June 21, 2013

Dine out Maine: Mainely Meat's simplicity lets diners savor the BBQ flavors


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Inside Mainely Meat on Main in Ellsworth, the decor is a welcoming blend of contemporary and country-casual.

Courtesy photo


MAINELY MEAT ON MAIN, 193 Main St., Ellsworth. 664-5239; facebook.com/MainelyMeatOnMain


HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICE RANGE: $8 to $20, with most barbecue plates in the $11 range

CREDIT CARDS: Most major

BAR: Full, featuring Atlantic Brewing Co. products

VEGETARIAN: Yes, surprisingly


KIDS: Yes; dedicated children's menu



BOTTOM LINE: Mainely Meat on Main is for those seeking straight-up, no frills, grilled and smoked meat with hearty, homestyle sides and cold local beer for a fair price. What the menu lacks in complexity it makes up for in taste that includes, surprisingly, a fine veggie burger. Ambiance has a clever, welcoming vibe, and there is a commitment to live performances.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

*Poor  **Fair  *** Good **** Excellent *****Extraordinary.

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

Even tastier? Each of the sides. Although told they are made in-house, both coleslaw and potato salad have an industrial appearance, each served in the shape of a cafeteria ice-cream scoop. This is not a bad thing. Think vintage.

As a bonus for those who grew up on this entirely regional interpretation, the potato salad scoop is done mashed, not cubed, and rich with mayo and mustard flavor. Mmm. Comfort food, (northern) Maine style.

Now is where I confess my love of cornbread and appreciation of the many different interpretations. At Mainely Meat, cornbread is dense and moist, thin like a sheet cake and smooth-textured with very little crumble.

Likewise, the baked beans have no hint of pastiness, just tender, molasses beans like your grandmothers probably used to bake in the crockpot on Saturday night. Add that mashed potato salad scoop, and for those of us natives, it was nostalgia on a plate.

Sandwiches include the expected: Chicken ($8.41), 10-ounce hamburger ($8.41) or pulled pork ($7.71). But the most surprising and unexpected part of the meal also came from the sandwich section. I confess to ordering the Veggie Burger ($7.71) as a novelty, but it was one of the highlights.

Upgraded to the Ed's Special Bomb for $1.40 more (jalapenos, grilled onions and cheddar cheese), this substantial burger was requested well-done to avoid any potential mush factor. Crispy and chewy in all the best meat burger ways, and with the loaded, spicy toppings, it was easy to forget its flesh-free status.

As an added consideration, our server informed us that veggie burgers are typically cooked on the same grill as the meat burgers, but that the kitchen would be happy to use a separate pan.

For a joint that advertises (ahem) mainly meat, the kitchen makes a terrific veggie burger that could convert even the most rigid carnivore. For those looking to enjoy meat-free barbecue, I absolutely recommend this menu item.

Add one of Atlantic Brewing Co.'s offerings to include root beer and blueberry soda (although I suggest the just slightly-bitter-in-a-dark-chocolate-good-way Coal Porter or the light and refreshing Bar Harbor Summer Ale), and I can't think how to better punctuate a sunny Maine road trip.

As a destination or a rest stop, Mainely Meat on Main is well worth the drive.

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel "Show Me Good Land."


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