The meandering Kennebunk River separates the small village of Kennebunk from its sister town closer to the ocean, Kennebunkport—collectively called the Kennebunks, just 90 miles north of Boston. Both offer plenty of history and the romance of the sea along with casual seafood shacks and more upscale dining featuring world class chefs. There’s plenty to do here with scenic locations for romantic getaways, vacationing families, and destination weddings. Seafood from local waters is the main culinary attraction, with lobstermen hauling in their catch daily, but chefs also get fresh produce and meats in abundance from nearby farms. The Lower Village in Kennebunk and One Dock Square in Kennebunkport are the centers of their towns, great launching spots for walking tours, shopping, and enjoying lunch, dinner, or a cocktail as the sun sets.
On the Marsh Bistro
46 Western Avenue Kennebunk
The lush gardens surrounding On the Marsh near the Lower Village section of Kennebunk are as much a part of the decor as the art, antiques, and curios inside this elegant restaurant, which offers European country cuisine from Executive Chef Jeffrey Savage. Proprietress Denise Rubin has created an ambience that provides welcome and warmth while retaining touches of formality that make this the perfect special occasion spot. At the same time, their fabulous bar menu allows you to come in for a drink and a snack without fuss; try the chef’s Pan-Roasted Rope Cultured Mussels or an Artisan Meat and Cheese Tray for Two. The dining room menu offers substantial dishes like a Grilled Center-Cut Beef Tenderloin or Fried Cajun Sole, or choose from the small, creative daily special entree list. After dessert (try the Maine Blueberry Kuchen with homemade vanilla bean ice cream), a walk to the marsh and around the gardens is a must.
Federal Jack’s Restaurant and Brew Pub
8 Western Avenue, Kennebunk
The craft beer “movement” is no longer that—it’s evolved to become an integral part of any dining scene and it’s certainly been brewing in the Kennebunks since 1992, when Federal Jack’s opened on the waterfront. The restaurant is one of Maine’s first brewpubs, the one that launched Shipyard Brewing Company, and offers brewery tours and even a Maine Brewing Vacation for those who want to try their hand creating beer. All the beers are brewed downstairs through Kennebunkport Brewing Company and pub diners can enjoy special cask-conditioned brews along with favorites like Old Thumper, an English Bitter, and Fuggles IPA with a stellar pub menu. Try the Tavern Steak and Cheese with shaved Angus top round or the Gyro-Style Lamb Burger after Brewpub Mussels steamed in their own Goat Island Light Ale.
29 Dock Square, Kennebunkport
In the heart of Dock Square, Hurricane Restaurant occupies a space where restaurants have served meals for over 100 years. Opened in 2001, it’s a great spot for classic seafood dishes and some with jolts of pizzazz. Clams Casino and Oysters Rockefeller are mainstays, as are PEI mussels, and their house specialty—Maine Lobster Chowder. You’ll find plenty of casual dishes like Buffalo Blue Cheese Shrimp Wrap or a Fresh Maine Lobster Roll along with thick steaks and chops. Chef-owner Brooks MacDonald co-wrote a book called Lobster Tales with Martha Griffin, presenting 45 terrific recipes, so he knows his lobster stuff. There are water views from every table and the eatery’s convenient location near all things shopping make it a great stop for lunch or a sunset cocktail. Oh, and a big Baked Stuffed Maine Lobster at dinnertime, of course.
White Barn Inn
37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk
There’s a place for upscale, romantic, and elegant dining where we want to feel like we’ve been taken away to someplace very special, to experience a meal we’ll remember for a lifetime. The White Barn Inn is that sort of restaurant. Yes, jackets are required, but everyone feels comfortable in the cozy dining rooms with tables festooned with whimsical accents and a staff that welcomes you with European hospitality. Jonathan Cartwright started as a sous chef in 1994 and became executive chef just two years later. He offers a four-course prix fixe menu that changes weekly, with plenty of choices. Influences reflect international flavors, while keeping Maine ingredients at the forefront. A sample meal might include an appetizer of Pan Roasted New England Quail Breast and Foie Gras, followed by Avocado and Lime Sorbet, then Sauteed Local Skate Wing on a Lobster and Leek Fondue, with Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake for dessert. To get the full White Barn Inn experience, opt for a wine pairing. Their wine cellar is world class.
Arundel Wharf Restaurant
43 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport
If the chart-covered tables and a model ship collection don’t say “seaside dining,” the view and the food certainly will. Arundel Wharf is housed in an old ship’s chandlery, which makes it the perfect stop after experiencing the area’s rich history in museums and historic buildings. Even the lumber used to build the restaurant came from a 200-year-old carriage house. Sit on the deck or by the fireplace when the breeze gets nippy and enjoy a menu heavy on the lobster—baked, broiled, stuffed, and more. You’ll also find clam chowder, and other traditional Maine fare like fried clams and a Shoreman’s Pie with lobster, shrimp, and scallops in a rich Newburg sauce. It’s a step into maritime history anyone will love, enhanced with excellent seafood.