Monday, April 21, 2014
Of all the food-centric day trips to take in Maine I chose to chow down at Moody’s Diner—albeit, on our first Saturday weekend without a blizzard or nor’easter in sight.
It may not be much to look at, but it's still Maine's most iconic diner
I grant you that Moody’s is hardly a palace of gastronomy to make this the focal point for a food foray. But what’s more wholesome and hearty than good diner food? Besides, Moody’s no-frills New England cooking is authentic still.
We got a late start leaving Portland and didn’t arrive until 10:30. Moody’s at that hour was very quiet, and we missed the sunrise breakfast rush and were still too early for lunchtime habitués.
Eerily quiet at mid-morning but by noon the place would be packed
We decided to have a light breakfast because we would be returning there for lunch on our way back to the big city.
My friend ordered a poached egg with corned beef hash. The hash was more like a very crusty pancake. But he raved about it so, saying this was a great dish of hash.
Classic and simple: a perfectly poached egg and deliciously crusty corned beef hash
I asked our waitress if it was homemade.
“Made from scratch every day,” she said proudly.
I usually order Moody’s blueberry pancakes but instead my “light” breakfast was scrambled eggs with—I had to try it once in a lifetime--Cheddarwurst, that bomb of a sausage injected with Cheddar cheese.
Eggs and the almighty Cheddarwurst
I didn’t know what to expect. But there it was: a beautifully burnished outer casing, and as soon as I cut into it all that wonderful cheese (and fat) came oozing out.
Ah, the bliss of diner food at its most glorious!
I wondered if this was Moody’s own house-made sausage. I told our waitress how good it was and asked if it was made in their kitchen.
“Oh,” she confessed, “you can get them at Hannaford.”
Way to go, Hannaford!
Breakfast for two, $11 later, we were on the road again for the 20 minute drive to Camden, one of my favorite coastal villages.
As we drove on the Route 90 bypass it looked so different this time of year. For one, the ubiquitous Beth’s Market signs were not posted yet. And the woods along the road looked so somber—no pristine snow cover but just the encroaching murk of mud season to come.
When we reached the Camden-Rockport line, the scenery began to look more like the tony summer village that it is. Still, Main St. was uncharacteristically quiet. And many of the shops along Bayview were closed for the season, sporting signs, “See you in April.”
Camden's Bayview St. is a quiet byway off-season
Soon enough these streets fronting the harbor will be teeming with tourists and summer residents
But buttoned up Camden off-season is not for wandering food mavens, so we were done grazing and sighhtseeing in about 10 minutes.
Heading back we made two essential pit stops: at Curtis Meats (one of Maine’s best butcher shops) and back to Moody’s for lunch.
Moody's at lunch is a crowd pleaser
Had we not had breakfast there an hour earlier we would have gone whole hog at lunch. The special that Saturday was beef smothered in onions, which I was aching to have but not with that Cheddarwurst still lingering.
Instead my buddy ordered a turkey salad sandwich and I went for the ham salad. At $4.89 and $3.89 respectively for these whopping sandwiches, what could be bad?
On white toast, the classic turkey-salad sandwich
My friend described his turkey salad as an old fashioned spread, served very cold and lots of flavor (no hint of it lying around). I enjoyed my basic ham salad sandwich just as much.
Ham salad sandwich with a side of Moody's homemade 3-bean salad
This may have been the two lightest meals at Moody’s in recent memory but I’m sure I’ll make up for it the next time.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.