Where to Eat and Drink in and around Camden, Maine
Here’s where to warm up—and fuel up—after a day at the Snow Bowl.
Those who don’t think of Camden, Maine as a winter destination clearly haven’t been to the Snow Bowl. Offering nearly 1,000 feet of vertical elevation and more than 20 recently expanded runs, the mountain is ideal for those who want to hit the slopes close to the coast. It also plays host to the annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships—held from February 2-4 in 2024—a quirky contest in which teams with names like “Frogs on a Log” and “Snow Queenz” try to be the fastest sledders down the icy Jack Williams Toboggan Chute.
If you find your stomach rumbling while you’re in town this season, you’re in luck: Camden and the surrounding towns are known for their top-notch restaurants, and while some spots do close for the winter, there are a surprising number that stay open year round. Here are five of our favorites.
Handmade pasta, gourmet flatbreads, and some seriously crafty craft cocktails are on the menu at this Italian-inflected favorite situated in a historical Camden mill building. Head chef Rob Stevens draws on the bounty from the region’s fishermen, farmers, and foragers to create the ever-changing menu, from grilled local carrots with whipped ricotta and scallion oil to slow-braised pork shank with cannellini beans and green garlic. Bonus points for the fully gluten-free dessert menu from pastry chef and owner Tara Barker.
40 Washington St., Camden, 40paper.com.
Chef Sara Jenkins was born in Camden, but has a worldly background: As the daughter of a foreign correspondent and food writer, she was raised in Italy, Spain, and Lebanon, and learned to appreciate the cuisine and culture in every place she went. Now she’s returned to the Pine Tree State, and is combining Maine and Mediterranean flavors at her restaurant overlooking Rockport harbor to delicious effect. The menu changes weekly, but has included such gems as smoked-cod agnolotti with prosciutto cream and fried sage, and chermoula-marinated tuna with roasted eggplant and grilled sweet peppers.
24 Central St., Rockport, Maine, ninajunerestaurant.com.
Anyone who spent time in Camden in the aughts and 2010s remembers Francine Bistro, which drew crowds for its rustic French-inspired cuisine and cozy ambiance. So when the restaurant just off the harbor announced it was closing in 2017, locals and tourists alike were crestfallen. Thankfully, two fans of the restaurant came to the rescue, reopening the restaurant with a familiar name and a similarly scrumptious menu—this one, with some Asian, American, Italian influences as well (think: smoked Maine shrimp spring rolls and “ribs and slaw”). The famous steak frites are still on the menu, keeping Francine’s spirit fully alive at Franny’s.
55 Chestnut St., Camden, frannysbistro.com.
Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn
Those staying at the Camden Harbour Inn don’t have to go far for a top-shelf meal: Inspired by a Parisian bistro with hints of Maine flair, this fine-dining restaurant overlooking Camden harbor is not to be missed. Elegant main courses include black-garlic bucatini with confit duck, and Nordic salmon with farro and tahini, but for a true splurge, go with the five-course Maine-lobster tasting menu, which showcases the crustacean in a tostada, a pozole, a rice dish, and more. The 33-page wine and cocktail menu—heavy on the celebratory bubbles, naturally—is equally as tempting.
83 Bayview St., Camden, camdenharbourinn.com
What do you do if your tiny restaurant is so popular, it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation? If you’re husband-and-wife team Ravin “Bas” Nakjaoen and Paula Palakawong, you expand to a much larger space just around the corner. Nakjaoen, a multiple James Beard Award nominee, focuses mainly on Thai cuisine here, but you’ll also find influences from Singapore, Vietnam, and China on the menu. Signature dishes include mussels in coconut-lemongrass broth, and spicy “Night Market” noodle soup.
20 Washington St., Camden, longgraincamden.com.