PROUTS NECK – Black Point Inn sits at the throat of one of Maine’s few gated communities and at its tables the neighbors and the visitors might not be easy to tell apart.

The inn is owned by people in the neighborhood and run by General Manager Jesse Henry, a manager-owner of Migis Lodge in Casco and other resort properties. The gracious, gray-shingled building soldiers on as it has since 1878, convenient for a meal for locals and as a destination for a summertime reverie for the rest of us, who mostly live inland all year long.

Prouts Neck is a rough diamond hanging south into the Atlantic Ocean, centered on Prouts Neck Bird Sanctuary and Winslow Homer’s studio, which was bought by the Portland Museum of Art in 2006 and which has since been closed to the public. It is scheduled to reopen in 2012. The studio used to be unlocked for visitors to explore, and held an oilskin, an easel and more artifacts owned by the artist. It can be reached on foot from the Cliff Walk or on Winslow Homer Road, an expedition that is one of the perks of a meal or just a drink at the inn.

The Chart Room serves a casual menu and almost every bite is worth your while. You will definitely want to indulge in dessert, when in-season berries will meet their match — perhaps orange pound cake and thick fresh whipped cream.

The advantage of a view west across the sand of Ferry Beach and distant Old Orchard Beach and Biddeford Pool, glimmering under the setting sun, made the inn fun to visit even when the food was bad. Now that it’s serving fine food under new management none of your senses are compromised. Enjoying drinks in a rocking chair on the porch induces so much bonhomie and repletion that you will start to think you too have spent every summer bored, indulged and aimless along the dry grass lawns and sand beaches spreading out at your feet.

The large martini ($8 with Bombay gin or Absolut vodka) might assist that effect, with its three fat green olives on a wooden pick.

When your appetite steers you inside or to an outside table, start with Damariscotta oysters ($9 for six), large, immaculate, salty and tender in their capacious shells, set on crushed ice.

The superior version of crab cakes ($11) are, as they should be, focused on sweet crab, highlighted by spicy-hot remoulade. Salad with spinach and arugula ($7 small, $10 large), bacon, chopped hard-boiled egg and red onion is fresh and lively with a good vinaigrette.

Clam chowder ($7) shows off a remarkable, pristine flavor, the clean brine of the clam cooking liquid shining through lightly thickened broth. Tender chopped clams and resilient potato swim happily in the bowl.

Fresh Gentil Hugel Riesling ($9) is lovely with seafood, its citrus and white peach complementing crabmeat and clams.

A companion who has searched far and wide for good Reubens judged the Black Point Inn version ($12) remarkable and possibly the best he’d had, the rye bread crisp, the corned beef brisket juicy and full of flavor, the melted Swiss nutty, the sauerkraut fresh (and local, according to the menu) and the Thousand Island dressing spicy and just right.

But the hanger steak ($18) was a disappointment, its exterior gritty with carbonized meat. A meaty mushroom sauce couldn’t overcome that distraction, but the beef did have the right metallic tang.

The house potatoes that night were sweet, white- and yellow-fleshed potatoes that had been cut in chunks and fried. Green beans with almonds had been oversalted.

Best of all, for those of us who love them, was the fish and chips ($15), three fat, long segments of haddock fillet girdled with crunchy deep-gold fried beer batter, light and clean in flavor around the moist and fresh fish.

Lise Baratta, food and beverage manager, is new here this year, as is executive chef Al Hynes who just turned 73. Hynes has been executive chef at Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay, DiMillo’s in Portland and many other places in his long career.

Renee Landry is undertaking her first stint as a pastry chef, after working last winter at Portland’s Five Fifty-five and last summer in the inn as assistant pastry chef. Peach and blueberry puff-pastry tart served with buttermilk ice cream and caramel sauce ($9) is new on the menu along with an individual Boston cream pie served with bruleed bananas.

Although the more elaborate dinner menu served in the Point Restaurant is not available in the Chart Room, desserts are the same in both locations. “We don’t discriminate in desserts here,” Landry said.

The dessert special of strawberry shortcake ($9) should be around for a little while longer, even in this early growing season.

Two slices of fresh orange pound cake sandwiched thick whipped cream and sliced strawberries and some fat high-bush blueberries, with the syrup from the Grand Marnier-macerated strawberries moistening all.

Nothing happening on the screen above the bar, where the Celtics and the Lakers had just started their playoffs, could compare.


N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website,