew nothing about.
We emerged from the woods and crossed Kebo Street once more, then descended a set of stone steps to the Park Loop Road. Crossing this road as well, we headed toward Sieur de Monts. The hike description leads right on the Hemlock Road and back on the boardwalk section of the Jesup Path, but because time was running short we decided to just walk up the Hemlock Road to find the other Strath Eden stone marker and then come back and hike the newly constructed boardwalk section of the Jesup Trail.
The boardwalk was impressive! We searched for bog plants as we walked along this elevated walkway through the tall birch forest toward Sieur de Monts. Also along the walkway we saw temporary survey markers and, at the end of the path, a box that was labeled “USGS – acoustic monitoring.” It would be great to learn more about that, whatever it is. Highlights of Sieur de Monts are the spring house and the Abbe Museum, and of course the wild gardens featuring native plants.
Next, the route led us to the outflow of the Tarn, a lake that’s turning into a marsh. Four monuments are found at this site: one to the Jesups, one carved into the sixth step of Kirt Diedrich’s Climb, and two at the head of the Kane Path.
The final leg of the memorial walk, for us, was to head back to Sieur de Monts and visit the memorial to George Dorr—the father of Acadia National Park and therefore a fitting end to the journey. We had reservations at the Black Friar for 5:15 and it was already almost 3:30, so we decided that rather than walk, we would take the bus back to town. As we were riding back, I noticed the bus driver’s name tag said Bill—and then we spotted his large cooler filled with goodies. It was the same driver named Bill we’d spoken with last year!
Back at the Black Friar for dinner
The mist returned for our walk from the Village Green back to our room, but it was gone by the time we walked down to the Black Friar. When we entered the Inn we thought it was going to be a repeat of the morning because no one was around. I guess it’s just a really laid-back place! But within a few minutes, we found the enthusiastic hostess and were seated in the dining room in the back, rather than in the bar area where we ate this morning.
Dinner was just as good as breakfast, even though Johnny (our Asian chef) wasn’t cooking, it was the usual evening chef, Don. We started with hot rolls served with Maine maple syrup and wild blueberry butter (I had to get an extra one!) and Scandinavian fish chowder with dill and leeks, which was amazing. It also came with slightly cheesy homemade croutons of a perfect texture. Rich then had the lobster thermidor, served atypically in the lobster shell, and I had the cornmeal encrusted sole with a lobster sauce. Both came with potato wedges and grilled zucchini with onions-great! Beers were Gritty IPA and Pub Style.
We were nearly stuffed but couldn’t resist ending the night with a slice of blueberry pie. Like the pancakes in the morning, it was all fruit! Delicious, sweet wild blueberries and a thin, flaky, not-sweet crust. Doesn’t get much better. Rich had coffee along with the pie. The atmosphere was just as cozy in the evening, and we enjoyed asking each other questions from the old Trivial Pursuit cards on each table. (And they were old—they referred to the Soviet Union!)
We were tired after all of the adventures of the day so we headed directly back to our room. I guess I was even more tired than I thought, because I fell asleep while reading “Trails of History” while Rich was editing some of today’s photos! We shared a sip of Riesling before bed.